Thursday, December 15, 2011

Voices Lapsed

A new work for the exhibition White Walls Have Ears

It is about the voice of the present of the past, translated and transformed. Two interviewees from my previous project Domestica Invisibile have already passed away. One mid-career American arts writer, who witnessed the development of Asian contemporary art, and one young Japanese multi-media artist from the snow country talk about their home. And we listen and ponder over the words voiced for the people who once uttered. Specially dedicated to cmbb.

Original interviewees:
Jonathan Napack (1967-2007) was a correspondent for The Art Newspaper and official representative for Art Basel. He started his writing career for a number of publications in New York including New York Observer and Spy, before moving to Hong Kong in 1997 where he became increasingly involved in the Chinese contemporary art world.
Hiroaki Muragishi 村岸宏昭 (1984-2006) was a philosophy student and a self-taught musician and artist in Sapporo. He wrote and played experimental music; and exhibited multi-media installations. He also took the lead role in Singaporean filmmaker Royston Tan’s short film Monkey Love.

New recording by:
Mimi Brown is the founder of the new non-profit art centre Spring Workshop and a board member of the Asia Art Archive.
Robin Peckham is an art critic, curator and the founding director of Saamlung, commercial gallery and project office in Hong Kong.
Ko Hasegawa is a hair stylist and founding artistic director of Voi Voi Rakkaus in Hong Kong.
Hitomi Hasegawa is a researcher, curator and the founder of the Moving Image Archive of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Szeto Keung (1948-2011)

Photo: ©Travis Price

Szeto Keung, a mentor and a good friend passed away last week. One of the most popular figures in the Chinese artist community in New York in the last 30 some years, Szeto entered into the mainstream art world well before Chinese contemporary art was recognized. Represented by OK Harris as an artist for his own merit and not because of his ethnicity, he has been well respected by fellows of his generation and the younger. He was befriended with many Chinese artists and curators from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China, no matter well-known or unknown, for his very helpful and open-minded character. His studio in Spring Street was a meeting place and point of contacts for friends and acquaintance. Curious in different knowledges and Chinese cultures, Szeto was generous for conversations with elders or youngers.
I first met him in 1996 when he was the artist-in-residence in the Chinese University of Hong Kong where I was doing my MFA. Although he was very famous for his superrealist painting, I was impressed with his knowledge of Barthes and his insight in photography. As a student only, I was feeling so much encouraged by such a conversation in which you were fully respected as a mature artist. It was a brief encounter but impressing. Three years later I got an opportunity to reside in New York for 18 months. It was the time that I could really enjoy his humour and wisdom at the same time. As a walking dictionary for artists in New York City, his presence would always make you feel secure and easy. He could also exchange on many technical issues of art as well. Basically, I learnt how to operate a large format camera from him. I still use the camera that he used before.
With him, many nights in the diner round the corner of his studio where we had unlimited barely-drinkable watery coffee at 50 cents would just become joyful. He would also extend his social network for you, so you can survive many otherwise lonesome moments.
He might not want a label of Hong Kong artist on him but his importance in the Hong Kong contemporary art is unquestionable. He is always a good artist with substance and integrity. He is always missed.

A memorial will be held in the Eric Hotung Studio, Hong Kong Arts Centre on Sunday, September 18 at 7pm.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Bomb damage on the exhibition road facade of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Stop useless resistance

Propaganda leaflet dropped by the Japanese over Hong Kong.




立法会大楼:立法会大楼在皇后像广场与遮打花园中间, 立法会大楼外形雄伟,建有大圆顶,并由一系列花岗石石柱支撑。大楼采用新古典主义的建筑风格,设计揉合中国、英国与希腊建筑特色。法会大楼令人印象最深刻的,必定是位于顶部中央,象征法律公正无私的希腊泰美思女神雕像。雕像屹立在三角形山墙的顶部,她左手拿着天秤,右手拿剑,蒙上双眼,表示法律精神不偏不倚,公正严明。

Like we were in Europe, it was lovely☆






Aston Webb imagined a city in the south.

“He would like to see a new city grow up on the south of the river, a city in which the gray streets should be opened up and the gloomy tenements swept away, in which light and air and beauty would be led into those parts of the city.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

Freedom of speech

I know we have freedom of speech because someone's loss of freedom of speech is celebrated with our freedom of speech.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Installation in progress

Finally the work There From Here is being installed - a 36 panel-window of colour prints in vinyl sticker and a wall of text and small video screens (not seen here). It's supposed to be public art, or art installed in kind of "public space" - the entrance lobby of the Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices. But anyhow you wouldn't feel you're in public space as it's highly monitored and controlled. You even need to apply for permission to take photos there.

These look quite banal but I'm happy with them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Roger McDonald

As to prepare the Work Space series for Other Possible Worlds in NGBK, I had to update the info of the art spaces that I visited for the project 3 years ago and re-read the original text. The one provided by Roger McDonald of AIT also includes a written reply to my questions drafted for the interview. It still reads well and I share it here.

What’s the name of your organization?
Arts Initiative Tokyo or AIT for short.

Where, when and who founded it?
Began MAD, our school in 2001. Became a registered non profit organization in 2002.

What’s the story behind this name?
It says most succinctly what we do and what we aim to do – create initiatives related to art from Tokyo.

How many people were involved when it began and how many now? Who were/are they?
Six people at the start. Three of us are full time. Four work in other positions and plug in when necessary.

How did it start? What was the social/cultural background then?
Talking over beers in bars about what we thought Tokyo lacked/ needed/could do with improving. Many of us had spent time outside Japan studying. We had all returned to live and work. We began by spending about six months talking to various people, doing research and field work on what the Tokyo art situation was like – mapping it out to see what may be needed and how things could be different/ better.

Did the location of your first space matter? Did you ever move? Why/ why not?
For the first 2 years we ‘squatted’ the library/ meeting room of Nanjo & Associates curatorial offices. We moved into our current premises in 2004. We have remained in the Daikanyama area of Tokyo because it is near Shibuya (a major train hub), has a certain village feel about it and seems attractive to the people who sign up for our courses.

What was the management model in the beginning? Any change in the structure of organization? Why/ why not? Are you steering it to an unprecedented model, or you do have some examples as reference?
Director, two Deputy Directors. Practically speaking we each do multiple things. Each project may be led by one member with assistance from the others. Finances and general strategy is co-ordinated by the Director. Its rather shared and equal. Being small, we have tried to keep things compact, sustainable and tight.

What kind of activities did you do in early years and what’s the change and development? How do you see the relationship between your change and the development of local art scene?
The first initiative was MAD, our school. It is independent of academic institutions and works more like evening classes. We offer Japan’s first curatorial studies courses, as well as courses on reading texts in English, contemporary art history and artists presentation skills – all aspects which art schools seem rather weak at. We began the artist in residence in 2003 because Tokyo lacked a proper residency – the city or state was not interested. Our efforts have hopefully encouraged others to follow suit, and now the City of Tokyo operates a residency. We continue to curate experimental exhibitions and events, and organize artists and curators talks. If someone interesting is passing through Tokyo we can organize something fast, without bureaucratic paper work. There is a large, eager constituency for contemporary art in Tokyo and beyond, which we try to tap into and expand. We are interested in creating discursive, layered spaces, rather than privilege exhibition or display.

How do you position your institution in relation with other establishments, organizations and artists in the hierarchy (if any) of the art world?
We try to read and map the situation, to see what could be improved and maintain an independent attitude. Being an independent school offers a sense of difference to being a gallery or museum or art university. We seem to attract many people who want to learn more about art, but who are not students. Working people, house-wives, businessmen and students seem to be able to connect with what we offer and do – perhaps because we are not a ‘traditional’ framework like a commercial gallery or museum. This sense of broad appeal and molding a space wherein people can come together to think and discuss art and related issues at length is important to us.

What’s the focus of your programme? Do you specialize in certain area of art & artists? Are you also engaged in international/regional exchange? Could you elaborate your ideas on this issue?
Our main initiative is running a school, and all this entails. We invite speakers from different fields to come and speak, we put together curriculums and try to create a comfortable space to discuss issues related to art, society, politics, religion. We do have a particular penchant for thinking about contemporary art as one activity within the wider social field, so we are interested in relations between what artists do and the various ways we can understand this. We try to maintain an international outlook – all our public mailings are bi-lingual and talks are consecutively translated. Many foreign curators and artists come to visit us. But this is time-consuming and often expensive. I notice that in recent years the subject of education or learning and contemporary art has received a fair bit of attention. I like to think that since 2001 we have tried to practice and initiate another way that an arts organization can operate. We are interested in nurturing audiences for contemporary art in Japan, and so are very open to offering courses which take an introductory or beginner’s level approach, right up to post-graduate level sessions on art theory or aesthetics. We are also interested in thinking how larger theoretical concerns such as ‘post-colonialism’ or ‘globalisation’ can be thought through in Japan – to connect them to local histories and issues rather than simply being exotic concepts which are expounded in big exhibitions in Europe. I suppose you can say that we are constantly involved in processes of translation and mis-understanding. It seems that this kind of experience is something that cannot be so easily generated in commercial galleries or even museum shows which tend to be about explicating clear narratives and understandings. I hope that what MAD enables is some space for dissonance and un-learning to occur – to be able to question what canons have passed down, to think imaginatively.

Where is your funding from? Is it related, or does it affect your programme? How do you see commercial sponsorship? How do you maintain your independence in programming?
Amost all of our funding is self generated – we developed a business model from the beginning and this has continued. The school generates most of our annual income. The courses are fee paying and of different duration. The artist in residency generates income through management fees from various foreign arts partners, like IASPIS, FRAME and Asialink. Project funding is generated from individual grant applications to Japanese Foundations. In these cases, the content of projects may be broadly tuned into the particular directions of Foundations or Companies. But basically we are rather independent in terms of funding. We must generate our salaries, running costs, rent etc by ourselves.

Is there any legacy in your organization?
We are in our eighth year. I hope that some legacy may begin to emerge after ten years or so.

What are the weak point and the strength of your organizations?
Weaknesses – we tend to be rather ‘invisible’, because much of what we do involves discursive events rather than exhibitions. Strengths – Our ‘invisibility’ enables us to remain focused on issues and nurture longer durational projects or interests.

Has it ever have any crisis? How did it get over it?
When visitors enter our space without taking their shoes off – we ask them politely to do so and all is well.

What’s your plan/idea/dream for the next five years (shorter or longer)?
To develop new layers to what we have built up so far – to create a more complex and self generating situation which continues to build on what we have achieved. Small steps, to slowly generate new potentials – e.g. AIT book publications series, work with artists to realize limited editions, create a small exhibition area in our classroom space etc.