Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hong Kong Stopover 1

Always as you drive in towards the city of Hong Kong you are stunned by the skyline. Jam packed buildings reach upwards towards the heavens, and no matter how many times you have visited before it is breathtaking both by day and by night. It feels wonderful to start my Asialink adventures in this extraordinary place…
Over four days I bounced around the city, my objective to visit new places, meet new people and experience Hong Kong in ways I hadn’t before. From Diamond Hill to Shek O Beach, by car, by bus, by MTR (one of the most efficient and speedy ways to get about town) I packed all I could into my brief visit.

Arts People and Spaces I met with the legendary Lindsey McAlister (OBE JP), the AD and founder of Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation at their headquarters In Quarry Bay (see us below under the sun :) Lesley and her team run an amazing year round program involving thousands of Children in festival events, workshops, masterclasses, and performances. I particularly appreciated her incredible story of how she initially began the organisation (then the Hong Kong Youth Arts Festival). She sat in the bank manager's office and refused to leave until he agreed to support her. She was there for over four hours, but in the end he signed the cheque! We reach over 800,000 people every year, creating and presenting the very best in art.

Lindsey and me and a BIG sun
I then headed out to the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei, Kowloon. 

JCCAC is positioned as a multi-disciplinary arts village and arts centre, providing studio facilities for the arts community and a relaxed environment for the public to experience arts and culture. JCCAC strives to support arts development in Hong Kong by helping to nurture young talents and generally promote arts and culture through the provision of space (arts studios and display venues) for creative work.
Here I was met by Wylie So their delightful Programming and Development Manager. She showed me around this four story converted factory building where Hong Kong based artists, mainly visual artists, apply to occupy studios for up to two years. There are a number of independent resident companies also based at the centre including; DanceArt Hong Kong, Exploration Theatre, Hong Kong Art & Design Community and the Jockey Club Inclusive Arts program. Gallery spaces and an intimate black box theatre are in constant use, not surprisingly as space of any kind is a premium in this city of over 7 million people. The JCCAC team curate and program events including a Arts Craft fair and a rooftop cinema season, when the weather is bearable. (At 30+ degrees and over 70% humidity on the rooftop the day I visited, it felt pretty hard work even though the views are spectacular! (See Wylie out on the roof below) We checked out the various gallery spaces and several exhibitions on show, and I met Jack Lee, Education and Outreach officer for lumenvisum.

Lumenvisum is a non-profit art organisation dedicated to the promotion of photography. Founded by four veteran photographers in 2007, it is a platform for cultural exchange, educational outreach, sharing of resources and building of knowledge.  

Jack showed us through a current solo exhibition New Light V1 - the Elusive by emerging Hong Kong photographer Siu Wai Hang. 

Grace on the rooftop
Grace on rooftop 2

I had the opportunity to revisit the multi-arts complex the Hong Kong Arts Centre in Wan Chai. 

Hong Kong Arts Centre is committed to enhancing Hong Kong's position as an artistically vibrant city through the promotion of contemporary arts and arts education for the whole community.

I met with the Centre's Executive Director Connie Lam and members of her team including Edith Chiu (Program Manager) and Teresa Wong (Assistant Program Director). Edith recalled her enjoyment of seeing our show Standing Bird 2 which we presented at the Hong Kong Fringe Club as part of the Hong Kong People's Fringe Festival last year. We had a wonderful and wide ranging dialogue about opportunities for future collaborations and residencies, staging outdoor performances and events, with Connie offering to arrange a meeting with local directors and choreographers on my return in September. 
It was also great to speak about performance and my development projects as part of the TAV Asialink residency. Edith asked if I was a which I said 'of course'! As I replied, 'here we are a group of women siting around a board table sharing our various arts practices and processes. It is something our Mothers would never have dreamed of.'

The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority was my next port of call, and after finally reaching their offices in the Gateway Centre I was then shuttled out to their temporary headquarters on the West Kowloon waterfront site. This is a massive building project by the Chinese government that will take many years to complete with theatres and venues of all kinds in various stages of planning and development. (Already allocated 21 Billion HKD - try that on for size for arts  infrastructure development Oz Government)

Our vision is to build a vibrant cultural quarter for Hong Kong, dedicated to bringing local and international artists together with audiences to be inspired by and to celebrate the arts.

Given the long journey ahead towards an actual outcome in terms of built venues there is a performance and arts program to engage the wider public with the space itself (which is held mainly outdoors). A number of Australian artists including Strut & Fret, Branch Nebula, Stalker Theatre & Natalie Cursio have undertaken workshops, master classes and collaborative performances as the local team aim to grow the next generation of Hong Kong artists, activate the space/s and also develop new audiences for new forms of performance. Later this year Director Sue Healey will be undertaking a residency and introductory screendance workshop to support developing local choreographers and film makers.
I met with the warm and enthusiastic Michelle Rocha (Assistant Manager, Performing Arts) who shared with me in detail their programs and initiatives. She is excited by contemporary performance making and site specific work and I talked with her about some innovative WA companies; Proximity Festival, PVI, and Strut Dance etc. I also met with Anna CY Chan (Head Artistic Development - Dance) and Low Kee Hong (Head of Artistic Development - Theatre). Anne invited me back to meet with the local emerging artists participating in Sue's workshop in August...(ahh we shall have to see what might be possible).
A location visit with Michelle out onto another hot balcony spot where performances happen to another backdrop with incredible views (see below)..and yes, with the temperature still searing and me sweating!!  

Gateway office
Michelle & me
That skyline
In just a few days it was great to make new connections, see new and evolving spaces, and hear about others' visions and plans. It was also fantastic to be invited to speak about my own work practice, and share the work of organisations such as Asialink, Performing Lines WA, APAM and others..I can't wait to come back....

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