Coming Home: Art Container Project Documentation and Art Exhibition

Containers at WKCD site displayed in two Chinese characters, saying “Where to go” 貨櫃在西九砌成二字──何去

Containers at WKCD site displayed in two Chinese characters, “Where to go”                  貨櫃在西九砌成二字──何去 (photo courtesy of MIA)

[下見中文]

“Art containers are coming home!” Don’t be thrilled too early. Stella Tang Ying-chi, convener of Art Container Project, clarified, “They are actually not coming back to Hong Kong, not yet.”

This month six years ago, 37 freight containers departed from Hong Kong to fulfil their mission. But these containers were like no other; they were to bring Hong Kong art to contact with the world. Having completed a couple of trainings on mural making, weather-proof paints and fire safety, 38 Hong Kong artists invited to Art Container Project painted their works on the 20-feet-long containers.

Before the departure, the participating artists had a two-week’s residency at the open air exhibition venue, the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) site, as their studios. Art Container Project touched down the site of tomorrow’s art and cultural hub earlier than other outdoor large-scale events happened in recent years. Public was welcomed to visit the art making process at weekends while there was an art ambassador scheme encouraging students and public to create their own mini art containers. Partnering Lumenvisum, the project was documented through images.

This is a recap of what happened in 2008. Where could art (containers) go in six years?

It is not difficult to recall how our world has changed. Some team members chose to leave Hong Kong (for some already came back) whereas some moved on to a different role; many today’s established artists were then emerging. Having delivered several exchange programmes and exhibitions in neighbouring cities like Macau, Shanghai and Singapore as well as in Hong Kong, the project organiser, Mere Independent Artists (MIA), decided to draw the curtain. Bidding farewell in the absence of the protagonist may sound somewhat nostalgic, but the finale show can bring back the good old memories to participating artists and audience on one hand, and relate the project closer to the art development and our everyday lives on the other.

The finale consists of a project documentation including photographic documentations from making art to departure, a tracking record of each art container and a parallel chronology of happenings at WKCD and Art Container Project. Carl Cheng Chi-ming, the curator of the documentation and a participating artist in 2008, made an analogy, “An art event in Hong Kong is like a sitcom, mostly one-off and occasionally there is a sequel. This project, however, is a TV drama running non-stop for years, because the containers are in fact always on display around the world. They are 37 actors setting sail with a role to play.”

The other part is an exhibition curated by Eddie Cheung Wai-sum, young critic and curator. Seeing the 2008 departure as the moment separating the container and the artist, he aims to explore through this exhibition how art be a container – specifically the role of artists and art in a community and their responses to everyday lives. Ten participating artists, all core members of MIA, also involved in the debut exhibition in one form or another.

Monti Lai Wai-yi the then project manager examines the relation with surrounding environment through materials from nature, but what embedded vividly in her mind is the team’s can-do spirit, “The WKCD site was our ideal venue given its cultural implications inseparable from the future art development in Hong Kong. Yet the permission of using the site was only granted two months before the exhibition.”

Project coordinator Grace Tang Ying-mui who painted a fable of prehistoric guardians of the Earth on her 20-feet container fabricates an installation of found objects called A Song About Spring in this exhibition. Tse Ming-chong, founder of Lumenvisum in charge of photographic documentation and container tracking, echoes his Pilgrimage on the container with Pilgrimage – Drifting over the ocean to end this journey.

In freight industry, the lifespan of a container is seven to ten years. Owing to resource and space constraint, MIA is not able to summon the retiring art containers back. Stella Tang explains, “Our co-organiser owns the freight containers. They stay open to call the art containers back to Hong Kong as long as there is a space to keep them.” The team is exploring ways, literally in search of a funder, to give some if not all art containers a home. MIA also pledges support to any organisation who is interested to convert the containers into office, mobile education centre, you name it.

回家了-藝術貨櫃計劃文獻展及藝術展覽

「藝術貨櫃要回家了!」可別興奮得太早,藝術貨櫃計劃召集人鄧凝姿澄清說 :「那些貨櫃其實還未回來。」

六年前的五月,三十七個貨櫃航行出海,履行其使命;它們不單運貨,還帶着香港藝術與世界接觸。三十八位香港藝術家獲邀參與藝術貨櫃計劃,大會提供一些基本工作坊如繪畫壁畫技巧、防火知識及認識專用顏料的特性等,藝術家便可在二十尺長的貨櫃表面創作。

展覽場地為西九文化區,參與藝術家在這露天工作室駐守兩星期,公眾可於週末進場參觀;藝術貨櫃計劃還出動藝術大使走入學校鼓勵學生們創作迷你藝術貨櫃,另伙拍《光影作坊》為計劃作影像紀錄。近年西九場地頻頻舉行大型戶外文化活動,藝術貨櫃計劃早於08年進駐西九就極具審視香港藝術(貨櫃)何去何從的意味。

本着貨櫃運輸的功能,計劃主辦機構純粹獨立藝術家群(MIA)在香港及幾個鄰近城市如澳門、上海、新加坡舉行藝術交流,六年過去,回想當中轉變,有些選擇離開香港(有些更已回港),有些擔當不同工作或職位,當時出道不久的藝術家如今已獨當一面。在總總人事變遷的背景下,MIA決定為藝術貨櫃計劃落下帷幕。主角不在,連說一句再見的機會也沒有,難免有點可惜。

所以,是次結幕展一來為當年參展藝術家及觀眾重溫美好時光,二來則為反思香港藝術發展。當年參與藝術家、是次文獻展策展人鄭志明比喻說:「香港的藝術活動好像一集劇終的單元劇,偶有續集;藝術貨櫃則長期橫越海洋,是一齣連續劇,不停播了幾年,三十七個演員各自飾演自己的角色。」文獻展部份包括當年藝術貨櫃創作至啟航的影像紀錄、每個貨櫃的蹤跡、平衡並置西九文化區及藝術貨櫃計劃的進程等等。

藝術展覽部份為MIA十位核心成員的聯展,他們於首航計劃均以不同形式參與。新紮藝評兼策展人張煒森認為貨櫃啟航是一個契機,意味着藝術家與貨櫃各走各路,故展覽主題以藝術為載體(Container)探討藝術家的本位,讓社區滋生藝術,平平實實地讓作品反映藝術家的生活角度。

黎慧儀的作品以天然材料審視與環境的關係,但與這位前計劃經理回望當年,她感慨凡事在嘗試:「我們屬意西九為展示場地,在於其與香港未來藝術發展那不可分割的文化意義。場地申請最終在展覽前兩個月左右獲批。」節目統籌鄧凝梅當年在二十尺貨櫃上繪畫史前時期地球保護者的傳說,今次則以現成物創作名為《春天之歌》混合媒介裝置。《光影作坊》創辦人謝明莊負責圖片記錄及貨櫃追蹤,今次展覽以《朝聖之旅-越洋過海》攝影作品回應當年藝術貨櫃《朝聖遊》作結。

航運貨櫃的壽命約有七至十年。MIA坦言受到資源及空間的限制,以現時條件實在無法把即將退役的藝術貨櫃運回香港。鄧凝姿補充:「那些貨櫃的擁有權屬協辦人,然而只要找到藝術貨櫃的方案和安置的空間,他們樂於協助。」計劃團隊仍在摸索任何可行性--其實主要是尋找贊助人,為部份甚至全部藝術貨櫃覓得棲身之所,把它們轉化為辦公室、流動教育中心等等,MIA歡迎任何機構提出方案。

 

24/5/2014 – 3/6/2014 (Close on 2/6)

Koo Ming Kwon Exhibition Gallery, Communication and Visual Arts Building, Hong

Kong Baptist University, 5 Hereford Road, Kowloon Tong

[The edited version of this article was published in ArtMap Express May edition.]

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