Niyiaw Gnow Artist Book, 2004-2007, C-print
Niyiaw Gnow Artist Book, 2004-2007, C-print


A Statement from the Artist

My six-month artistic residency project began as follows: In the first month I researched how Asia Art Archive was established, and in the process I found out that the first organisation ever created by Claire Hsu [AAA’s Co-founder and Executive Director] was a Unicorn Search Team; she collected funds for it, and during recess at school, she led her classmates on unicorn search missions. Of course, what should also be recommended to the public is the initial founding proposal for Asia Art Archive, although Hsu says she should have burned it a long time ago. 

During the second month of the residency, I had many discussions with the research staff. They would always be busy at their computers while at the same time thinking about issues like: what is ‘Asia’; what criteria should be used to vet materials for the Archive; what unavoidable value judgments the archive must make; the preferences of the researchers; the relative importance of research, meetings, and administrative work; and even crazy things, like whether or not the Artist-in-residence should cook lunch for the staff.

In the third month, I began to send out letters to all kinds of arts practitioners, mailing out over a hundred in total. This is something I had always wanted to do. When I was at school, though I had a lot of respect for modern ink painting, I didn’t have any real communication with Wucius Wong. Even now that we are colleagues in the same field, we still don’t understand each other much. Two or three years ago, I was working at Asia Art Archive, and I was responsible for archiving materials from Lü Peng’s collection. I came across many letters that had been exchanged between him and artists like Zhang Peili and Zhang Xiaogang, and I found that this gave me a more human understanding of Chinese art.

In April, I continued my letter-writing project, and at the same time I began putting together the ‘Wong Wai Yin Collection’. I asked my dad, if someone wanted to do research on me, would you be able to produce any documents related to me? After a week he surprised me by bringing out about a dozen thick file-folders with documents neatly separated into categories. I asked him if my primary school and middle school report cards were relevant. He said sure, because people could see the marks I got in my art classes. I took them out to look, and found that in the teachers’ remarks section, they had written that ‘this student is an independent thinker, but she lacks enthusiasm for school’. Maybe Dad was right.

In addition to documents that held a personal fascination for me, I added other important materials to my collection, such as business cards and proposal documents from unrealised/failed projects. My collection of business cards numbered in the hundreds: in addition to the name cards of curators, artists, etc, there were also cards from people like carpenters with high-quality craftsmanship, and of printers who wanted to collaborate with artists. To me, these people are also very important in helping to promote the development of Hong Kong art. I had written quite a number of different project proposals and applications for residencies, many of which were unsuccessful, but I have always believed that these rejected and unrealised works are more significant than the ones that were successfully realised, because from these you can see what kind of works art museums, spaces, and organisations don’t appreciate. In addition to the above two types of material, I also collected flyers, artist statements/manifestos, and business cards collected by artists with whom I had corresponded.

Starting in early May, I will be focusing on the set-up of the Hong Kong Art Archive, including painting promotional posters, acquiring office furniture, and gathering the collections from other artists. From late May through June, I will work every day at the office of the Hong Kong Art Archive within Asia Art Archive. In addition to organising documents and materials, I will invite those people who didn’t answer my letters to visit the Archive and collect further information from them. I hope that before my residency is over, the collection of the Hong Kong Art Archive will be even larger than that of the Asia Art Archive; then we can start thinking about looking for unicorns again.

'From Wong Wai Yin’s Collection to the Hong Kong Art Archive' is a process which seeks to collect and archive documents for people who wish to do future research on Hong Kong art. The collecting process will also touch on questions such as how the value of archival materials is determined, how history is constructed by an institution, and the degree of its openness. But most important is the love and respect I feel for the people in Hong Kong who pursue art. I want to leave a record of their thoughts, and their works.


- Wong Wai Yin
Written on 29 April 2011



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