在倫敦七姊妹（Seven Sisters）的房間裏，我把Paul Hughes的諾丁漢（Nottingham）手繪地圖釘在牆上。從愛丁堡一路乘搭火車到達他家後，我們坐在沙發上喝茶。他把當地的藝術空間畫在A4紙上，介紹每個空間的工作，以及在諾丁漢時會遇到的人。我們將這些空間一一輸入到Google地圖中。
二月，我們在Pavilion Dance South West的資助下穿越威爾士、英格蘭和蘇格蘭的邊界，走訪了六個城市。當時我們懷著一個問題：儘管組織和結構不盡相同，我們是否可以重新構想和創造一個新的框架，使藝術家可以真正地，積極地促使項目發生？或許另一個問法是：我們怎麼才能不攀爬架構階梯，停止為得到大型機構關注的各種把戲，真正開始專注於藝術的本質？
Viviana Checchia （CCA Glasgow）、Cathy Boyce （Chapter）、黃家駒 William Wong （流白之間 Blank Space Studio）、Paul Hughes、梁偉然Ian Leung（香港藝術中心HK Arts Centre）、Catalina Barroso-Luque、王榮祿 Ong Yong Lok（不加鎖舞踊館Unlock Dancing Plaza）、陳麗麗Lilian Chan（K11 Art Foundation）、Hannah Sharpe（Dance4）、林燕Krissy Lam、CC Time、Sian Baxter、Karl Taylor（Buzzcut）、Mark Bleakley、Joshua Lockwood-Moran （Bonington Gallery）、Siu Wan Noel、黃建宏Kevin Wong（CCDC舞蹈中心CCDC Dance Centre）；照片由鬼與約翰提供
[ENG] Backpacks on and let’s go
Text: FrancisJohn Chan (from Ghost and John)
The other day we went hiking on Dragon’s Back to celebrate my birthday. It was great. We took our shirts off but left our backpacks on. And now, we look like we have invisible backpacks over our shoulders. Jokingly we asked each other, “Are you tired?”
When we were in London, we constantly missed the hill climbs, the palm-sized butterflies and shiny beetles we saw on this hike. We used to complain about how flat the landscape there is. The only way to get a view of the city from above is to go up a tall building. One of those would be Tate Modern, a gallery where we would go once in a while to check out what was new there in terms of both art that hangs on walls and live art.
It’s no coincidence that the same building shows you that standard top level view of a city’s landscape and the standard top level view of a city’s art scene. The building is crowded with both tourists who are trying to get a photo of the night view and artists who are trying to get their works photographed and viewed.
Back in our room in Seven Sisters, London, I stuck a piece of a hand-drawn map of art spaces in Nottingham by Paul Hughes on the wall in front of me. He drew it on a blank piece of A4 while explaining what each of them does and whom we should meet while we were there. At the same moment, we were inputting these galleries and studios one by one into Google Maps. It was right after we took our first sip of tea after arriving at his house from Edinburgh.
This happened in February when we were on a trip across Wales, England and Scotland, supported by Pavilion Dance South West, asking the question: despite all the organizations and structures, can we re-imagine and innovate new frameworks where artists can truly take an active role in making things happen? Another way of asking this may be: how can we stop climbing the ladder, stop trying to catch the attention of big institutes, and start focusing on making art itself?
We came back to Hong Kong in late March, thinking that we would only stay for a month. With Hong Kong Dance Alliance as our bridge, we were meeting and chatting with artists, directors, critics and other art practitioners in Hong Kong, asking similar questions, observing the local art ecology from a new perspective. Little did we know we would still be here now, in July.
When we left Hong Kong in 2018, we were only involved in the local art scene as visitors, audience members, and occasional contestants at dance competitions. Coming back as artists who wish to participate in and be part of this scene has been an intimidating yet fresh experience. We let ourselves engage in conversations with different people, artists from different disciplines and art practitioners at different levels of organizational structures.
Let me be bold and write this - here are a few first impressions we have had of the local art scene:
- People who are willing to meet up are really nice. Very generous in sharing their thoughts with nearly zero reservation. Also very active in sharing what they are working on.
- There seem to be adequate platforming opportunities for emerging dance artists to create short, small scale works.
- Funders are very mysterious. It is almost impossible to meet them. The official details about funding opportunities and applications are very general. You have to be very sensitive and alert to gather sufficient information from your peers to actually be able to get support.
We have been having coffee with so many people. One of those we met is Sunanda Wong, a film director. He was a secondary school classmate of Ghost’s and they bumped into each other at a gathering. Realizing that they had both wandered into the same industry, we decided to meet up and chat. The conversations just went on and on. Drink after drink. Cigarette after cigarette. Ever inspiring. Ever encouraging. It turned out that he used to be a Buddhist monk and has decided to keep on working as a director of art films.
Once I was really frustrated over a minor incident. I called him and we met up for a can of beer. After I told him what had happened and how I felt, he asked me, “What have you understood now?”
Perhaps after all the hundreds of conversations we have been through, no matter whether with a funding manager at Arts Council England, an Argentinian live artist based in Glasgow, or Ivy Tsui, the Hong Kong independent dance artist, we are always carrying this half-empty but half-full backpack. This is not merely about the half-full glass idea. This is about how we are always eager to hear more, absorb more and see from others’ point of view. There are some things in the bag already that we are able to pull out and compare with the new ones. Yet, magically, the backpack will never be full. This may be to do with empathy, or maybe more to do with curiosity about our surroundings.
At the end of the day, keeping our minds active is our most important job as artists. We keep checking our “backpacks” from time to time. We restock, rethink and reflect. By doing that, we find meanings, we find the internal drive for us to make the art happen, we stop ourselves getting lost and frustrated as to why we chose this difficult and different path that our parents told us not to follow. By doing that, our works gain their weight and find an anchor in this cold world. It is never about skills and techniques. It is about how we keep the backpack half-empty.
So: what is the answer to the question about new structures in the art industry and an artist-led framework? Still reflecting.
Groundwork Pro With Lara Ward at Groundwork Pro, Cardiff；Photo provided by Ghost & John
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