Talk by Wong Hoy Cheong, artist, educator, and social activist
As the second event of the Mapping Asia programme, we celebrated a significant voice in the field at the annual AAA brunch during Art Basel HK.
Wong Hoy Cheong examined the proverbial issues of engaging communities through social/political interventions, community actions, and policy formulation. He will take notions of cultural and artistic interventions in the form of "social sculpture" promulgated by Joseph Beuys and the theory of "dialogical action" and "conscientization" by Paulo Freire as starting points.
Using three projects on housing as case studies, Hoy Cheong focused on strategies and processes and highlight the complexities of working with and within communities: 1) a collaborative film with the Roma (gypsy) community in the district of Sulukule, Turkey during the imminent demolition of their homes and their eviction; 2) an urban regeneration project in a low-cost housing development at a former site of ethnic riots through a private-public partnership with a local government in Selangor, Malaysia; 3) a participatory budgeting project in council housing, Penang, Malaysia, to appraise the needs of the residents through survey and data collection, focus groups, voting their needs, and implementing them through more equitable budget allocation and structures.
While the lecture did not propose definitive methodologies and answers, it argued that all engagements with communities must develop critical frameworks and action-reflection. Can artistic/cultural interventions empower disenfranchised communities? How do fractured communities develop agency, organise, and transform themselves? What constitutes concrete outputs and sustainability? When does cultural action and idealism end and realpolitik begin? Does real change require political "patronage," and the formulation and mainstreaming of policies?
Wong Hoy Cheong is from George Town, Malaysia. He is an artist, educator, and social activist. He holds degrees from Brandeis University (BA, Magna cum Laude), Harvard University (MEd), and University of Massachusetts, Amherst (MFA). He has exhibited widely in exhibitions in museums such as Mori Art Musuem (Japan), Guggenheim Museum (USA), KunsthalleWien (Austria), Hayward Gallery (UK); and in the Venice, Istanbul, Lyon, and Liverpool biennales. Working in a wide range of media, Wong addresses concerns about identity and indigeneity, the retrieval of marginalised histories, migration and globalisation; and the slipperiness that lies between fact and fiction, past and present. Of late, he has been working within the realms of politics and government and in various communities, engaging with issues of strategy and complicity, methodology and dialogical action, policies and sustainability.
Mapping Asia is an unfolding publication, exhibition, and programme series presented by Asia Art Archive, that explores multiple vantage points from which to consider Asia, looking beyond inherited boundaries, histories, and political and economic systems to entanglements and connections across time, sites, and geographies.