去年夏天，我們在倫敦從哈克尼騎了二十五分鐘單車到達安吉爾，來到一家擁擠的咖啡館。我倆穿著背心，溫暖的陽光落在雙臂，汗水從頭盔流到背脊。這是我們第一次與法國藉越南裔攝影師Nhu Xuan Hua（Xuan）見面。一起喝過咖啡後，我們決定與卡姆登藝術中心和Tutto Questo Sentire一起合作，兩個月後參與了她的作品《Theatre of Remembrance》的公演。
藝術家聚首合作的緣由也很多。有事先計劃的：Xuan從Instagram發現了我們，邀請我們喝杯咖啡；有自然發生的：我們在Bow Arts Centre展覽項目認識了許瑋諾（Angela），後來得知我們對表演作為表達工具有相似看法，決定合作製作《Skirmishes》。
另一個例子是與Papergang Theatre  的合作。這劇團邀請了十位香港和英國的東亞藝術家共同製作《Freedom Hi》，在倫敦滑鐵盧的「Vault Festival」一連演出六晚。作品包括不同的表演藝術媒介：口述文本、形體、舞蹈和音樂。大家都積極地參與創作，建立一個能多元地展示我們對香港不同看法的演出。在排練過程中，我們有時分散房間各個角落，分別工作；有時聚集，交換想法，並用大量時間去相互交流，傾聽彼此在特定問題上的觀點。我們似乎一直在尋找共同點：不僅因我們來自不同藝術範疇， 而且還要在這個非常敏感和困難的創作主題上達成共識。這種共同點讓我們每個人都擁有自己的聲音，甚至在協作時，形成一個比我們所有人的總和還龐大的存在。
當我們被邀請時，我們較投入在思維和結構上的創作。《Theatre of Remembrance》講述Xuan個人經歷及法國藉越南裔的文化身份。在整個過程中，我們像是聆聽者，是程序處理者，然後是執行程序的角色。當其他藝術家邀請我們時（在《Meniscus》的合作過程中），我們不斷地問自己：即使作品的主體對我們自己而言非常個人，我們如何同時成為講者和聆聽者？在這刻，真正的工藝在於我們能否與合作者協作時達成共識，無論是在藝術能力方面，還是在他們的世界觀和道德價值觀上，都要產生共鳴。
 編按：Tutto Questo Sentire是一個藝術家群體，旨在帶起不同有關聲音體驗的研究及探討。
 編按：Papergang Theatre是一個由作家主導的劇場公司，旨在改善英國戲劇藝術的中英國東亞文化再現。
 編按：「Vault Festival」堪稱為倫敦最大型的年度藝術節，每年藝術節期間於滑鐵盧舉辦多項藝穗活動。
[ENG] A Few Thoughts About Collaborating
Text: FrancisJohn Chan (from Ghost and John)
It was summer time last year in London. We hopped on our bikes and cycled for twenty-five minutes, from Hackney to Angel. We were both wearing tank tops, exposing our arms to the warm sun rays. Sweat ran down from our heads, protected by helmets, to our backs, with backpacks on. We arrived at a café, crowded but welcoming. It was our first time there. We were unfamiliar with the place. It was also our first time meeting the French-Vietnamese photographer Nhu Xuan Hua (Xuan). After having a cup of coffee together, we decided to work with one another on her new performance piece with Camden Arts Centre and Tutto Questo Sentire. Two months later, Theatre of Remembrance was presented.
Collaboration has been a core element of Ghost and John’s artistic practice. We are currently preparing for an online study room gathering with Live Art Development Agency about our collaboration in January this year with Angela Wai Nok Hui and the artistic friendship that came out of it. Looking back at our previous collaborations, there were numerous projects where we collaborated with different artists under different circumstances. The collaborations could be put into categories in many ways: we initiated the project or were invited to join, with East Asian artists or with artists from a range of ethnicities, with a stricter framework or a more fluid one. Some were one-off projects, such as the time we performed at the EP launch of an independent pop singer, Vaughan Music. Some were more long-term, where we were able to form strong bonds with the artists and develop deep trust in each other, such as with the lighting designer, Charles Webber.
There were also numerous ways in which artists came together. Some were more intentional and planned: Xuan dug us up from Instagram and invited us for a cup of coffee through direct messages. Some were more organic: we met Angela at an exhibition event in Bow Arts Centre, later learnt that we share similar views on performance as a tool of political expression, then decided to collaborate and produced the piece Skirmishes.
Another example of these collaborations was with Papergang Theatre. For a performance at Vault Festival, at Waterloo in London, the theatre company invited ten Hong Kong and British East Asian artists to collectively produce the show, Freedom Hi. It was a production that included performance artists from different media and disciplines: spoken text, acting, movement and music. We were all actively involved in the creative processes, building a performance that would show multiple facets of our views on the traumatic events in Hong Kong. During the rehearsal process, sometimes we dispersed into different corners of the room and worked on our own parts, sometimes we gathered and exchanged ideas. A great deal of time was spent on checking in with each other, listening to each other’s thoughts and opinions on specific issues. It felt like we were constantly finding a common ground: not only for us, artists of different disciplines, to come together and perform, but also for us to reach a point of consensus on this very sensitive and difficult subject that we were handling. This common ground let each one of us have our own voice, yet together we formed another entity greater than the sum of all of us.
In recent years, the issue of political oppression in Hong Kong has come to international attention and become our main drive to make works that reflect on our perspective and record this time of instability that we are all going through. We focus on experimental artistic practice that emphasises collaboration between art forms and audience experience. Through our artistic processes, we are constantly studying the post-colonial trauma of our city, questioning the cultural identity of being a Hongkonger.
The collaborations with other artists, who brought in their own artistic practices and their own world views, have provided us with opportunities to review our own artistic practices and our own world views from different perspectives. As clichéd as it may be, it is always true that what we practise makes us what we are. The way we are making and presenting art forms our artistic identity and slowly rewires our ways of thinking, then literally transports us to be different parts of a greater ecology. We have been privileged enough to perform at different spaces, from the prestigious Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall at the Royal College of Music in the project The Musical Offering: Back Reimagined, to the Live Art Club at VFD Dalston as ShumGhostJohn. By placing ourselves physically in these different spaces with different groups of artists and audience, we were able to continuously review what kind of message we want to convey and how we are reaching out to the rest of the world.
It would be interesting to compare the experience of when we have invited other artists to collaborate with us, as in Meniscus and when other artists have invited us, as in Theatre of Remembrance. In both cases, we were contributing our abilities as performance artists. However, we were much less engaged in the ideological and structural input when we were the ones invited. Theatre of Remembrance was about a very personal episode in Nhu Xuan Hua’s family and her Vietnamese cultural identity. We were more of a listener, processor and then executor in the whole process. During the collaboration process of Meniscus, we constantly asked ourselves: how can we simultaneously be the speaker and the listener, even though the subject matter of the work is very private and personal to ourselves? The real craft in collaboration then becomes finding a way to reach common ground with our collaborators, both in terms of artistic capacity and resonance in their world views and moral values.
Collaborations are indeed very tiring, sometimes frustrating. Collaboration may not be a core value for many artists. Collaboration requires something extraordinary from an artist, which sometimes becomes too demanding. What we, however, still truly believe in, is the power of willingness to jump on a bike, cycle to the next bar, pub, café, and all the miracles that come after.
Freedom Hi at Papergang Theatre; Photo: Alexander Newton
Text: FrancisJohn Chan (from Ghost and John)
FrancisJohn Chan is a Hong Kong artist, half of Ghost and John, investigating the reception and social efficacy of arts. Website: www.ghostandjohn.art