Art no longer is solely an individual expression. Other than collaborative art-making, we are growing interest and sensitivity towards how art can be a connectivity tool to extend to the community and public engagement. While the classic way of making and enjoying art still has its own value, the placement of art has been shifting towards collaborative and participatory, whether it is within the creative processing in making the artworks themselves or to create public engagement when experiencing the artworks.
In recent months, there were several exhibitions that revolve around this theme which are worth discussing.
I. Mountain No Mountain
A jointly presented project by LCSD and the Wan Chai District council, the project is curated by no discipline limited, inviting six artists to create community art experience as a way to use art to connect to the community.
“In communities, art is not only functional or a mere tool for problem-solving. Community arts can also widen our senses and experience. Once our mindset changes, the surroundings and even ourselves are open to a broader world.”
The prelude exhibition at Our Gallery, Wan Chai was a way to introduce the work by the six participating artists, using different media, to create the community art experience in the coming months.
Our broom, by Luke Ching, was a memorable one as I participated in the workshop which led me to think more deeply about brooms and street sweepers through our experiences in making the brooms and creative sweeping. Through embodied experience in creating symbols or Chinese characters made by fallen leaves, we are inspired to widen our senses and as a collective look deeper into the issues around brooms and unlock their possibilities. Here, the artist involved the community and the public in the actual artistic processing and in making the artwork itself. The other five artworks also use a similar methodology but through different mediums. For example, in the prelude exhibition, Lawerence Lau, uses “a chain of dialogues”, to invite the public the write their questions that they may want to ask if they meet a stranger in Wanchai on a notebook, and write their answers to the previous questioner. Using sound as a medium, he will continue with this methodology on the streets of Wanchai in the coming months and create a music gathering at the end with people who participated.
I look forward to seeing how the finished work will be presented, if they may, to the public once again or whether the work is left to be ephemeral and to be experienced live only.
II. Serendipity in the Street
Curated by Tai Kwun Heritage team, along with a researcher team and design partner One Bite Studio, seven artists were invited to use art to respond to what has been observed around the Central and Sheung Wan neighbourhood. The exhibition adopted “Modernologio”, an everyday life observation practice originated in Japan, as the research method to identify the interconnections between people, space and activity.
Here the exhibition becomes a documentation or a way of showing the findings from the social research made around Central and Sheung Wan neighbourhood, with artworks such as drawings, sketch statistics, short films etc as representations of the findings. Although the exhibition also revolves around the community of Central and Sheung Wan, the value of the exhibition is in the objectivity of presenting a specific community through the work of art. The majority of the artworks is passively engaged with the public, with one section that invited the public to draw their own imagination on how to reuse the prison yard space in Tai Kwun.
For me, this is definitely not participatory art and I’m not sure whether I can call this community art either. There’s definitely a stir within the art world to shake things up in how we define art and how we present art in exhibition spaces like Tai Kwun.
III. Hongkongers Archives of 100 objects
Initiated by artist Kong Yiu Wing, this exhibition was an extension of his previous work built from 2019 where the artist invited the public to donate objects that pertains to the theme “HongKongers”. Personal objects including household items, relics of the movement, old photos, documents, multimedia, 3D model etc becomes an archive for the HongKongers, so to speak. Here the value of the work rests upon being a preservation of a history of the community’s subjectivity about Hong Kong.
From collecting items to creating a system to archiving these objects, every step of the way becomes a question to decide how much to insert the artist’s curation and how much to leave it open to public participation. And further, is this a question that should only be addressed to the artist himself or can we inspire the public to think together?
At the talk, there was a lady who picked up the documented files and started correcting mistakes. She expressed her disappointment with the mistakes she found in those documents. I wonder, instead of standing in opposing position to point out what was wrong, can we, as artists and curators, inspire the public to involve in bettering the archive in a collective way? And can we, as the public, question ourselves in how to contribute to bettering the archive?
I look forward to see how this project evolves, and wonder the direction that the artist will take as the sole holder of this archive, yet also represents the community of Hong Kong.