Lingnan University’s Department of Cultural Studies, in collaboration with Asia Art Archive, presents a series of workshops, screenings, and masterclasses to investigate how archives perform history.

An archive, by common assumption, is an assembly of information to be used for governance. Yet, such archives often fail to live up to their responsibility; the state record can be flawed, with facts omitted or lost. Independent, non-official archives—assembled by individuals and small institutions—constitute important struggles to retain public memory, taking on political importance.

Such a convergence—of a right of access joining with innovations into the practice of archiving by artists, activists, and academics alike—has transformed our very engagement with the archive. These workshops build on the idea of the right of access, and consider the shifts of how we engage with what an archive is, what it contains, and how it is both accessed and inhabited.

These workshops also posit the archive as an environment, needing skills that combine navigating the everyday with the ability to read into and beyond the surface of yellowed paper and decaying celluloid. Alongside the clarity of hindsight is a new and opposite desire: to re-muddy history, to show how the past continues to live in the present, to explore the entanglement of erasure, amnesia, visibility, and invisibility.

The Performing Archive project coincides with the presence of Ackbar Abbas at Lingnan University, and is designed to engage with his recent writings, which draw attention to ways of reading into what is there and what is missing, erased, or invisible to a certain kind of gaze: crucial to how the archive plays out today, as a formal entity and as an informal agglomeration.

Click here for a full schedule of the workshops, screenings, and masterclasses led by scholars, filmmakers, artists, and researchers from across cultural studies, film theory, art history, and public policy advocacy.

The programme is free of charge. Due to limited capacity, the workshops require registration; please contact Jay Lau via





Ho Tzu Nyen's The Nameless
Two-channel video installation with two soundtracks over twelve channels
Curated by Chương-Đài Võ
Venue: Black Box Theatre, B.Y. Lam Building (LBY203), Lingnan University
13–20 October 2017
Daily 11am–6 pm (closed Sunday)
Open to the public

The Nameless is a work about a Sino-Vietnamese man known only as “Lai Teck,” who had more than fifty aliases and served as the General Secretary of the Malayan Communist Party from 1939 to 1947. He was also a triple agent, working for the British/French and Japanese during the Occupation. Lai Tek's story is told here through two decades of footage of Hong Kong actor Tony Leung playing traitor, informer, and stool pigeon.




Friday, 20 October 2017, 2pm6pm
Ventriloquising Archives (FULL)
With Ho Tzu Nyen
Anchors: Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Chương-Đài Võ
Special Guest: Ackbar Abbas
Venue: Room G06, B. Y. Lam Building (LBYG06), Lingnan University

From the ideas surrounding archives and the state, remembering and forgetting, and from celluloid image to the architectural object, we define our protagonist: a combination of historian, performer, urban denizen, and spy. Urban spaces define our publicness, but they also create covert private knowledges and specialised ways of navigating the city and its archive. This workshop explores what Leo Ou-fan Lee once named “the urban uncanny,” and brings together into the city what artist Ho Tzu Nyen has named a dictionary that maps “narratives of shape-shifting and amorphous characters, ideas, and genres.”

Such a dictionary defining the covert modern is a crucial project for all forms of engagement with Asian archives, since the challenge of history-writing in these regions has often involved devising new and innovative ways—to fabricate, fictionalise, make speculative connections, and over interpret—of working with archives that hide as often and as much as they reveal.


Saturday, 28 October 2017, 2pm6pm
Histories on Edge (FULL)
Anchor: Michelle Wong
Special Guest: Tammy Ko Robinson
Venue: Asia Art Archive Fo Tan Project Space, 10E Valiant Industrial Centre, 2–12 Au Pui Wan Street, Fo Tan, New Territories

When do individuals assemble private archives, and why? Substantial individual collections of diverse materials have arisen in many locations worldwide. These private collections, often maintained in an idiosyncratic fashion, offer different versions of history that can complement and complicate existing narratives. Sometimes they even create room for fictitious speculations, as well as engagements with disciplines that exceed the focus of a particular archive.

This session focuses on the materials related to sociopolitical upheaval within Ha’s archive, such as those around 1967 Leftist Riots, and the filmmaking practice of Tammy Ko Robinson, which considers issues such as political resistance and historical violence through researching and drawing on multiple archives.

The Ha Bik Chuen Archive: Ha Bik Chuen (1925–2009) was a Hong Kong painter, sculptor, photographer, and craftsman. He was also an inveterate photographer of art exhibitions. Ha's strange and idiosyncratic collection—over 100,000 photographs on over 1500 exhibitions, exhibition ephemera, and periodicals collected from 1960s onward—has been a source for interventions as artists as well as art historians have been working on deciphering different aspects of this astonishing body of material.

H.K. Yuen Social Movement Audio Archive: Now housed at the Ethnic Studies Library at University of California, Berkeley, this collection includes audio recordings of social movements in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s to 1980s. It has also informed the Contact Points Archive Project, Asia Culture Centre, Gwangju, which has materials ranging from printed matter to documentaries from some of the oldest Asian American arts and cultural organisations in the United States, alongside correspondence across the Pacific dating from 1968 to the present between Chicago, Manila, Bangkok, Gwangju, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Taipei, and Seoul.


Thursday, 16 November 2017, 2pm6pm
Hong Kong's Ghosts: The Politics of Disappearance
Anchor: Stephen Ching-kiu Chan
Guests: Connie Yan-Wai Lo, Simon Chu, and Shuk-man Leung
Venue: Black Box Theatre, B.Y. Lam Building (LBY203), Lingnan University

In 2016, when Connie Yan-Wai Lo made The Vanished Archives on the 1967 anti-colonial riots, she discovered a strange absence of material in places like Kwun Tong's Public Records Office. This erasure will lead us in two different directions. On one side, we visit the Archives Action Group and the local struggle to keep the archives alive. On the other, we also visit the colonial archive, via Peter Moss, author of End of Empire: Hong Kong: Signed, Sealed and Delivered (2011), the bureaucrat apparently responsible for the extant film records of the 1967 riots. And we will ask these questions: Why do archives vanish? How do we fill in the blanks of history?




When factoids are taken for facts, when “reality” as in reality TV has become a game show, and when an unadorned fact is becoming as rare as “an orchid in the land of technology,” what becomes of documentary? Are we witnessing its demise? The paradox is that today at a moment when the documentary with its claims to “truth” seems theoretically impossible, what we are seeing is its renewed vitality and proliferation across diverse cultural fields: not only in cinema, but also in writing, the visual arts, and philosophical movements like “speculative realism.”

Understandably, the documentary today cannot retain its old form or employ its old strategy of confronting the factitious with the factual. If documentary, like translation, is inadvertently a betrayal, then documentary will have to start with the fact of betrayal, with the betrayal of fact. It has to become, in an important sense, faux documentary. Mutations in the documentary form point to a world increasingly impervious to factual explanation, where documentary has become the crucial but problematic site—in Hong Kong and elsewhere—for aesthetic, political, and ethical debates.

—Ackbar Abbas

Friday, 10 November 2017, 2pm8pm
The Hong Kong Docuthon
Curators: Choi Sin Yi and Wu Ka Wai
Venue: Black Box Theatre, B.Y. Lam Building (LBY203), Lingnan University

No form of expression has taken greater responsibility, or performed under greater stress, in the troubled history of modern Hong Kong than the documentary. The form itself has undergone great mutation, from the pre-97 heyday to the present, when it functions within social media environs. Over a continuous seven-hour multiscreen experience, viewers will experience three decades of Hong Kong documentary, from Hong Kong Road Movie to Yellowing.


Saturday, 11 November 2017, 2pm6pm
Documenting Hong Kong Culture (FULL)
Masterclass: Ackbar Abbas
Venue: Black Box Theatre, B.Y. Lam Building (LBY203)

Among Ackbar Abbas's famous arguments has been one of a strange role of the archives in Hong Kong: the déjà disparu, or the “feeling that what is new and unique about the situation is always already gone, and we are left holding a handful of clichés, or a cluster of memories of what has never been.” Abbas's work has drawn attention to a rather special role that the archives possess in Hong Kong: as evidence, then, of what may have been in the face of erasure. His more recent work has been on both the production of fakes and on fraudulent memory.


Ashish Rajadhyaksha

Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, in collaboration with Asia Art Archive

Faculty of Arts, Lingnan University
Kwan Fong Cultural Research and Development Programme, Lingnan University
The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust

Grateful Acknowledgment
The Media Creativity course (Instructor Eunsoo Lee), Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University




Ackbar Abbas (University of California, Irvine/Lingnan University) 
Ashish Rajadhyaksha (Lingnan University)
Cheuk Wing Nam (media artist)
Choi Sin Yi (Hong Kong Actual images Association)
Chuong-Dai Vo (Asia Art Archive)
Connie Yan-Wai Lo (filmmaker, The Vanished Archives)
Eunsoo Lee (Lingnan University)
Ho Tzu Nyen (artist/filmmaker, The Nameless)
Michelle Wong (Asia Art Archive)
Shuk-man Leung (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University)
Simon Chu (Archives Action Group, Hong Kong) 
Stephen Ching-Kiu Chan (Lingnan University)
Tammy Ko Robinson (filmmaker, Hanyang University, Korea) 
Wu Ka Wai (filmmaker, Lingnan University)

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