從擺攤看消費文化及城市生活

http://hooferhui.weebly.com/

我們是香港理工大學專上學院社會科學系社會學及文化的二年級生,正為科目文化,政治與權力(Culture, Politics and Power),對活化廳所發起的社會運動作出研究。

我們選擇以活化廳作研究是因為它的理念有別於其他文化機構─利用藝術探索社會和進行各種實驗。我們希望由活化廳的活動,發掘社會上甚少被大眾留意的一面。然而,我們將會以活化廳其中一個活動─復活化墟作深入研究,藉以了解非主流的擺攤文化,從中反思人與社會的關係、嘗試另類消費模式及拓寬大家對城市的想像。

我們主要從三方面剖析參與復活化墟的受訪者所帶出的信息,再進行深入的反思。
以下是三方面的分類:

  • 城市空間權
  • 身分的建構
  • 資本主義之下的香港人消費模式

Taking part: participatory art and the emerging civil society in Hong Kong

Stephanie Cheung
/Woofer Ten's penetrative approach, and its conscious departure from exclusive forms of high art, make a notable difference; especially when art that complies with capitalism can be an accomplice of gentrification. Critiquing capital's numbing erosion of life in East Asia, cultural critic Hui Yuk argues that art today needs a kind of criticality that expands into society, and that the meaning of aesthetics must be rethought (2012: 16–17). In a discussion on the art of Woofer Ten, core member Lee Chun-fung defined artists as ‘producers of aesthetic experiences and dialogue’.24 The quote aptly sums up what the group has been doing so far. Artistic decisions – from democratizing curation to appropriating mass appeal, negotiating with signs/sites of power, experimenting with self-organization, actualizing social relations and giving people full respect and attention – have shaped processes that make sense to the participants and society, and have at the same time resisted inertia and oppression./
/Artistic logic enters into dialogue with a plurality of voices. It is only through being responsive, and letting the form be reinvented through participation, that this mode of practice makes sense. This history, as much as it is about how art enables people to participate in the social realm, is also about how art itself learns to take part./

“活化廳”—— 究竟是不是“藝發局最後悔的決定!”?

劉建華 (活化廳核心成員) , 2010

原文刊於《藝術與投資》第2010005期

“活化廳”──位於油麻地舊區、以小區中心模式來營運的藝術空間,持續性地與市民分享生活化的當代藝術,成為香港獨一無二、溶合草根街坊基調與當代藝術前衛手法,敢於觸碰社會時事政治議題的一個小區藝術實驗場

(一)背景、方向及理念

香港現存的藝術空間,大部份也向香港藝術發展局(簡:藝發局)申請資助。活化廳座落的上海街視藝空間,卻是個藝發局經地政署以像徵式租金取得的一所油麻地街角舖位,由藝發局挑選合適組織在其提供的資助下營運。由於間歇易手,加上畫廊格調的裝潢,在舊區單打獨鬥,雖前後已近十年,卻無甚累積的名聲。近年藝發局將其定位作小區藝術,形象總算逐步建立。

“活化廳”是個非牟利社團,成員皆為本地活躍的藝術工作者,從事創作、策展、評論、教育及營運藝術空間等,包括另亦創立“C&G 藝術單位”的鄭怡敏( 阿金) 及張嘉莉,把“騎劫藝術”發揚光大的程展緯、長期撰寫評論的黎健強和劉建華、文字人俞若玫,Liveart 藝術工作者魂遊,年青一代概念藝術家關尚智及黃慧妍(近期於廣州成立“觀察社”),羅文樂與李俊峰。這夥人都關心社會政治,往往策劃展覽(如至曾特首/騎劫遊樂場/斷估唔拉/出嚟行/十年回歸前後話/ 6644 拆掂佢/愛國風雨飄搖時…),通過藝術觸碰社會議題。

活化廳成員,頗覺香港的藝術空間發展漸走向建制化而缺少活力和銳氣,故入標接手營運上海街視藝空間,希望以嶄新一套理念和手法,活化香港藝術的外框與內涵,拉近藝術與日常生活、社會政治之距離,亦也為當下市民社會注入新活力。另而針對小區藝術,成員們看到當代藝術近年湧出一堆重視開放過程、參與、合作互動的手法,關係美學及政治美學原則,以為把這些放於小區藝術上也別具啟發性,讓“小區/藝術”互促滲透,一方面介入生活環境發揮積極作用,另方面則帶動藝術社群社會意識的提高。

由於集合可謂一時無兩的陣容和清晰的理念方向,活化廳的申請獲得接納。然而我們更希望這次把構思如實申請的策略,能在推動政治藝術在藝圈以及資助申請過程得到正常化、平常化的看待,成為往後的重要範例。至於活化廳重視小區藝術中人性化交往的建立、維繫和累積,資助單位卻往往只顧參觀人次的數字、追看有形的成本效益,活化廳往後也望能在這方面據理力陳,當成是教育藝術行政的工作。

由於集合可謂一時無兩的陣容和清晰的理念方向,活化廳的申請獲得接納。然而我們更希望這次把構思如實申請的策略,能在推動政治藝術在藝圈以及資助申請過程得到正常化、平常化的看待,成為往後的重要範例。至於活化廳重視小區藝術中人性化交往的建立、維繫和累積,資助單位卻往往只顧參觀人次的數字、追看有形的成本效益,活化廳往後也望能在這方面據理力陳,當成是教育藝術行政的工作。

(二)主打展覽計劃

在過去半年,活化廳舉辦了三項較大型的展覽計劃,首炮《多多獎少少賞》重點在與小區打招呼,建立鄰里關係,亦以向藝圈呈示活化廳欲意開拓的方向。計劃先以街招等方式吸引街坊以其生活經驗作提名,蒐集區內有趣材料,再由策展人程展緯、李俊峰牽領三十多名藝術家/藝術學生,對這些小區人情風貌作明查暗訪,因據故事元素改裝獎杯,製作出如“至省鏡大獎”、“最血腥風味獎”、“最優雅姿態店員金獎”等獎座,頒至超過三十間店鋪。每逢週末,再而提供策展人導賞團小區遊,透過一個頒獎活動的框架,讓人們認識與欣賞舊區街里的豐富生活形態和人情點滴。

整個展覽,理念從反轉從上而下龐然的小區公共雕塑出發,重視居民參與,讓藝術散落區內,展場內既收集街坊物品,配以錄像訪問展出,展覽也預留了位置給兩名響應藝術家──陳素珊以安慰獎概念,用街招贈券吸引街坊造訪換取匙扣及日曆咭,而俞若玫則將其所遇的街坊化成為武俠小說人物,別開小區藝術的駐場文學創作模式。至於活化廳打破白盒子(WhiteCube)格局的新穎展示環境、互動導賞參與安排,富幽默手法來處理眾多展覽小環節,更讓觀賞過程充滿趣味,亦開本地藝術空間策展先河。

第二期的《出得廳堂》是活化廳將附帶協助藝發局和康文署的藝術品外借計劃的責任,變成反映官方藝術推廣機關資源浪費和官僚思維的一次機會,然而議題甚狹,於是采了反差手法,一面大事張羅不受歡迎的官方版複製海報,再而並行一個非官方版,廣邀藝術家借出作品供大眾借取回家,讓藝術品跳出僅是鑲框掛牆的裝飾品概念,發現藝術同樣可以相當生活化,甚至擔起某些生活功能,如日曆之作,撕頁的破壞也可變成作品的參與應用。展覽另除鋪陳了些早年藝術民主化、開放藝術定義展覽的前科,也重點介紹了個別戲耍官方外借計劃,借諷香港藝術館貼錢借場予外國奢侈品品牌作展覽的作品記錄。羅文樂帶領的工作坊,則通過臨摹官方復製印刷品,以自製真跡取代借取。兩種外借的受歡迎程度,比照下結果一目了然。

第三個展覽《師父贊》是個表揚民間手工藝、向手工藝師傅致敬的展覽。策展人程展緯及羅文樂從小區、藝術社群開始,發掘手工藝在社會慢慢些微的宏觀圖像下,在尋求持續發展和生存中少被留意的一些特殊作業模態,勾出師傅匠及普通人DIY(自己做)的個體小故事、付出和堅持,從他們身上吸取民間藝術智慧的啟迪。展覽最後包羅了十多間店鋪、廿多名藝術家參與,除有委約師傅創作,也找來藝術家與手工技師合作,或以平衡概念的作品加以響應,甚至邀藝術家摸索經已失傳的“賴龍”技藝。

《師父贊》除印派藝術家江記(江康泉)詳訪工藝師傅入行經過、技術鑽研、心得感情等的“職人系列”海報,還有地區內一些手工技藝等行業店舖的地圖指南,既肯定師傅絕活的藝術性,但也突出這些傳統的實用性和生活性,如何在小區合構成一種人文風景。工作坊系統爆棚加場,又是活化廳另一成功新試點(除出位的曱甴班,如摺紙等被受藝圈/藝發局冷落的技藝,在活化廳出現其實也別具意義) 。

(三)多元化活動項目

除了展覽計劃,活化廳還有花牌師傅黃乃忠參與的《駐場計劃》。這安排不單可讓造訪者對於中國華南這獨特花牌傳統有機會近距接觸,由於黃乃忠曾因市區重建而被迫遷而進行上訴與堅持留守,曾被董啟章、梁文道等文化人撰文成為香港保育運動中的重點人物,邀其進駐,其實也是對這些議題的一種表態,而花牌可說成為了解城市發展引生問題舉一反三之案例。同重要的,是黃生駐場,使活化廳成為一歡迎外人瀏覽的真實店鋪/ 生活空間,跟其他忽來忽去的小區展覽存有微妙的不同。 (活化廳另剛啟動“年青藝術家小區駐場計劃”,而中國藝術家駐場計劃亦在籌備中,歡迎查詢。)

日常空間基調上,活化廳一反現代主義的藝術作品中心的空間佈置,觀眾可在小區中心式的生活化環境不著有小發現,如桌面玻璃跟計算機屏幕桌面的影像展、魚缸、雪櫃與冰箱內的展覽,另有小區物資支持交換部、圖書、上網的不同小角落…以不同吸引力打開接觸藝術之門。除由魂遊策劃的“隔窗有嘢”行為藝術系列,利用臨街的位置或櫥窗與行人互動,活化廳室外還有牆壁供作品發表,也支持路邊及公園等公共空間的活動。這些冠名為《永不落空》的密集式活動,數量之多該是香港藝術空間之冠。跟不同組織的合作,包括有投訴合唱團、快樂行動/寫信佬、小區文化發展中心的行為藝術表演(包括過境的王楚禹及張義旺),及社運電影節《鐵路沿線》、《公民調查》等的加場放映等。由街坊旨趣出發的項目,則有與專業樂評人連手的幾次音樂分享會。

為配合十月一日開張,活化廳特備了《國旗》展輯,集合眾多以國旗、區旗為主體的本地藝術作品,帶出國旗、區旗等法例與言論、表達與創作自由的灰色關係。在春節時,活化廳也辦了《反清復明》展覽,展出年畫、公投漫畫,印行諷刺時局海報派發,還有創意的揮春攤位,政黨揮春的書法選舉…。統稱《運動.運動》的計劃相對無形,策略是把“反高鐵”運動實況化展示,配合社運的長片、短片播放,另為香港當月同步的東亞運動會湊上一個“唱好香港日”。

活化廳把握議事時機的開放性,使這些額外展覽別具瞄頭,也是香港受資藝術空間近乎沒有的展覽類型,有敏感題材可供嚴肅討論之餘,也有如乒乓外交贏廁紙的搞笑成份,受街坊歡迎,讓觀眾對於資助藝術的社會觸覺一新耳目,既協助活化廳跨出純視藝空間的狹隘形象,亦使文化界、社運界等人仕認識到活化廳的存在,開啟未來更多類型合作的契機。
亦由於活化廳不按本子辦事的獨特形象,介入應對時事的能力,主流媒體的反應相當不俗,尤其跳出文化藝術歸於文化副刊和消費指南之版頁,吸引了港聞版的記者眼光,整版整版的報導,開啟了通過藝術軟性探討社會時事、文化保育舊區活化政策等之繞徑。活化廳自身,也主動開拓不同的媒體平台,利用網站、網誌、Facebook 等接口來宣傳及記錄活動,還有web2.0 的互動小遊戲,另也與香港藝術搜索頻度(錄像網台) 、FM101(大氣電波與網絡電台)夥拍。至於集一眾本地創作人和作者的《明報》“星期日生活”迭頁,每月也有一版“活化廳”專頁,讓公眾得知最新活動外,也藉輕鬆幽默、搞事出位的創作鏈接熱門時事話題。

(四)無愧無悔的半年小檢

總括而言,活化廳展覽策劃模式,望能帶動藝圈投入參與落區,從而思考創作藝術的對象、情境和溝通語言的深層意義。再而以靈活彈性配合,激發參與藝術家作品形式上的創新方案,彼此相輔相承。作為開導性的實驗平台,活化廳同時望把當代藝術的接口模式推介給不同的小區文化及小區團體機構,讓有趣有意思的方法在各區得到普及繁衍。

對於街坊觀眾,我們採生活化態度、庶民切入點,相信持續接觸或偶爾觀察的累積感染。而改變自助觀展的概念,總監及職員長期坐鎮活化廳,在支撐小區中心式的運作模式以外,也以導賞方式引使參觀者分享參與,貫徹就展覽及文化藝術話題進行交流的機會。

憑著大方向的對位、小節的微調,團員的投入,藝圈社群的支持,加上舊區街坊的親切和藹、幾者的開放好奇心、恆持耐性的交往互動,在半年間,活化廳已逐步吸引一些街坊街里、藝術友好慣性到訪,讓活化廳愈發融入於這個小小區,成為彼此相敘的平台,並促彼此的互動互助。而當街坊感覺到自己作為持份者的歸屬感,往往更投入參與,出現如自發接待參觀者,與之閒聊及簡介活化廳的展覽與小區知識,並仗義為空間獻謀出力,從而再強化了活化廳的獨特小區性格。

說到底,街坊網絡正是小區藝術的財富資源,隨對小區的認識增多、網絡也逐步伸展,策展人們每次也盡力找尋合適街坊參與的可能性和強化這種交往的藝術可塑性,開放機會讓街坊從對像變成為參與主體,一個一個牽動小區人仕和店鋪參與,既為小區提供日常化的文化藝術參與,也為小區注入以文化藝術視角的鏈接,反饋對小區及其生活模式的欣賞和肯定。而在紛亂失衡的香港社會發展中,締結小區網絡,自也有其獨特的文化政治意義。


在未來半年,活化廳將再推出“六十四件人和事”、“藝術造假計劃”、“堪虞為體風水為用雕塑展”等項目,繼續地打擦邊球。

活化廳就是媒體

時間:2014年7月
地點:香港活化廳
受訪者:李俊峰(香港活化廳主持人)
訪問者:黃孫權
活化廳是一個由十多位本地文化藝術工作者共同營運的藝術組織,期望以持續性的對話建立一個「藝術/社區」彼此活化的平台。置身於上海街,一個充滿本土特色卻又面對變遷的社區,「活化廳」期望試驗一種建立在生活關係的「社區/藝術」,並藉著不同主題的藝術計劃,引起人們對藝術/生活/社區/政治/文化的思考和討論,亦藉以打通社區豐富的人情脈絡,帶動彼此的參與、分享和發現,勾勒一小社區鄰里生活模式可能。
黃孫權:阿峰,能否先簡單介紹一下你的背景,你的所學,以及為什麼會來到活化廳?
阿峰:我2007年中文大學藝術系畢業,本來是藝術家。2009年的時候我們開始在這裡營運活化廳。這個空間是1999年開始,在油麻地其實有一段時間了。最初是因為藝術發展局想要在這裡做社區藝術,一個藝術家叫秦江偉,是他發現這個地方,覺得可以用來討論社區藝術、定義社區藝術,所以就找了十個藝術家,我們就在這裡展開不同的計劃。在油麻地這個老區,面對發展的威脅,特別是地產商跟政府常常很想用藝術作為社區發展或重建改頭換面的工具,我們開始去想有沒有其他的可能性,藝術在社區裡面應該是怎樣的一個角色,比如用藝術跟街坊建立一種關係,在這個發展裡面搭出另外一種可能性。因為按照文化廳的意思,就是政府跟地產商要重建一個文化社區,其實只是聽起來比較好聽而已。而我們期望實驗一方面是帶出新可能性,另外一方面想追問藝術文化社區這裡面的意思是什麼,簡單說就是怎樣可以增進文化跟社區的關係。
黃孫權:你可以為我們簡單介紹一下活化廳組織跟運作的方式麼?
阿峰:活化廳早期是比較藝術家集體操作,大家都是平等的,定期會開會,開會的時候討論有什麼新的東西可以去做。平常我們有兩個職員在這邊,街坊也會幫手。後來就慢慢演變,越來越多街坊的參加,慢慢地有序地發生,沒有一個很嚴謹的組織。其實是用個體來做單位,比如說有些藝術家想要發動一些計畫,就變成為一組藝術家跟一組街坊的組織,就變成大家一起自發地去搞。
黃孫權:活化廳的運作方式是否可以算是一個獨立媒體?
阿峰:對,因為活化廳本來的定位是它想要參與、提出一些東西,然後讓大家去改變一些想法。比如說西九文化區,它給大家的想像就是我們在西九龍這個地方會有一個文化區,在裡面藝術跟生活的關係很接近,大家平常有空就會去看看,距離很近。活化廳其實在這個背景中間生化出來的,因為我們藝術家就在這裡,就會直接跟街坊有一個點對點的接觸。
為什麼說是媒體?因為本來活化廳的性質就是提出一些東西,藝術家有些案子、有些概念提出來,大家都覺得是很新穎,有一定的回響。最初在文化廳有一個想法,叫「街坊行動處」,是個什麼東西呢?因為我們固定在一個點,每天都會接觸到很多走過的街坊。比如說我們在這裡討論,有時候是明星,有時候會談地產霸權,會談租金價,會談有一些小店關門、傳統文化,也會談一些大的政治上的問題,比如說普選、六四,這些都會談。通過這些討論我們在實驗,怎樣用空間上的一個點來影響、聯繫到附近的街坊,然後看有沒有機會一起行動,看看碰撞到的附近社區有沒有什麼改變。比如說我們如果做六四的話,他們會不會跑進來罵我們,還是會走進來做什麼。比如說我們做一個獎杯的計畫〈多多獎 小小賞〉,藝術家就為一些街坊小店做獎杯,其實是一個雕塑的計畫。我們會邀請街坊去舉報他們的封關的歷史,藝術家就替你做一個獎杯這樣。所以這個空間就好像一個媒體,因為媒體就是可以聯合一些相近理念的人走到一起,讓這個本來隱形的意見可以凝固起來,再下一步就是建立到一個小群體的時候,大家都會有再進一步行動。
黃孫權:我知道你們好像出過很多社區刊物,可不可以介紹一下?
阿峰:《活化報》是活化廳搞了兩年之後才做的。2012年頭,其實是去東京看到素人之亂做的社區報,他們自己在A4紙上面畫的,就放在他的店外面,然後人走過就拿這樣,很輕鬆地就可以去做一個社區報,就可以輻射到附近的人。受到啓發,突然覺得我們也可以做的很輕鬆,不要想到做社區報是很難的東西,所以回來就做這個《活化報》。我們做《活化報》有三個定位,一個定位是它每一期有一個主題,主題就是找油麻地社區裡面的一些重要的議題,這些議題放大到整個香港可能是沒有人提的,但是在油麻地這個地方就很有意思,所以就會專題去報道。比如說攤販,比如說有一個在街上畫畫的爸爸,他在街上畫了四十年的人像畫,他的店被拆掉了,這個事情如果你放到整個香港,可能大家不會太留意,但是如果你在這個小社區裡面談就很不一樣,因為大家四十年來每一天都看見他在街上畫畫,很慢很慢地畫,所以大家都會關注這個。另外一個就是我們講一些比較生活性的東西,因為香港一些獨立媒體,有一點小眾,所以我想要比較軟一點,就是街坊真的會看的。我們藝術家就會想很多有趣的專欄出來。比如說我們中秋節的時候有印發折價卷,他們剪下來可以拿來換一個月餅,有時候講附近的小店的食物,找街坊教煮一些菜,找一些南亞的小朋友畫畫,教大家南亞巴基斯坦的家鄉語言,就是比較軟性的的。還有一點就是活化廳做過的事情,外面的街坊可能不知道,因為他們平常開店看不到,也沒有空進來。但是我們《活化報》就變成好像活化廳的延展。因為我們印兩千份,一千份在這裡,一千份派到外面,然後我們會花一些時間,可能幾天的時間,就一份一份地投到他們家裡的信箱。所以附近的街坊只要他拿到這個也同樣會知道活化廳平常發生了什麼事情。
黃孫權:到現在出了幾期《活化報》?
阿峰:最後出了十五期,但是現在還在出,但是給藝術發展局製作之後停了一回,然後我們一個成員,就是Worlan(音),在我們停製作之後每一個月都會在街上擺地攤,所以我們就做了一個叫《區報》,因為我們這個叫活化區。我們一大堆藝術家跟街坊朋友一起擺攤,然後也出一份報紙就講擺攤的文化跟小販的重要性,就是為什麼要用公共空間來做這些事情,關注擺攤的生態。
黃孫權:你怎麼想象一個藝術家團體跟社區之間的關係?
阿峰:藝術家跟社區的關係其實有很多面,藝術家常常有很多機會,就是把你放到一個社區裡面,跟外面的脈絡脫離,就好像我們最初可以空降到這個社區。但是有沒有想過其實在這個區藝術家是一個什麼樣的角色?他們是不是真的需要我們,還是中間可以怎樣互相影響。可能到現在,街坊也沒有很理解藝術家是怎樣的一種東西,但是我們可能又跟他們一起生活了五年。當然,我覺得中間有些慢慢互相影響,就是我改變街坊的一點點東西,街坊也改變了我們一點點東西。當然首先你先不要覺得我帶一些東西給這個社區,其實你需要謙卑點,然後就是真的在這裡生活一段時間,先是一個街坊,然後才是一個藝術家。
「街坊」有點親切的味道,就是真的有一點聯繫的才會叫街坊,也不會叫「鄰居」,街坊就是一個小社區裡面生活的社群,是在一個共生的關係裡面的。所以可能最重要的是藝術家也需要知道沒有給街坊帶來什麼破壞,大家怎樣去共同生存,藝術家在這裡可以做藝術家的事情,街坊在社區可以做社區的事情,大家可以互相適應。
黃孫權:我特別想問阿峰,因為你是一個很敏銳的觀察者,現在全球的狀況都差不多,因為地產的霸權,因為縉紳化,底層的人要麼生活得很苦,要麼他們就被迫離開他們原本的地方。你覺得作為一個藝術家,或者像這樣的一個角色,怎麼想象去抵抗這些?
阿峰:這是一個很難的問題,因為縉紳化不單只是政府和地產商的問題,它還是一般民眾的問題。香港的社區重建就老愛舉很美好的例子,讓一般人都覺得這樣是一個比較美好的社區。比如說重建觀塘的時候,最後就會變成一個太古城,太古城就是香港很中產的社區,沒有什麼街道,管理很嚴密,你在裡面找不到一個茶餐廳,因為他們覺得茶餐廳比較低檔次,就是壞品味,縉紳化是用同樣的邏輯。但是另外一個方法是創造一個社區經濟,再具體一點來講就是從人的生活的價值、從人的生活裡創造,是平常他們生活的一部分,都可以參與到的。因為藝術其實可能只有他們參與、發表,自己去做,去表達一些看法,從他們自己內在的一些東西可以反省得到的。如果從人的生活來說,比如我們擺攤,我們上一代的人覺得家裡有些東西可以賣就會拿到街上去賣掉,可能節日的時候他們都會在街上賣一些小吃。但是十幾年來大家覺得小販佔用街道不好,不美觀,衛生有問題,政府就會來打壓。如果這些東西可以維持,你會維持他們生活的圈子,他們都會自發去擺,如果所有人都覺得上街擺攤沒有問題,其實就可以是一種比較真實的抵抗。
黃孫權:你們是不是有一個很有名老婆婆?
阿峰:Fred媽?對!
黃孫權:你要不要講一下她的故事?
阿峰:Fred媽很有趣,Fred媽我第一次見她是活化廳的第一個計畫,我們貼海報說舉報你的封關的歷史,然後她就跑進來。她是一個老婆婆,但是她做了很多慈善的事,她拿很多錢去大陸的山區建學校。她現在八十歲了,還會走路到山區裡面看建得怎麼樣,她還給我一大堆照片看。
黃孫權:她在大陸哪裡建學校?
阿峰:貴州,廣西啊!
黃孫權:行動力很強。她什麼星座啊?
阿峰:什麼星座啊?她好像是獅子座,有點白羊跟獅子座,不知道。但是最後她都沒有怎麼來,我們叫她Fred媽,因為她兒子Fred常常來,Fred在的時候她不來。但是Fred最後他不來,她就常常來。在活化廳開差不多兩年之後,當時內部人手有一些改變,我們想要走進社區多一點,所以這裡佈置上都有一點改變,然後她就每一天都來。最初可能她自己拿一些DVD來看。她的生活是這樣的,她每天花很多時間去研究中醫養生的事情,因為她想要研究一些辦法幫助大家抑制癌症之類的,她每天都在研究這些東西,也會教人家,也會去收一些人家可能不要的東西,比如說去醫院撿到一些沒有人要的,然後有時候就拿來活化廳。她每一天的工作就是做這種事情,她把這些東西搬過來,然後有一些藝術家去幫她,因為她每天都來,所以這個合作變得很強。我們每一年的新年都會做計畫,她忽然之間就拿兩千塊錢來,說我們要做一個派飯團的活動。因為我們以前聖誕節、平安夜的時候做過一個叫「白色聖誕」的活動,就是派飯團,只做過一次,藝術家當成概念藝術去做,其實也做得蠻好。但Fred媽她搞錯了,她覺得新年也要做派飯團,所以她就不知道去哪裡找到人家捐給她兩千塊,她就要求我們一定要派飯團。然後就沒辦法,要幫她圓夢成真。但是我們沒有人手,因為新年可能有其他很多事,然後我們一發到網路上,計劃叫〈你幫我幫她〉,她就是Fred媽,然後一大堆人來,要替她實現這個願望。當天就有很多人在這裡做飯團,然後一起到外面去派。因為蒐集到網上有一個free cycling的group,叫OES free(音),然後他們很大一群人,有兩萬多人在Facebook上面,所以一發出去就有很大的回響。其實計畫概念是Fred媽媽發起的,然後大家替她實現出來。
最後很多計劃其實都是這種狀態,比如說活化區也是,最初Fred媽一下子很生氣,談起油麻地她就覺得油麻地現在的街道太冷清了,我們一定要去擺攤、去佔領街道。其實擺攤這個東西,我們想了很久,以前想過要做,但是我們找不到人來擺,就邀請藝術家來擺,藝術家平常又很忙。你搞不到哪個地點比較好,如果搞不好的話,會破壞到那邊的生態,你會引來很多警察,反而街坊會覺得你很麻煩,所以地點是一個問題。沒有人,地點,怎麼樣辦?但是Fred媽提的時候,就差不多都解決掉了,因為是街坊自己發動的。然後地點也是,因為已經有一段時間覺得可以找到一個比較適合的地方。最初我們以為只有幾個街坊而已,怕沒有人來我們預備了很長時間。但是到去擺攤的時候,一下子整條街都滿了。
黃孫權:這是一個很好的例子,街坊突然反過來要求藝術家一起合作。
阿峰:對,反而這些藝術家,因為我們真的以前想過要做差不多的事情,像這個free cycling,前幾年活化廳早期還不怎麼流行,所以我們覺得這個可以提出來,然後讓大家去做做,其實是沒有什麼大不了的,街坊自己發動反而是更棒的。所以現在差不多每一個月都會做一次。
黃孫權:對,我知道Fred媽在德昌里擺。
阿峰:對,她在德昌里前面,東西是另外一個街坊送的,有很多,然後她擺攤,一天就可以賺一千多塊,比我們打工還好。
黃孫權:她生意很好。
阿峰:生意很好,一天可以賺一千多塊,所以現在不用我們組織了,她自己會。
黃孫權:最後一個問題,我想聽聽看阿峰你個人的看法,你這幾年都在跟社區、跟不同的藝術團體合作,香港有許多新媒體出現,你怎麼看待這些主流媒體跟那些小的團體?真正做社區組織的一些關係?
阿峰:我今天看一個漫畫,就是說現在香港社運怎樣升級,就是你最初看到Facebook上面的一個讚,然後在升級就是分享,再升級可能就是轉貼了,再升級就是改一改你的頭像,為什麼Facebook上大家都改了頭像了,這個社會還沒改變?香港現在一方面是你看到了很多新媒體出現,但還是有一個固定的人數,因為最近網路公投的時候,就看到我們有大概70萬人到80萬人,香港最厲害的網路媒體就是蘋果,蘋果每一天流量有一百萬,香港有七百萬人,其實這個參與人其實蠻固定的,所以媒體可不可以就是擴大其影響?是有一些新媒體出現,但是另一方面主流媒體越來越保守,抹黑,它偏向一個很明顯的立場,這也是香港一個越來越嚴重的問題。但是比如說若TVB(香港無限電視台)可以改變,接觸到一個很大的觀眾群,它對於一般人的想法的影響力比較大。香港會說遍地開花,台灣好像反服貿之後也有遍地開花,但是遍地開花的同時,其實要聯繫到一些比較真實的生活的一些聯繫上面。比如說TVB主流媒體,大家習慣每天都看,這些是新媒體的人接觸不了的,有沒有什麼方法可以改變這種生活?一般生活上的媒體,我還聽說可以做到真的接觸到一些可能不看電視、不看報紙、不會上網的這些一般的街坊,然後(瞭解)這一群街坊是怎樣想的,但是這一類的東西香港比較少人去做。我覺得新媒體,像我剛剛舉的那個笑話,新媒體會不會讓你從你的不滿變成行動?如果真的是跟你的生活很有聯繫的,再走多一步的可能性就比較大,所以這個反而更重要。但是香港真的很少有團體做得到,很少有團體做這個。
黃孫權:你不能只是改一下你的頭像,對不對?
阿峰:終極的是改你的圖像(笑)。
黃孫權:阿峰,你還知道香港有什麼社區報?
阿峰:有,剛剛這個就是,香港的社區報,我們都有收集起來。因為《活化報》出現之後,出現了很多社區報,應該不是我們影響他們的,但是就是忽然之間出現,其他人都做他們的社區報,不同類型的報,這樣的一張紙。這個是油麻地的,這個絕對是受《活化報》影響到的,也派油麻地,其他的社區報。我覺得社區報可以做,因為社區報成本很低,幾個朋友可以做。你接觸一個小的社區,因為香港現在剛剛起步的社區報全都很小,也有一定的獨立性,但是怎樣可以持續做。香港有很多很多小的社區報要發動一些東西的時候,都會有一些影響的。


這裡可以看到活化廳出版的個期活化報

社區入門能手-攤開社區嚟講系列 [第五課 : “我們在社區的失敗經驗”]


【在地-外掛論壇】自主/自發/社區/我們--從《碧街事變》行動劇場談起


《微批》,〈實踐生活上的改變──訪《活化廳駐場計劃》編輯李俊峰〉

示威區裡的問題--給/李俊峰的提問


訪談:何穎雅

文化脈絡、本土性及批判力

何穎雅(何):你覺得你的藝術實踐更屬於context-specific, site-specific或者site-conditioned(按照你的理解)請解釋。

李俊峰(峰):我其實不太了解這三個字眼的意思, context和site很多時是同時考慮, 兩者也有互動關係。大概我的實踐是從理念/命題出發,如我對人、社群、社會大眾之間的串聯,與藝術的對話能力如何在之間建立意義,引發行動? 很多時,context和site是借題發揮的對象,人的關係和想法才是主角。

何:按我的理解,那聽起來更像site-conditioned,可是“引發行動”這樣的一個實踐可能也需要自己的一種類型來深入了解,可能因為都是跟人際關係有關的,它沒有辦法按照context- specific/site-specific藝術來判斷某一周成品和結果。這種不斷地變化feedback和“feed- forward”很有意思。那看你最近在瑞士做的創作,有什麼元素是直接從你香港的實踐帶過去來用呢?在你不熟悉的環境下能有同樣的批判性嗎?批判性與本土性對你來說有什麼關係?

峰:這次在瑞士並不是駐場創作,而是與那邊朋友一起構思一個跨地域的教育計劃。一般來說,在活化廳,很多意念和實踐都是從街坊或成員朋友間jam出來的,那累積的脈絡很重要。通常若我在新的環境裡,由於深入認識一個地方需要時間,也不容易建立的緊密的互動,那種有往有來的實踐就會和活化廳的不同。所以這些情況我很多時會定位為觀察者,從我的背景分享一些觀點。像有次在東京駐場,我就訪問了當地一個婆婆的抗議故事。因為那社區要建公路,婆婆每天早上一個人在車站舉牌抗議,這事持續多年,但很多東京市民不知道,於是我就將故事整理起來,以幾個藝術行動和工作坊將這抗議、展場和不同的人串聯起來。不過,想強調說,這些從外帶進來的實踐雖然有一定意義,但在地深耕始終才是重點。

批判性,我覺得是具普遍性的,不太受特殊背景限制。批判性對自己時是測驗我對實踐與理念之間究竟有多真誠,對外是揭示現實裡複雜的權力關係和結構,指示出行動的方向和意義。

本土性,我覺得是一個人對與那滋養你成長的 “土壤” (政治、經濟、社會文化...)所建立的認同與關聯,也是一份許諾 (commitment)。比如說,我在香港的8,90年代成長,這裡的社會大事、城市發展、流行文化、教育體制、前輩們的抗爭實踐等... 都構成了今日的我,而這也反映在我的想法與行動上,在歷史上連成一線。我與這些積累建立起一份許諾,覺得要守衛這些有價值的事情,像收了一份禮物,它成了我的資產,也是負債,我有感恩、答謝的需要。另需要留意,「本土性」在不同的脈絡背景下也會有它的特殊意義。比如local的中譯已有幾個版本:本土(指稱意識形態?)、在地(指稱實踐的態度?)、本地(指稱地方空間?)、地道(指稱庶民文化?)... 使用這概念而不釐清當中的指向,很多時會產生誤會。

破與立:社區 x 藝術 x 行動主義

何: 我所理解活化廳的實踐中,宣傳與溝通是整個項目的一個很重要部分。可是另一方面,我也感覺到內部組織與對外宣傳的某一種衝突。community在這兩個之間站在哪個位置?

峰:或許放在新自由主義的脈絡下,community在香港一面是"破"另一面是"立",活化廳裡,藝術家們的實踐很大程度偏重了"破", 打破/批判一些現況問題與提出新的可能性,而不是建立... 因此,宣傳與溝通的過程也較難在"破"的脈絡下著地成長,長遠自然成為內部沖突與不能延續發展的原因之一。community不能只停留在姿態性、行動性、或批判性的層面,裡頭包括"common"的建立和持續的溝通,但很多社區藝術計劃在香港卻在種種限制下,難以進入到這種力度。

何:在這種偏重了“破”的態度上,也許也不叫“community”啦。你覺得呢?如果不是的話,為甚麼這個標簽在活化廳的自述上那麼重要?如果還是能理解為一種community,那有更好的字眼來簡單地描述你麼嗎? 比如,我們選活化廳的兩個項目——類似于早期的“多多獎”和後期的“壁街事變”(或者你選兩個不同的項目來作為例子)——來進行對比,它們對於community有什麼不同的看法?

峰:我覺得「破」和「立」也是建構 community 的過程。批判或打破既有的現實是一個階段,從碎片組織再建立又是另一階段,兩者相輔相承。但香港的情況,一般太著意將所有事情徹底破壞,較少積極地提問「我們可建立什麼樣我生活?」。其實原因可能是在這裡你很難確實的把握到權力去改變,反而姿態性的行動就總有些方法發表(所謂言論自由?),持續究竟會是指向更大的無力還是希望?你可說希望和絕望同是虛妄的,但最少在希望裡我們才能找到未來。

在早期活化廳的實踐,community是對應那些急速消失與破裂的社會關係,但發展到後來,倡議的工作已差不多,所以有責任將理念實踐到生活裡,那些計劃都希望能較長線的發展。如「活化報」和「活化墟」。「多多獎」與「碧街事變」兩個計劃相距差不多5年多,「多多獎」的概念很閃耀,但當中民眾參與的成份其實也很便宜。藝術家去訪問一下街坊,找些有趣的點子,然後造個獎盃,街坊也高高興興的收下了。這計劃確實比空降社區的公共雕塑多份親切,比起與街坊一同畫畫壁畫又多點啟發性,但真正是否深刻的在街坊裡建立什麼?大概只是攪攪氣氛,有些啟發而已,因為計劃就只那麼一兩個月。有意思的是因為那計劃,我們和街坊的關係有更長遠的申延,比如有街坊在頒獎給她三年後把獎盃拿回來維修,那表示那獎盃對她很重要,但重點是因為有些東西一直持續做,這事才會發生。

「碧街事變」其實沒有差很遠,但需要更深入的社區脈絡才能發生。其實我們一直考究這事多年,因此計劃一拉動就能動用很多人脈和資料,將時空加起來,那意義和韌力就很不同。比如演出那天油麻地很多友好也一起前來參與,整件事像是一觸即發,之後也有延伸的討論。如演出後不久就發生反新界東北撥款的行動、幾個月後就是雨傘運動,都是與這民眾自發的抗爭呼應。其實這計劃得著較多的可能是策劃團隊。因為89年油麻地街坊是如何自發地去支援學運?落區訪尋過後就大概有個圖像。這對我們這一代不在現場的,就產生連接到過去的歷史感。64也就不止是發生在那時空的事,而是與今天這地方的過去相連。至於街坊,最少這事是從消失的歷史中被重新發掘出來,成了一個「事件」。比如說劇中有個街坊,他當年在附近一間中學掛橫額,我們重提這事後,他也問自己,這事放下多年,今天是否可以做什麼?

若你問我比較兩者,我會說其實兩個計劃都是一次性的實驗,未做到很深刻的交流,也沒進深到思考意識型態,偏重提問、尋訪,而不是長遠的建立/組織理念。我覺得,這些計劃創造了什麼關係? 什麼連結? 將來或可創造什麼行動?這才重要。然後要讓時間積累、交織,那將指向真正的抵抗關係,社會的改變才真正具有基礎,否則只是民粹、情緒化的宣洩。「社區 x 藝術 x 行動主義」的意義大概是這樣。

何:你覺得香港的community art怎麼從西方social practice摘取了什麼樣的東西,在哪裏脫離了西方實踐變成了香港的specific東西?

峰:很大的問題!首先,"community" 這字眼本身也是來自西方的,我所知道在華文世界及至日文裡,community的翻譯也依據當地的政治文化脈絡有不同的轉譯。像廣東話的"街坊",相對 於"社區"這詞,與英語的"community" 意思比較接近,若從人與人的親密性的觀點去看,裡頭有特定的歷史、時空、政治經濟文化脈絡因素造成(如殖民統治下居民自發組織叫"街坊福利會")。而"街 坊"在台灣及中國大陸的詮釋卻不一定有這種想像/意涵在其中。所以,"community art" 是更複雜的討論,不同文化脈絡對"community art" 的詮釋也應不一樣,沒有從背後的文化脈絡觀點出發去談別人為什麼做某事,真正的對話與交流是幾乎不可能的。

簡單說就是,"community art" 無論在香港或什麼地方,其實踐對應的是什麼關係?倡議什麼價值?反映了那個社會的什麼問題?對應那一時空?什麼方法、內容?誰是建立的對象?之間的倫理 等?也是運用這字眼時需要回應的問題。(否則只是隨意挪用的反射行動,能深入發展的可能性不大,也是在消費這概念的激進性)至於來 自"西方"的手法,我覺 得主要是"現代性"的差異,有些東西在"西方"曾經驗,到另一脈絡自然出現差異,有specific的發展。但再強調,那不應只是一 種文化"移植",而很需要連繫到在地的背景來思考,及我們如何詮釋當中的意義。

何: 我也知道這個詞語在亞洲也是個很引起誤會的線上,上次在馬來西亞跟zulu 也談過。我想聽一聽你為香港的藝術界描述以下它在香港的具體意思,包括你提到了的那些那麼好問題(其實踐對應的是什麼關係?倡議什麼價值?反映了那個社會的什麼問題?對應那一時空?什麼方法、內容?誰是建立的對象?之間的倫理 等?)能以你的實踐來回答嗎?

峰: 既然community要套進香港的語境才能準確理解它的意思,那以上問題其實就是回答,並為之給予意義。像碧街事變是否在對應:誰掌管歷史話語權的問題?如果由個人來把握,那方法和希望是否一種根莖式、去中心的行動平台?能實現/不能實現的原因是什麼?如覺得香港悼念64的方法一直太單一,那多元、民間自發地討論64的方法是否可行?這些問題之間,其實在暗示一些共同性,就是在權力下的個人(諸眾?),如何抵抗體制的壓抑,而藉著理念的聯合,會否是自救的可能?

時間、倫理與「示威區」

何:我之前聽說ADC不支持活化廳的批評是在時間上的點?你怎麼看這樣的問題?

峰:簡單說就是ADC會覺得那空間是臨時性的,因此活化廳待在那邊時間愈長就愈有離開的壓力。這其實是官方理解這些空間資源如規劃出來的"示威區",反正它們把握了 99%的資金,主導權還在它們手裡,而活化廳的意義在於,在這種規限下,(是否能)一定程度突破這"示威區",生產框架以外的抵抗關係和想像,當中的知識和倫理又是什麼?怎樣申延開去? 在那個時空,主要思考的是這問題。

何:這樣的話,我還是覺得那你一直很清楚活化廳做的事情不一定是 community art了,其實那種緊迫性也隨著你提到的批判性。如果明明是“示威區”你覺得你們的批判性能有什麼力量呢?你自己回頭看的話,覺得有在“一定程度突破這 ‘示威區’,生產框架以外的抵抗關係和想像嗎?又反問你,”當中的知識和倫理又是什麼?”

峰:都是那問題,community art 這概念其實很鬆散、很模糊,沒對應現實的脈絡就更難對焦。是說要建立community嗎?服務community?或處理一些community裡的問題?藝術能解決問題嗎?能處理的若不是實際問題,那又可以是什麼?我覺得我在活化廳的實踐,想處理的其實是in between 議題上觸及community的 “community art” 及以community為服務對象的 “community art”。

前者如很多從建制空降下來的藝術計劃,ego較focus在藝術家身上,背後其實是精英的;後者則像很多藝術美化社區的計劃,主體較重視參與對象本身,美學/批判性所扮演的角色較低。然而,有沒有一種平等對話的平台,大家的ego也可以有一些位置?

簡單說,我想做的是「異質關係」的重建,而美學可以在中間帶動/啟發對話和創造。在新自由主義下,藝術家的角色是否可以從精英/特權階級落到底層階級去組織和反抗,作為定位?只要清晰的一步步前進,我不敢說最後將帶來革命,但至少方向正確,我們能創造一個活在真誠的社會空間。每個人也能有尊嚴、平等、自由地生活,這或不是我們這一代能做到,但未來還是有希望。

究竟是否能突破「示威區」?若行動積累的知識與關係能積累前進,我覺得已比留在「示威區」,阿Q地作姿態表述更具抵抗性。「示威區」是一個安全的位置,藝術家選擇留在裡面,自我感覺良好有其原因,但「示威區」不會直接引發行動,因那地方也是建制規劃出來的,當你主動「越界」的那一刻,才是觸及建制的神經,那才算真正的行動,示威不也是為了這?而當中的倫理就是要問自己,在「示威區」積累的是否有責任帶到下一步?還是只停留在「示威區」呃like?(討大家認同和支持?)我覺得這責任是存在的,不是說大家各做各擅長的,盡自己角色,就不用追問這倫理,要知道藝術家往往比底層弱勢把握更多的文化資源和話語權,沒有這視野,那就很容易會變成藝術家從被壓抑者的身上得到些好處,最後還參與了壓抑機器的一部份。

持續性、重回起點、真實的反抗

何:在回顧反思活化廳的項目,你覺得最值得帶去延續的計劃是什麼?

峰:大致上覺得,值得批判的有很多,過程到當下,團隊與眾人有什麼反思?比有什麼計劃繼續做下去更重要。有什麼計劃應持續,那是手法的層面,沒處理價值討論而談延續,其實很容易掉進另一種重複的cycle,永遠不能突破到社會結構上的轉變,最後大家feel good/feel warm而已。這不應是藝術家處理的事情。

何:你說得很好,我也覺得家作坊的實踐做的不夠好因為它把所有批判隱藏了在feel good/feel warm後面,太多人沒有get得到。也許這也是我們在大陸的context的一個現實,可是手法意外,你肯定學到或者收到了某種對於這種的實踐的啓發。 能給我一個具體的例子嗎?如果不要留在feel good的層面上,我們feel critical/feel bad後改變了什麼?

峰:如之前所說,究竟這些實踐在建立什麼?抵抗什麼?你必須很清楚的問自己,否則這些行動最終都可能沒有很堅固的意義。那建立和抵抗的,你必須指向問題的結構,而不是表象。像如你弄個天台農場,倡議綠色生活,但很多城市空間裡可自發去綠化種東西的地方卻全面被規管,農地也給收掉,到處市紳化發展,然後你認為這些事情不用去管,只是小確幸的在那小小的天台澆水種花?有否想過提出更激進的可能性?是否願意付出更多去改變這些問題?還是停留在comfort zone?我身邊很多朋友弄天台種植,先聲明我這裡是沒有指向性,因他/她們很多都是知行合一的。我想強調的還是那倫理責任,不是說盡自己所能就足夠,而是要超越功利主義的邏輯,追問責任倫理的完整性。要知道,有些事情不是說:「一人做啲!」就能解決。這statement的前提是有指向性的,是社群主義和利他的,feel good自己做的一點點,而不考慮到倫理價值的背景,並不是「一人做啲!」


另還有一點,就是資源從何來?自主的意義是什麼?那些資源與你要抵抗的,有什麼關係?有些人會覺得進入建制裡拿資源是一種策略,不過策略能否與初衷遺背?有沒有底線?最基本的是,不應參與那些來自你要抵抗的體制,即使是所謂在體制提出反對與改良,你也是在建構那壓抑他人的力量,使其變得更強。如你與街坊一起對抗重建發展,又去拿市建局的資源去做社區計劃,你是否在銷售自己經營的草根/基進形象?而且似乎賣得很便宜,誰有權使這決定?若拿建制資源的目的是期望接觸更多的人,從而動員更大的反抗力量?但假如在那些平台沒有造成深刻的對話,我覺得只是在加速消費這些抵抗理念,若不幸的,更只是在製造另一種民粹,或被建制加以模仿。那長遠又是否幫到大家更持續的對抗?我見很多個案,與虎謀皮的結局最後都是被同質化的居多。所以行動之先還是有堅固的理念較重要。未談到改變,連基礎都不牢固,誰能肯定那一定是正面的改變?但大多數人感興趣於行動、實驗、實踐自我,而非追問事情的出發點。這不可能創造真正的抵抗。

《藝術觀點》第67期, 〈場外調度:詞語的肉身〉

Thinking of Art as Informal Life Politics in Hong Kong

Building, Dismantling: Community Orientations and Counterpublic Art in Hong Kong

Yet Chor Sunshine Wong

originally published on
http://www.on-curating.org/issue-24-reader/building-dismantling-community-orientations-and-counterpublic-art-in-hong-kong.html#.WXHP_dOGOCQ

Underweight
While waiting for the MTR, there are clear place markers that let you know where to stand so as not to obstruct those who are trying to leave the train. Once you shuffle in, signs abound telling you not to eat, drink, or smoke, to give up your seat to those who need it more than you, and to aim higher: improve your English, study abroad, lose weight, invest in property. At your destination, a looped recording (trilingual, in the local Cantonese as well as in Mandarin and English) accompanies your escalator trip back to street level: stand on the right, watch where you’re going, don’t just look at your mobile phone. Finally, one last piece of audio instruction as you exit: do not patronise hawkers or give money to beggars. This one I only heard at specific stations.

MTR place markers. Courtesy of Logatfer’s Travelogue
MTR place markers. Courtesy of Logatfer’s Travelogue

As an overseas Hong Konger, my visits back are always marked by a difficult struggle for a sense of belonging. On my most recent trip, the city was in the midst of a similar struggle—but on a much more urgent, fundamental scale. In June 2014, over 800,000 people voted in an unofficial referendum for universal suffrage. Preparations were being made for the next stage in the fight for Hong Kong’s long-deferred political autonomy: a week-long classroom strike was to take place in September 2014 which, at the time of writing, has culminated with a three-day protest that has spread throughout the city. All the while, the official emphasis on order and consumption has become ever more palpable and oppressive. The rise of social awareness, particularly amongst the “post-80s” and “post-90s,”[1]is a change that many of my parents’ class and generation (educated professionals, born shortly after WWII) find unsettling. This is condescendingly evident in the label mei gau ching given to Joshua Wong Chi-Fung, the 17-year-old spokesperson of the Scholarism[2] movement: meaning “underweight,” it is a colloquialism for being underage. When pro-Beijing Legislative Council (Legco) member Chiang Lai-Wan belittles him on live television (“How am I supposed to debate with a mei gau ching?”), and government-backed bodies like the Hong Kong Youth Association are paying people off to take part in anti-civil disobedience demonstrations,[3] the dominance of state power—be it through such examples of arrogant posturing or desperate acts of self-preservation—is constantly being reinforced. And the locus of this power is found some 2,000 miles away in Beijing, undermining Deng Xiaoping’s promise of “one country, two systems.” 
In the face of elusive self-governance, skyrocketing property prices, and reckless urban encroachment, a more basic need for subjective and physical spaces is being articulated. The crowded cityscape spills over with chain stores and franchises, including elite educational institutions such as the Savannah College of Art and Design, which opened its Hong Kong campus in 2009 at the renovated former North Kowloon Magistracy Building, charging upwards of US$30,000 in fees per year. Under communist China’s twenty-first century imperative to outdo capitalism at its own game, Hong Kongers have had to contend with an impossibly free, state-supported market. So, what are the alternatives? Can other possibilities survive and where might they be found? Over the last decade, a disparate group of artists have been looking for ways to extend their practices into the social, the political, and the activist in order to create and/or retrieve space for “new imaginings.”[4] Though the approaches are, of course, multiple and varied, I would like to focus particularly on three different projects in Hong Kong that have responded to rapidly disappearing notions of belonging, intimacy, and neighbourliness. Here, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone—artists, friends, strangers—who took the time to share their thoughts with me. In many ways, I felt I was similarly “encroaching” upon their deeply rooted practices from the perspective of a semi-outsider. One of the hardest lessons to learn from the process was the importance of a lived understanding for an analysis that would do these art practices justice. What I was able to achieve in my short research trip was merely to map out, rather imprecisely, some contours of a community-oriented art that differs entirely from the dominant Euro-American discourse. 
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Florentijn Hofman, Rubber Duck, 2013. Photograph by Adam Taylor. Courtesy of Business insider
Florentijn Hofman, Rubber Duck, 2013. Photograph by Adam Taylor. Courtesy of Business insider

Defending place, creating space
A recent study by Vivian Ting Wing-Yan and Emma Watts demonstrates the overwhelming influence of the private art market in the way visual art is equated to wealth and spectacle.[5] Shopping malls and luxury brands often collaborate with artists, using their work as a means of enhancing the shopping experience. With over 150 private galleries and only seven public museums—compared to the ratio of one to one in the UK—the commercial art world has come to define the viewing habits of the general public in Hong Kong.[6] Visual art is seen to bear no serious cultural responsibility and is purely a form of entertainment.[7] Emerging from this debilitating consumerism are initiatives like Woofer TenPeople’s Pitch, and Ping Che Village School Festival, all of which are conscious attempts at delineating a meaningful socio-political role for art in an increasingly oppressive hyper capitalist landscape.
1. Woofer Ten
Located on Shanghai Street in the district of Yau Ma Tei is a small, ground-floor storefront run by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC). Since 1999, the space has been a dedicated testing ground for different types of artistic practice, with projects generally running on a two- or four-year basis. Its current form as Woofer Ten (“activation / regeneration space,” an ironic play on the Urban Renewal Authority’s promise to “regenerate” poorer areas) has been around for almost five years, though HKADC stopped funding the operation in September 2013.
In its early days, the ten founding members were mainly concerned with two questions: 1) how to run an “open-door space”, and 2) how to use art to think and do politics.[8] During the first ten years of HKADC’s stewardship, there were a number of attempts at turning the storefront into an exhibition space, none of which explicitly dealt with questions of location. As a densely populated grassroots neighbourhood, Yau Ma Tei is home to many long-term residents (kai fong) as well as tradespeople who specialise primarily in mechanics and carpentry. Rarely did the contemporary art objects on display pique the interest of passers-by—nor was that, to be fair, the intention of those who were in charge of the space. The turning point came in the two years leading up to the start of Woofer Ten in 2009, when some of the loudest, most visible mobilisations against the destruction of historic, public, and rural sites took place. Artists played a prominent role in drawing attention to the demolition of the Star Ferry pier in Central (2006-7), as well as to the commercial monopolisation of the public space in front of the Times Square shopping centre in Causeway Bay (2008).

The Star Ferry protesters occupy the adjacent Queen’s Pier, which was also due to be demolished. Photo by Thirteen Wong Sap-Sam. Courtesy of http://le914.blogspot.co.uk/2007/07/blog-post_29.html
The Star Ferry protesters occupy the adjacent Queen’s Pier, which was also due to be demolished. Photo by Thirteen Wong Sap-Sam. Courtesy of http://le914.blogspot.co.uk/2007/07/blog-post_29.html

As members have come and left the collective over the last five years, their projects have also transitioned from an artist-led directive to a community-led one. “[At first,] there would be an [artistic] idea that the kai fong (neighbours / local residents) could only accept. In the past year, our roles have begun to reverse; the kai fong come up with the ideas and [it’s our turn to] accept them,” current Woofer Ten artist Vangi Fong Wan-Chi notes.[9] Yet her colleague Roland Ip Ho-Lun offers a caveat: “Sometimes you have to say no, because there is a limit to the openness.” From earlier projects like Prize prize prize (shop owners and residents nominate different local traders for a special award, for which the artists make bespoke trophies) to the recent weekly kai fong meetings, the trajectory betrays the desire for the initiative to become firmly anchored within the area. Or to “belong” and “grow roots,” as both artists affirm. Though most of the original founders have moved on, the three remaining members adamantly insist on staying in Yau Ma Tei, “because it will be something else entirely if we move.”[10] Beyond matters of site-specificity, the refusal to leave is also aimed at shedding light on HKADC’s mismanagement of resources, particularly that of vacant units; with one just a few floors above Woofer Ten and another in a residential high-rise nearby, it is a disconcerting realisation as small art organisations are often forced into closure due to “a lack of resources.” As support for these initiatives continues to wane, artists are left to deal with a hugely unaffordable and uniform environment that is hostile to the slow cultivation of alternative ideas.

A kai fong meeting at Woofer Ten. Photo by the author
A kai fong meeting at Woofer Ten. Photo by the author.

2. People’s PitchContrary to Woofer Ten’s immersive investigation of a community that extends over a number of years, artist Him Lo’s People’s Pitch focuses on districts earmarked for “urban renewal” by temporarily occupying a street for a game of football. The first match took place as part of Free Space Festival, an event that fell under a larger, long-term public programme for the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD). In reference to the festival’s namesake, participating artists like Lo were encouraged to think about the significance of “free space” and activities related to it. Since the WKCD was first put forward in 1998, the government-proposed project has been wrought with controversies, including the environmental cost (due to land reclamation), the focus on consumer experience over cultural development, and the US$8.5 billion price tag.[11] These concerns, amongst others, have been furiously and repeatedly challenged.  
As such, the first People’s Pitch set within the framework of Free Space 2012 was more of a direct response to the idea behind the festival, i.e. to figuring out what kind of “space” remained open to play and autonomy in an area like West Kowloon. “When I came up with the idea [of People’s Pitch] and put out a call online, the response exceeded my expectation. Many players either work in the cultural sector or are interested in critically understanding the impact of urban development,”[12] says Lo. Having formed a core group, they then continued to meet at different locations, including Kwun Tong district’s Yan On Lane in August 2013. The event was prefaced by a few informal games that varied in the number of players, even including intimate one-a-side matches. As Yan On Lane, like many other neighbourhoods, succumbs to urban encroachment, members of People’s Pitch have attempted to use the planning process of a football match to think through the rapid disappearance of organic, spontaneous forms of playing and living. Though the games take on a quality of an “urban ambush,” they in fact demonstrate quite literally the neighbourhood’s distinct sense of place: who sells football jerseys or t-shirts? Where can we send them for printing? And which streets are tucked away from traffic? For Lo, these investigations—along with the resulting conversations between themselves and the kai fong—constitute a process that parallels making art: “There is a search, a transformation, and a form. [You see a transition] from content to materialisation, which can all be found in art.”[13]

 People’s Pitch match in Kwun Tong’s Yan On Lane, August 2013. Photo by Him Lo. Courtesy of Him Lo.
People’s Pitch match in Kwun Tong’s Yan On Lane, August 2013. Photo by Him Lo. Courtesy of Him Lo.

Aside from the socio-political urgency that has affected many art practitioners like Lo is what he calls the “Western,” “imported,” and “colonial” education of Hong Kong art schools: “I want to abandon my artistic learning. It’s not because I don’t want to do art; it’s more of an undoing.” The struggle against the encroachment of physical space turns out, in Lo’s case, to be simultaneously the struggle against the encroachment of formal learning and artistic production. Confronted by an impossible economic landscape and broken promises of legislative autonomy, institutionalised authority is equally regarded with some scepticism. According to art critic Kurt Chan Yuk-Keung, Hong Kong “cannot rely on its status as a ‘Special Autonomous Region’ to garner special treatment from Beijing,”[14] as the last seventeen years have proven. What many artists and, in the end, Hong Kongers are striving for now is a sense of “Hong Kong-ness”[15] that is critical of what the city has become after the 1997 handover. Passed on from one system of dominance to another, the “handover” has turned out to be nothing short of “re-colonisation,”[16] a process that has made the examination of the city’s selfhood all the more urgent.
3. Ping Che Village School Festival
A large part of this evaluation entails locating the historical traces in an environment that is subjected to permanent change. Textural remnants of the past are rarely felt amidst cycles of demolition and construction, though small, isolated spaces are occasionally still left to pasture. In the outer reaches of northeast New Territories, artist and geographer Sampson Wong Yu-Hin began a research project on ruins along with two colleagues, which aimed to extend beyond the masculine, “predatory” hunt for “ruin porn.” That decay is frequently beautified without contextual responsibility led Wong to question the ways in which he can engage with these places more meaningfully. “The reasons why there are ruins have to do with political economy: why ruins of certain kinds appear in particular cities and how they let us understand urban development through their traces,”[17] Wong explains. As a group, the three co-founded EmptySCape, which would go on to organise the 2013 Ping Che Village School Festival in one of the last rural villages along the Hong Kong-Chinese borderland.
Its concept and structure both borrow heavily from the Echigo-Tsumari Triennial, for which Wong was a volunteer in 2012. Ostensibly an international art festival with what he calls a “complex” backstory, the first Triennial in 2000 took ten years to organise due to the lengthy period of trust-building with the residents. What was billed as a programme of “site-specific art” featuring art stars like Christian Boltanski and Yayoi Kusuma became, upon closer inspection, a strategy for attracting a global audience (and a much-needed influx of capital) to a forgotten corner of eastern Japan. Like the Niigata Prefecture, Ping Che was neglected as a marginal area of Hong Kong, though its sleepy, quiet way of life is now threatened by the prospect of regeneration. Witnessing first-hand how volunteers built and negotiated lasting relationships with the residents of Niigata Prefecture demonstrated to Wong the highly social and heteronomous infrastructure of production that both supports as well as enables the autonomous sphere of art. It is precisely in the “supporting publics”[18] or “props” that performance scholar Shannon Jackson locates a potential for artistic action. By positing an aesthetics of “systemic procedures,” Jackson aims to demonstrate “their intimate and ever-shifting co-imbrication.”[19] In other words, she erects a proverbial stage for the “support”—the frenzy happening in the wings, the staff, the innumerable planning meetings, etc.—to highlight its performative potentials, allowing for a renewed critique of systems that enable artistic labour (e.g. she discusses the maintenance art of Mierle Laderman-Ukeles). Wong and the co-organisers of Ping Che Village School Festival, however, are less concerned with the examination of systems than they are on the “supporting publics” themselves and the ways they are facilitated through art.
This goal may resemble that of the 1970s community arts movement in the UK, which sought to broaden the making of culture. In the wake of the political and subcultural radicality of the late 1960s, more and more artists began to question “the purpose of art and habitual modes of its production and reception,”[20] which led to collaborative experimentations with groups of people and a commitment to cultural democracy. Yet Ping Che is motivated by a more complex set of problems related to shared, embodied enactments of situated-ness that Wong describes as “a coming community”.
Conscious of his and his colleagues’ non-native status, the festival co-organisers were nonetheless immediately welcomed by the residents and encouraged to undertake anything that would bring visibility to the area. “As soon as a platform opens up, all kinds of people will want to enter, and for different reasons. They also become interested in the future of this place. These people from various social backgrounds then make up a temporary community.”[21]

The Ping Che Village School Festival. Photos by Sampson Wong Yu-Hin. Courtesy of Sampson Wong Yu-Hin

The Ping Che Village School Festival. Photos by Sampson Wong Yu-Hin. Courtesy of Sampson Wong Yu-Hin
The Ping Che Village School Festival. Photos by Sampson Wong Yu-Hin. Courtesy of Sampson Wong Yu-Hin

Like the disused school that so captured Wong’s imagination, the villagers had similarly been left to fend for themselves. The tiny building became an impetus for relationships and recall, for eliciting stories that would finally fall on listening ears. Over a few months’ time, Wong and his colleagues became personally invested in the struggles of the area, attending Ping Che Alliance for “Saving Our Home” meetings as well as helping with their campaigns. This “grounded-ness,” which Wong explicitly emphasises[22], translates into a balancing act of mutual generosity between organisers, artists, inhabitants, and visitors. With a plethora of workshops, site-specific sculptures, performances, and guided tours that spanned two weekends, months of preparatory work were needed. Everyone chipped in where they could; the fact that many villagers were tradespeople meant that they often helped with the realisation and installation of the works. The collaboration, conversations, assistance, and criticisms made up some of the most important “socially engaged” aspects of the project. Some villagers, for instance, were shocked by a few artists’ apparent lack of “manual skills,” while others had long talks with artists like Ah Hei, who spent a fortnight sculpting a school chair out of a rotten tree stump at the entrance of the school.

Ah Hei’s chair, 2013. Photo by Sampson Wong Yu-Hin. Courtesy of Sampson Wong Yu-Hin
Ah Hei’s chair, 2013. Photo by Sampson Wong Yu-Hin. Courtesy of Sampson Wong Yu-Hin

The discussion of art and regeneration is rightly seen as a euphemism for gentrification in many urban contexts. But, as Wong asks, what about when art is employed as a means of “regenerating” peripheral, rural areas? Like the UK’s Cit[ies] of Culture,[23] Ping Che and Niigata Prefecture require an injection of pride and ownership; contrary to the British cities, however, these poor rural areas are seen by their respective governments as unwanted responsibilities that stand in the way of greater prosperity. To start with an artistic research project on ruins and end with a concrete question of art’s role in rural regeneration demonstrates art’s extradisciplinary contemporaneity, which has the uncanny ability to intervene in systems, to pose as another in order to harness what lies at its core. For the politically urgent context of Hong Kong, it specifically means challenging our diminishing right to define the spaces we live in.
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A counterpublic art“A community that questions its own legitimacy is legitimate.”[24]
In describing the subsets of community structures found within the 1993 Culture in Action programme, art historian Miwon Kwon borrows the concept of an “unworked” community from philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy. She proposes that the optimum form of togetherness is one in which the links between people are always already contingent and stem more from a sense of “being-in-common” than the harmonious unity of “common beings.” Yet beyond the curatorial mandate of this particular art event, Kwon does not examine how a “community” comes to be or stays together. These questions are especially relevant for self-initiatives such as Woofer Ten and Ping Che Village School, which have different dynamics and raisons d’être than commissioned projects of community art.
Literary critic and social theorist Michael Warner’s concept of counterpublics offer some crucial insight at this juncture. Its focus is on groups—or publics, in his words—that define themselves “by their tension with a larger public”: “Their participants are marked off from persons or citizens in general. Discussion within such a public is understood to contravene the rules obtaining in the world at large, being structured by alternative dispositions or protocols, making different assumptions about what can be said or what goes without saying.”[25]
Of note here is Warner’s recognition of publics that function against normalising pressures. For Hong Kong, the “pressures” are generated by relentless urban encroachment and intensifying political anxiety. However, unlike Warner’s North American bias that posits a radically critical of democratic society, Hong Kongers are currently demanding for that very thing: for citizenship through voting, which includes a government that is legitimately elected by its people. I would therefore argue that counterpublics do not clearly “mark off” their identification with persons or citizens as Warner suggests, but rather refine and reclaim the fundamentals of personhood and citizenship through what he calls “alternative dispositions or protocols”. 
Another key aspect of counterpublics is that it has a demographic of “indefinite strangers,”[26] i.e. their membership is open-ended, mutable, and dispersed throughout a network that defies closure. In the promptness of present day communication via social media, they now more frequently exist through the circulation of text—visually, sonically, etc.—whether voluntarily or inadvertently. These counterpublics exist simply from being addressed: one need only be within receiving range, however “somnolently.”[27] By identifying the uncontainability of counterpublics, Warner recognised their latent, liquid potential that resides precisely where it cannot be coalesced.
But rationally comprehending that subjectivities resonate elsewhere, indefinitely, is not always enough. There are times when these connections need to be rendered more tangible, especially when a singular, unambiguous force is materially dominant. Groups of bodies—let’s call them physical counterpublics—then acquire a powerfully affective dimension, especially when they incapacitate the normal order of life. Warner’s emphasis on the virtuality of counterpublics can therefore only apply when power is not blatantly wielded as absolute. Just to illustrate the pressing state of affairs: in the time it took to complete this essay, a government-funded campaign was launched to deliberately confound the “Occupy Central” protests with “violence,” and tanks have casually rolled through the city streets shortly before China announced that there would be no real universal suffrage in 2017. At this moment, Warner’s “indefinite strangers” understandably feel the need to cohere, lest their demands be condemned to obscurity and neighbourhoods like Yau Ma Tei, Kwun Tong, and Ping Che continue to be destroyed.
The three art initiatives embody separate possibilities of Warner’s counterpublics, by producing acts and sites that remind and that gather those who are similarly positioned against the grain of dominance. These (artistic) counterpublics have taken place intuitively, purposefully; less so impulsively, though I would like to stress that this can—must—also happen, both within and beyond the realm of art (cf: the protests in Ferguson, Missouri this year, in the wake of Michael Brown’s fatal shooting). Through the forming and negotiating of relationships, the artists—in conjunction with various cohorts—experiment with collective self-assertion while resisting prohibitive state control. Borne of shared witnessing and frustrations, I believe that these counterpublic art projects have developed in direct correlation to the need for shaping what happens within one’s own society. In a perfect storm of spatial scarcity and political ire, indignation seeks amplification wherever possible. As Warner argues,
When people address publics, they engage in struggles—at varying levels of salience to consciousness, from calculated tactic to mute cognitive noise—over the conditions that bring them together as a public. (Warner, 2002, p.13)
This collective sense of grief, loss, or rage belongs to economies of negative affect, which queer and feminist scholar Sara Ahmed locates in processes of transference. The feelings “do not positively inhabit anybody or anything, meaning that ‘the subject’ is simply one nodal point in the economy rather than its origin and destination.”[28] Thus, for these counterpublic art projects, the signs and objects related to the disappearance of spaces and memories become the nexus around which the “surface[s]”[29] of counterpublics are formed; the instant that these binds take shape is when the nebulous sense of loss can be recalibrated into systemic deprivation. Or simply, when enough affective energies stir into a momentum that propels change.
NotesHong Kongers refer to those born in the 1980s and 1990s as “post-80s” and “post-90s” respectively.
Started in 2012, Scholarism began as a group of secondary school students who questioned the legitimacy of compulsory Moral and National Education. Now, they are actively engaged with the city’s struggle for universal suffrage.
On 17 August 2014, the government-backed Peace and Democracy Movement organised a demonstration against the pan-democratic Occupy Central Movement, who have been demanding full universal suffrage in the 2017 elections. An i-Cable news report (17 August 2014) revealed that government affiliate groups were handing out cash to those who would show up on the day. See: http://cablenews.i-cable.com/webapps/news_video/index.php?news_id=439448
Artist Luke Ching Chin-Wai talks about the importance of “new imagin- ings” in his practice, referring specifically to “the lack of imagination in politics” (conversation with the artist, 6 August 2014). Translated from Cantonese to English by the author.
Ting, W. and Watts, E., Engaging in Art: On Art Ecology and Cultural Consump- tion in Hong Kong. Paper presentation at Sapienza University in Rome, 25 June 2014.
ibid.
ibid.
From a conversation with artist Wen Yau, a co-founder of Woofer Ten (17 July 2014). Translated from Cantonese to English by the author.
From a conversation with artist Vangi Fong Wan-Chi and Roland Ip Ho-Lun, current members of Woofer Ten (30 July 2014). Translated from Canton- ese to English by the author.
10 ibid.
11 Josh Noble. 2014. “Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District—and its real estate.” The Financial Times. Accessed 03.09.2014. http://on.ft.com/1kcsPUQ.
12 From a conversation with artist Him Lo (28 July 2014). Translated from Cantonese to English by the author.
13 ibid.
14 Kurt Chan Yuk-Keung, “A Short Story About Hong Kong Art: from the Colonial Phenomenon to Guerilla Aesthetics,” essay in Hong Kong Eye: Contemporary Hong Kong Art, Skira Editore S.p.A., 2012. pp. 63-7.
15 ibid.
16 ibid.
17 From a conversation with artist Sampson Wong Yu-Hin (30 July 2014).
18 Shannon Jackson, Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics, Rout-ledge, New York, 2012
19 ibid., p. 149
20 Bart Moore-Gilbert (ed.), The Arts in the 1970s: Culture Closure, Taylor & Francis e-Library, London and New York, 2002
21 ibid.
22 ibid.
23 Started in 2009, UK City of Culture elects a winning city (now every four years) to host a number of highly publicised cultural events, e.g. the Turner Prize.
24 Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2002
25 Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2002, p.56
26 ibid., p.106
27 ibid., p.87
28 Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2004, p.46
29 ibid.
Yet Chor Sunshine Wong is an art worker, writer, and PhD candidate at the University of Wolverhampton. Her current research interest is in the rearticulation of socially engaged art through queer and feminist positions. She was the co-curator of Art Sheffield 2013›s Parallel Programme, for which she presented a series of events that comprised walk- ing discussions, an exhibition, and a “long table” workshop. Before moving to the UK in 2011, she ran the 91mQ Art Project Space along with five collaborators, where she curated live work and performances. She was invited to curate the Berlin leg of the Young Polish Artists touring exhibition in 2011, organised by Gdánsk’s Łaznia Centre for Contemporary Art. Sunshine also taught art to children for a number of years, which she misses doing greatly.