Inti Guerrero is an art critic and curator based in Hong Kong, he has recently opened his independent art space Neptune. He is also the Tate Adjunct Curator for Latin American Art.
Mara Sartore: Could you tell us about your collaboration with Para Site?
Inti Guerrero: As an independent curator here in Hong Kong I have done several exhibitions with Para Site, this is the third project that I’ve worked on. “Afterwork” explores subjects that are related to the Hong Kong society and it debates on how the society wishes to respond to them. Para Site has been doing one show per year that aims to research on specific phenomena in society. This year’s theme is the domestic migrant work which is a very vital reality in Hong Kong. Since the 1970s there has been very important immigration of South- East Asian women as domestic helpers. Nowadays the domestic workers’ population is made primarily of Indonesian and Filipinos. It’s quite visible on Sundays when it’s their day off, they take over public spaces. However, it’s a physical visibility but socially they are invisible: domestic helpers don’t have the same rights or social mobility as expats here. Hong Kong is constantly branded as a place with open doors, which is also what happened in New York in 1920s, everybody can come to here and make it happen. This is different for domestic helpers from Philippines or Indonesia, for example, they cannot create a family and they can never become a permanent resident – even if they stay longer than 7 years, which is actually the number of years you need to spend here in order to become a permanent resident. The show wants to address this issue but in a way this isn’t patronizing. It’s more of an aesthetic proposal that addresses the subject by ramifying the project into different narratives: from profiling and analyzing class troubles, to immigration in general, immigration in relation to labour. The quality of labour, and not only in Hong Kong, but also on how can the particularity of what’s happening locally be mirrored with everywhere where there’s also cheap labour being imported and where there’s distinction of class and race. The show presents works of artists from Hong Kong, works from artists from the rest of Asia and from other parts of the world, and there are actually also former domestic workers among them that have an artistic practice.
MS: Can you mention any of them?
IG: One of them is I GAK Murniasih, she is a very fascinating painter from Indonesia, from Bali. She creates very surrealist imagery that depicts passions about territory. And then Xyza Cruz Bacani, she is from Hong Kong, well actually from the Philippines, but has lived in Hong Kong many years, working as a domestic helper and she was fascinated by photography when she was here and kept nurturing photography in a self-taught way. She has a fascinating eye and by her way of framing you can really tell that there’s an incredible sensibility over constructing images through the lens. In the past four years she became a media phenomenon because CNN and Magnum Photography started to give her a lot of visibility. She’s actually no longer a domestic helper, but she has been dedicating to photography for the past three years. Although she has series of works that are on migrant workers and immigration, we preferred to show her works that are about Hong Kong and show her special gaze on the city.
I also would like to highlight that only 2 of the 62 works, which are part of the show, are done by artist who where previously domestic helpers. The show is not only about that, the show ramifies the subject into different contexts and into different subjects related to race, distinction, stereotypes. There are some very formal materic works like Abdoulaye Konaté’s “La Intolerancia/The Intolerance” that you can immediately understand, just by the title that he made in relation to the refugee crisis in which he was involved in 1998, and which is still very significant to our times.
MS: How it has been working with other curators?
IG: The other three curators are in-house curators from Para Site, including Cosmin Costinas, the director, Quinyi Lim and Freya Chou. I’m the guest curator of the team. Every single project is about collective curating as a different process, there’s a lot of dialogue on what we propose. I think it’s the process by how we actually decided collectively on things that each of us proposed, but also by how collectively we rejected other things. Collectivity is more seen in the common “rejection”, in the collective opinion of things that actually don’t belong to the project. When things are in a group there’s a majority of things that really don’t fit, I think that’s actually the strongest argument rather than someone bringing specifically one artist or another in.
MS: You were appointed by the Tate as a curator for Latin America. Will there be any connection with Neptune, your recently opened space in HK?
IG: Neptune will have an international program. There will be Latin American artists but it’s not the aim. More than a space, Neptune is a site-specific curatorial project because it responds to the given context where it is located (Chai Wan). It’s a very local, archaic, minimal space that is highly used by neighbourhood’s life; great part of the audience will actually encounter art for the very first time through what is shown in the space, it’s basically a store front with glass walls, so the show can actually be seen 24/7.