Three artists based in Hong Kong, Dr Yeung Yang (Founder and executive director of soundpocket), Ms. Nuria Krämer (Head of Connecting Space Hong Kong) and Ms. Jaffa Laam Lam (Senior Lecturer at Hong Kong Art School), share their insights of the recent student-led protests across Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mongkok in Hong Kong.
The street slogan “If not us, who? If not now, when?” has come with umbrellas, yellow ribbon, black t-shirts as well as the incessant social media feeds with hashtags #umbrellarevolution and #hkclassboycott across the city — voicing out support for the demands by Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism against the decision of the PRC government and police violence with pepper spray and other weapons towards unarmed students described as being nice and polite.
“Many different forms of artistic intervention and actions (performances in public space, exhibitions and film screenings, just to name a few) have been taking place to draw the attention of the population to the debate on the use of public space, the wish to achieve universal suffrage and the freedom of speech,” says Krämer.
Calling such actions “very necessary” in keeping the definition of public space open to the people who constitute it, Krämer testifies that no other ways seem in sight to give voice to a public need — and because civil disobedience has to been seen in relation to given rules.
As she notes, despite the strongly regulated public space limiting its predefined actions, the natural creativity of inhabitants in Hong Kong to appropriate public spaces for different meanings can inspire artists as well.
“I like to look at public space not as a given space but as a negotiable space of action asking for its different layers of significance.”
For example, local artspace Woofeten‘s booth during Occupy Mongkok has been about supporting neighbouring local shops instead of shopping malls and big brands. Another street project Stand By You: ‘Add Oil’ Machine, projected messages from the public through a website against walls and LED display. There have also been street performances and creative hacks by art students from the City University, for example, whose installation outside the Government Headquarter has taken the form of an umbrella tree sculpture.
Indeed artist Kacey Wong, with his previous pink tank and giant caonima (Grass Mud Horse) in support of Ai Weiwei and other current issues, described this as a “war on culture” which the winners will keep their way of culture — and that Hong Kong people deserve better.
While organising the Umbrella Revolution Logo Competiton, Wong has been speaking at his very own mobile classroom in Causeway Bay and Admiralty, calling into mind the exhibition Disobedient Object at V&A Museum in London which includes protest props from 1970s onwards that speak of beauty, truth, and of course a visual angle to the essence of social problems.
Wong believes that being “big, lightweight and clear” as the art of protest, all creative individuals empowered with design skills and craftsmanship are able to develop interactive, mobile sculptures embedded with artistic meanings.
(The above quotes reflect the personal opinion of the interviewees and not the stance of their respective organisations.)