The interview with Ms. Jaffa Laam Lam (Senior Lecturer at Hong Kong Art School) took place on the same day as the annual show Fine Arts Asia opened in Wanchai and students at Occupy Mongkok started to get physically and verbally attacked by Anti-Occupy protesters on 3 October 2014.
In Lam’s artwork titled Gold Attacks! presented as a curated exhibition AntiqCuTe at the fair, one would find a traditional Chinese–style chamber pot on a spring-board. This “art-world exercise”, as Lam describes, involved much research and presentation to convince fair organisers — and it got sold already on the first day.
Yet there is one significant visual clue left out from the artist statement for the Chinese-speaking visitors to prove its link to the recent events.
Outside on the streets with the programme Umbrella Everywhere!, she has joined forces with her long-time friend, artist-researcher Wen Yau and a group of artists for the idea that “everyone can occupy a small area with an umbrella by writing down thoughts on top and open it everywhere”.
Lam’s long-time collaboration with ladies from the Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association, including her recent installation at the newly-completed the Jockey Club Innovation Tower at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, has indeed taken the umbrella as a motif in her artist- led workshops- and umbrellas again appeared at in her installation Home at Setouchi Triennale in Japan. Yet she refuses to consider this event as any artwork at all.
This peaceful gesture on the streets and in shopping malls around Mongkok, as she emphasises, engages passer-bys to join them to draw their thoughts on top of the umbrellas — and she keeps on drawing flowers, for example.
“With passer-bys criticising us, or saying that it is what you artists would do, we will invite them along as this is a public event and we are just citizens — the media would love to take photos of us “as artists taking the hands of children” in drawing the umbrellas, but I had to just refuse, ” she laughs.
While there are creative works springing from recent events by the general public, she cannot agree that they can all be named as art — and especially the idea of herself as “artist” — since she believes that the entire campaign cannot be hijacked in this way, and that the role of citizen should come first and foremost as a shared identity.
“I would definitely hate to take advantage of this movement nor to take pride in the role as artist, given many sweat-soaked or even blood-stained efforts put in by so many others.
(The above quotes reflect the personal opinion of the interviewees and not the stance of their respective organisations.)