This series of home-based, creative exercises reexamines the role of art during moments of crisis in the contemporary world.
In light of class suspensions in Hong Kong during the coronavirus outbreak in spring 2020, AAA has invited local artists to design a range of educational activities for teachers to help students carry out at home. These exercises encourage teachers and students to reflect upon their experience of the virus outbreak, relevant social issues, and the purpose of art in times of emergency.
While people stay at home as much as possible, artist Tang Kwok Hin proposes a series of art-making exercises which take inspiration from people and things at home.
Teachers are invited to share the process and result of students practising these exercises on Learning & Participation's Facebook group: Contemporary Art in Asia: Teachers’ Community.
Notes to Teachers and Students
Well before the epidemic outbreak, our world had been undergoing great changes. The reality of the twenty-first century is made up of both physical and cyber spaces. We gradually became indifferent to things close at hand, or took everything in our everyday life for granted. Then came the turning point—from political movements to the global spread of epidemics, the contradictions and problems that have been hidden under the appearances of the city life have surfaced, one after another. Humans are animals that survive in physical space. Are we to blindly believe in the "progress of civilization" and building different models of "civilised standards," while forgetting the essence of life in our space-time and the colours shone forth by things that exist outside the mainstream ways of life?
Home is a place to inhabit; the people and things in this place sustain and influence our habits. While merely an ordinary space, it is still the origin of different lives and meanings of people. This stay-at-home period is an opportunity. As the ways of the world and even values held universal in the past undergo changes, and as family members staying at home alter the nature of the living space, we can refocus our attention on the everyday—and prepare for an unpredictable future.
- To reflect on how domestic space influences habits, family relationships, values, and ways of working, etc., so as to renew our imagination of it.
- While restriction can narrow down possibilities, could it be helpful for imagination? The epidemic has greatly restricted the activities of people, but the time spent staying indoor can be seen as an opportunity to treat our homes as the subject of study. Have you ever thought about how to create public art at home? Ever thought about setting up a temporary art group with your family and produce an artwork about your family history?
- Try to treat home as an art space—objects at home are the exhibits, the people are the viewers as well as performers. Art can happen as long as there are people and space—even if there is only one viewer or just yourself.
- Teachers can guide students on how to respond to difficulties they encounter at each step.
- Students should share their observations and results of creation with others.
1. Warm Up: Observation and Surveys of the Everyday
*Choose one from (a) & (b) as the exercise
(a) Document the routines of yourself and your family
- How to conduct documentation? Methods included detailed records, drawings, photographs, and Instagram posts, etc.
- What do the varieties of documentation used by students and their content say about the differences between them?
(b) Count the objects belonging to you and your family, such as shirts, pants, hats, shoes, decorative items, and collections, etc.
- What do you observe about them? What do you get from the comparison between them? Are there any relations between the styles of these objects? Do you think the styles of these objects match the characters of their owners? Why? Do they show the taste of their owners?
2. Artmaking: An Imagination of the People and Things at Home
*Choose two to three activities from (a)–(f) as exercises
(a) In search of the oldest item
- An example of art making: search for the oldest item at home, compare it with the same kind or similar item from 2020, then combine them into a new object.
- Alternative method: teachers can discuss with students about other ways to transform the oldest items they found at home.
- Reference artwork: Tang Kwok Hin, Grandpa Tang, 2017.
(b) Rearranging furniture and decorations/tidying up your home
- An example of art making: document the process and result of tidying up your home.
- Reason: tidying up your home is like curating an exhibition to respond to the "change of power" resulting from family members staying indoor. The so-called change of power is the struggle and conflict that results from the use of space among the increased number of family members inhabiting the same space at the same time. For example, the disruption on the study and work of children caused by parents watching TV or talking in the living room, or the disruption caused by children taking online classes during parents’ rest after their work from overnight shifts.
- Reference artwork: Tang Kwok Hin, Belly, 2018.
(c) Painting/collecting patterns and designs found at home
- An example of art making: turn drawings or collected patterns and designs into collages.
- Alternative methods: teachers can discuss with students about other ways to transform patterns and designs found at home into artwork.
- Reference artwork: Tang Kwok Hin, Check-in; Check-out, 2016.
(d) Interview oneself or family members
- An example of art making: make a 30-minute uncut video shot of oneself or family members. Prepare a question before filming. The filmed subject can choose to answer, speak, or stay silent over the 30 minutes of filming. When the video camera is running, it has the power to create a magical space-time. When the filmed subject speaks, he or she might speak from heart on things beyond the prepared question.
- Alternative methods: teachers can discuss with students about other ways of art making through interviews of family members.
- Reference artwork: Tang Kwok Hin, Every Pandiculate, 2018.
(e) Strangeness in photographs
- An example of art making: go through a photo album and look for strange things in the photographs. Scan, cut, enlarge or reduce the sizes of them, and turn them into new and independent photographs.
- Alternative methods: teachers can discuss with students on other ways of artmaking with albums/photographs.
- Reference artwork: Tang Kwok Hin, Don’t Blame the Blossom, 2018.
- After students have finished the warm-up exercise about observations of everyday life, teachers can lead them to share things they observe to be neglected in the past. Discuss ways to transform these observations into art works.
- Art museums and homes are both spaces. What are their similarities and differences? What are the kinds of people and things they contain? By comparing the two, which one inspires you with more creative ideas?
- Through this exercise, what do you think is the relationship between art and life?
- Do you make art outside your school's visual art room? What do you think is the meaning of making art or doing art exercises in your everyday life?
- How are you? How do you do recently?
About the Artist
Tang Kwok Hin is a mixed-media artist in Hong Kong. He obtained his Master of Fine Art degree at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His work originates in his inquiries into his own background as an indigenous inhabitant, for which he explored the meaning of existence and the intimate aesthetics that are closely related to his own life journey and experiences. These ideas are realised in his works, in which he blurs the boundary between art and life. By integrating art and the contradictions of human life, he attempts to reveal essences, the tensions of binary systems, and the rhythms in perception. He often appropriates and reconstructs the texts of the everyday, while including individuals speaking about stories hidden in everyday life, such as those that touch upon upbringing, heritage, freedom, capitalism, consumerism, nature, politics, and norms. He was awarded the first prize at Hong Kong Contemporary Art Biennial in 2009 and was also a grantee of Asian Cultural Council in 2013.
Publishing date: 12 Mar 2020
The AAA Learning and Participation Programme is supported by the S. H. Ho Foundation Limited.