For this particular research workshop that Aaron Levy and I organized at Asia Art Archive in November 2010, AAA invited interested members of the Hong Kong public to participate and engage in the meaning of peace as part of the Perpetual Peace Project. Several texts from AAA's collection were selected (both theoretical and exhibition-related), and the audience was invited to peruse them to encourage discussion about what peace means in different contexts.
While picking out books for the Perpetual Peace seminar at AAA, I had two strategies. The first was to simply do an online search through Asia Art Archive’s catalogue via the website with the keyword ‘peace’ and pull out what came up. The second way was simply to walk along the library stacks and pull out books at random that caught my interest, and that I thought might be useful.
Interestingly enough, the second, more casual and improvised way worked better. Working individually and then together, Aaron and I found a variety of interesting books that could be connected in meaningful ways to what we were attempting to express through conversation and dialogue with people in Hong Kong at AAA. The AAA staff was extremely hospitable, often stopping to help us, offering us coffee and water as we popped in and out of the building.
This dialogue between two artists was our starting point in forming the basis for contextualising our own dialogic discourse. Human relationships, the continual reference to art activism, and the ethics of listening began to affect the trajectory of our discussion and the turning point of our practice. Conversations ranging from boredom (Paul Chan talks about how he’s strangely influenced and allured by films that bore him) to issues of torture and horror (in references to Harun Faroucki) played a large part in creating our understanding of peace, translation, and hospitality.
This beautiful catalogue by Danh Vo was also an exhibition starting point for our project. In this catalogue, published by Kunsthalle Basel, Vietnamese artist Danh Vo contextualises the chandeliers that were hung at the Hotel Majestic in the ballroom at the signing of the Paris Peace Accords where the negotiations between North and South Vietnam, and the United States took place. The Hotel Majestic was also the location that Hitler chose as an interim government base when he took over France. These chandeliers are rife with signification of war, peace, conflict, and resolution, which I found particularly heartbreaking in my research.
According to What? is a wonderfully comprehensive introduction and catalogue to Ai Wei Wei’s trajectory and involvement as a politically conscious artist, from the very first image of him surrounded by policemen in an enclosed elevator in Sichuan to his 'Remembering' show at Haus der Kunst made up of the backpacks of thousands of Sichuan Earthquake students that spelled out the sentence of a grieving mother’s words. This text gives a satisfying chronological history of Ai’s work that helps us contextualise the artist and his work and also makes relevant our topical discussions about peace in Hong Kong in relation to politics and ‘harmonization’ in China today.
- Collection Spotlight
- Tue, 1 Mar 2011