There are many models that exist: a conversation between Chantal Wong and Sampson Wong

Chantal Wong & Sampson Wong


In April 2017, Chantal Wong and Sampson Wong sat down in Hong Kong to discuss myriad ideas, actions and interpretations across art, activism and their convergence. As the co-founder (with artist Lee Kit) of Things That Can Happen咩事藝術空間, a not-for-profit art space located on the first floor of a residential walk-up building in the city’s historic district of Sham Shui Po, Chantal’s commitment to fostering experimentation and individual and collective agency in present circumstances is balanced by a keen knowledge of art historical contexts and influences as part of her ongoing role and research work with Asia Art Archive. Sampson, an artist, urbanist and activist recognised internationally for his role in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, is also a member of the Add Oil Team collective that focuses on political art and activism. He had recently participated in 4A’s exhibition Before the Rain (2017), co-curating (with Mikala Tai) an installation from the Umbrella Movement Visual Archive.

— Editor



Chantal Wong (CW):  So, rather than beginning with the big questions, we should start with something lighter, talking about one or two of your projects. Why don’t you start by telling more about your show at 4A, Before the Rain?

Sampson Wong (SW):  Yeah, sure.

CW:  How did that happen? What was your role as co-curator?

SW:  Actually, I was only responsible for the component of the exhibition related to Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, partly because I co-founded the Umbrella Movement Visual Archive in September 2014 while the Umbrella Movement was happening, so it’s an exhibition about what we have collected related to the movement. In fact, now the whole collection has moved to the library of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and part of it, a couple of objects, are actually collected by the M+ Museum. So in a way the journey, the mission of the Umbrella Movement Visual Archive, has been completed.

At the time of the archive’s establishment we believed a lot of museums and formal institutions couldn’t work so we had the idea of parallel institutions in our mind. Hence, there are medical teams in the Umbrella Movement, legal teams and so forth. We were imagining a museum team or an archival team to occupy as a parallel institution. We have a goal to preserve the objects for a couple of years until they can be accepted by institutions. It’s quicker than we imagined—the process has been smooth. At this point in time the logistics related to collecting these objects is completed, and in the exhibition at 4A myself and co-curator Mikala Tai discussed the process, deciding to exhibit some of the plans of the movement’s interventions in the streets of Hong Kong, borrowed from the archive, when we were formulating the idea for Before the Rain. For example, reconstructing the booths we built in the streets when we were in the movement inside 4A’s gallery space. People would bring their objects to us during the movement, to these booths, so we constructed a booth in Haymarket for people to chat about the movement and to look at videos in 4A’s ground floor space.

The other half of the show presented an opportunity to invite other artists who were very active during the Umbrella Movement to exhibit what they have. One of them was Swing Lam. His work is composed of sketches of the various architectural structures that emerged in the movement. He has mapped quite extensively all kinds of structures that were being made during the Occupy Central movement. So, we brought his work to 4A. Another piece of work is by James Kong. James is one of the few, the only person in fact, who made time-lapse videos of the occupation for a really long time, for more than 60 days using strange techniques. He hid cameras in cookie boxes tethered to the open source Raspberry Pi web application in order to shoot the time lapse videos. These are the three main pieces we brought to 4A for the show.

In a way, all of these projects are of a documentary nature. One of the arguments I made through the exhibition was that while everyone was engaged in some kind of object-making throughout the occupation, some kind of creativity, professional artists and other people in the art world gradually turned to more documentary practices, rather than creating something more straightforwardly artistic to add to the movement. There was already so much participation and creativity from citizens, so a lot of artists turned to this kind of more distanced and, yeah, I would say documentary nature. So in a way they are all doing documentary work. Another artist, Firenze Lai, also started a small magazine with three issues during the occupation (not in the exhibition); it’s a document, produced in situ with what is happening. So that’s what the show is about.


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Sampson Wong in conversation in amongst his installation Capturing a hyperevent: artistic records of the Umbrella Movement (2017) in the exhibition Before the Rain at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, January 2017. Photo: Document Photography.


CW:  Since we’re talking about different artists’ practices already, do you think the practices of different artists changed along the way, becoming more reflective of the times?

SW:  I have recently written something about this to reflect on the phrase used in an article in The New York Times. The gist of this piece was that under the current political situation politics infuses art, and I’m very interested in that notion as what I have been focusing on or researching is the other process: how art induces politics instead of politics inducing art. I’m much more interested in how artists and designers engage in politics directly, or activism directly, rather than how the political situation and tensions in Hong Kong become a topic for artists to explore. In a way, that means I’m not quite interested in really talking about how artworks were transformed after the movement, but rather how artists decided to pursue extra practices or activities that normally they wouldn’t be engaged with such as community organising and campaigning. A lot of these things are done in anonymous ways so perhaps they’re just participating in movement groups, contributing to design, or even a lot of this creativity that normally would not be understood as art. Ultimately, I’m interested socially engaged art, but more things that are circulated directly into the public sphere rather than an artistic sphere.

CW:  Socially engaged art almost sounds like it’s still located within art practice, but I think a lot of it is not even art practice anymore, it’s just people engaging socially, simply being a civilian.

SW:  For example, recently I realised that the Queens College of the City University of New York has created new programs like a Diploma in Social Practice. These terms are usually interchangeable, socially engaged art and social practice. I guess people are turning more and more towards the term social practice as it doesn’t have the element of art, therefore we don’t have to validate it as art. Someone who fascinates me is Qing Lam, an individual who is really interested in environmental politics and the politics of recycling. She’s actually teaching a class and some kind of workshop at the school I am working at, but she’s been heavily involved in the politics of recycling. She’s trying to push people to do one hundred percent recycling in their daily lives. What’s interesting is that she founded a group that’s very influential for people to exchange objects they wish to discard, and she’s also heavily involved in the Umbrella Movement, trying to turn the occupation into a kind of zero waste site. Recently her practice has been more and more like art practices. She has found a group called ‘strange food’ They collect food that’s expired. She invites people to test if the food is safe so they use expired food to cook.

CW:  Does she get it from the grocery store?

SW:  She gets in touch with smaller stores. Recently, Qing Lam started a project called Not a Garbage Station and what she does is hijacks the work quarters, or impersonates the staff at one of these garbage depots, and sits there, as if she is one of the staff, separating the waste we produce. In a way, we can’t quite find the usual aesthetics at play here, but the way in which she propagates the project—the manner in which she talks about the project and makes decisions that in turn engage people—that’s very much what we find in some of the projects of social practices. I guess this way of working, this rationality, can spread to more and more civic practices, even in the recent Chief Executive election I observed that the campaign of the hugely popular John Tsang, some of the members of his team are actually designers, and some of the members are actually artists. I think some of the so-called PR tactics are inspired by socially engaged art projects. For example, Tsang made three large sculptures, huge really, and he invited all kinds of shop assistants to pose with the sculptures and place the word sculpture in their retail spaces for selfie, we see the kind of participatory practices that are very familiar in some social practices…

CW:  Do you think that’s why the cultural field is supportive of Tsang?

SW:  I’m not sure the cultural field actually supports him…

CW:  It seems like more lean towards him than toward Carrie Lam.

SW:  I think the public discussion has been centered on the language he uses. It’s also a kind of creative language, the vocabulary he uses, and that’s exactly what I was suggesting.

CW:  Do you think that was strategic?

SW:  Yes. There are very artistic people supporting him… in a way we can say in the election we observe a kind of aesthetisation of politics in Hong Kong—an extension of the tendency in Umbrella Movement.

CW:  Do you think it’s an appropriation of activism and protest for PR purposes—did you see the latest Pepsi ad?—that he is also picking up on this populism of young people’s spirits?

SW:  This is a point I’ve been extra interested in. To one extent this one kind of almost populist aesthetic strategy or tactics becomes PR— whether we welcome or embrace it, does it have to deal with the substance of the political values? It seems in Hong Kong we observe that the substance is not really important, so long as you command the language or vocabulary of creativity in Hong Kong. Right now it’s kind of dangerous, and this is equally more fascinating to me and I’m observing a lot of these trends and transitions and this is exactly what I’m interested in.


Image courtesy Umbrella Movement Visual Archive.


CW:  I remember during the Umbrella Movement, very early on, I was on the bus and I heard these two kids, maybe aged 19 or 20. The girl had dyed hair with green ends and the guy wore an oversized black t-shirt. Super cool kids. And the guy turns to the girl and says, ‘are you going to the Umbrella Movement?’ And she’s like, ‘I’m going to see which of my friends are going.’ And he said, ‘shouldn’t you just go because you care?’ And she was kind of embarrassed. This was a conversation that really stuck with me. It was somehow quintessential of this generation of young people—I don’t think just in Hong Kong, I think it’s all over the world: a movement of being active and caring, socially active, socially conscious and participatory as part of an identity, a hip sub-culture even. And when I saw this Pepsi ad it horrified me. In the beginning it was upsetting, but then in a way I saw some truth to it and I had to reflect upon where I am within this spectrum of this. How much do I care and how much am I capitalising on this movement unconsciously … you know?

I run this art space, Things That Can Happen, and when I set it up I didn’t think to myself, ‘let’s respond to the Umbrella Movement’. We are clear that we are not a political organisation. There was this … what I  called a creative awakening … and what you call unprecedented creativity that hadn’t lived its life fully, I guess. It was just at this point in time, at the end of the Umbrella Movement, where these platforms were created in order to provide whatever the movement needed to continue to grow. I think I was afraid of what I perceived to be a polarising society, and I’m someone that’s very wary of division.

I thought art was an alternative means to communicate and cultivate understanding. It represents and manifests something that’s going on without relying on opinions, and I think Things That Can Happen has done that in a way. But I also recently came across a critique that we inappropriately use the term Umbrella Movement when we speak about the founding of the space.

I think what I’m trying to say is that on the one hand I’m very sensitive to what my intentions are, what we’re doing with Things, how transparent we are and on the other hand, I also think of Things That Can Happen as a small action that can hopefully trigger other small actions, like starting art spaces. We just want to show that there is a way to do it; it seems difficult, but there are many models that exist and if we just have enough models then people might be inspired to do it as well. Not even an art space, but just to be prompted to do something that they are interested in doing if even only out of curiosity or to find one’s own voice. And that is part of creativity, an unprecedented creativity is that spark to suddenly feel like you can take the next step to actually do something.

SW:  I kind of agree with what you say… that the spirit was that after the movement you started something, you believed that in establishing something in the city or transforming the city directly. All kinds of projects require ambition, vision and determination to start something after the moment has passed.

It seems after the movement everyone had some kind of project on their hands and I think that’s the true spirit of that approach to total participation, I would say. It’s only remotely related, but last year I was in London and I was totally fascinated by this event called Antiuniversity, which was a list of lectures, workshops, walks and all kinds of interesting events that came together under this rubric. It happens across London, it’s not based in any one space, but it’s also coming out of the Occupy movement, the spirit of free education, and a desire to look beyond the limitations of university education and that kind of thing.

I guess what is important is that everyone is leading a new project and that they are at least partially involved in the use of aesthetics and creativity—that’s what I’ve been interested in. For example, when Chu Hoi Dick was in the legislative council election, within his team were a lot of artists and designers. And at that time they didn’t even have the slightest hope of winning the election yet they decided to turn the whole election campaign into a—how should I put it?—a more artistic action to let everyone enjoy a sense of hope. But I guess a key phrase or I like to employ here is always: the more engagement at work in these projects, the more new kinds of engagement is made possible. So, for example, in our space the new kind of engagement is simply that people are actually visiting more and more variety of abandoned spaces. So there is a designed itinerary of visiting various parts of Ping Che and this is also part of how the community is growing.

I’m actually very interested in seeing how art works to form all kinds of temporary communities for people to have new modes of engagement. We use hashtags and all kinds of social media to have a feeling we are participating in something, but I’m interested in how art practice actually brings people together and prompts or otherwise enacts participation in some sense.


Image courtesy Umbrella Movement Visual Archive.
Sampson Wong and Jason Lam, Our 60 second friendship starts now, projected on Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre (ICC) before its removal on 22 May 2016. Image courtesy Sampson Wong.


CW:  This brings me to asking a bigger question I signalled at the beginning of our conversation, which is what drives your practice? In a way, you wear many hats and already your art practice is very diverse, from your intervention upon the International Commerce Centre, to storytelling as place-making, to various forms of research. What is their core essence? And also, not that there’s an ideal place to get to, but at what point would you consider the project is ‘successful’?

SW:  I got a lot of satisfaction, and I think something did happen when I curated the Emptyscape Festival for the second time because we’ve been working with this village community Ping Che for four years. We made a triennial called Emptyscape Art Festival. During the second festival in 2016 a strange and accidental community formed among artists, villagers and also the audience. We see a lot of conversations happening during the festival that would normally be quite impossible. Like people travelling afar from this village and they talk about culture and the form of art events they enjoy most. I listened to a lot of these conversations and that’s exactly what I was talking about when I spoke about modes of engagement. I witness a certain mode and level of engagement that is almost magical, certainly that I don’t see regularly. So that’s the kind of benchmark I look at; that’s the kind of ambition I think of. Actually, this is the aspect of the Umbrella Movement as a political movement that most fascinated me—it’s not just about an organisation or political movement, it’s a kind of utopian temporary community that has very real and intense conversations among people that’s normally impossible in daily life.

What drives me is a belief that I am free to articulate one version of art and how to understand it, and I think that version of understanding about art can be quite marginalised in the media. Maybe it’s not good to make this dichotomy; it could be a kind of art that could be marginalised in the art world that is more about the transformative power of creativity and artistic practice, that has a long history inheriting from the avant-garde to the early twentieth-century. I spent a lot of my time when I was younger reading these practices and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to realise similar practices in the times we have.

A word that I always have in mind is re-enchantment. I always talk about it because, especially in an age when a lot of people feel powerless, hopeless or simply bored, I think I believe in the power of art to create moments of enchantment. But probably collective enchantment is something that really interests me, because I understood that enchantment could be easily obtained or deduced by an individual but requires more work to achieve collectively. If you look at a masterpiece, or a really stunning piece of art, I guess collective enchantment is much more difficult because it involves interaction of people and a special dialogue.

CW:  I feel like you clearly articulate some of the things that drive me as well. Maybe I’m more pragmatic, like the way that you work with community and create enchantment, maybe that’s the romantic side of it. When you referred to the transformative power of art I almost think of transformation as a management tool. I have this fantasy of setting up a business using art as a transformative tool, a bit like Artist Placement Trust. I want to bring artists, sound artists, poets or designers and architects together and work with companies to transform them from the inside and increase their awareness to the world and ethics, enhance their sensitivity and reignite their imagination And bring that enchantment that can transform them.

SW:  Some curators I admire, they often have workshops with large corporations. I think that’s a very simple process that they relish, transforming their understanding of what good practice is. Usually, when they talk about good practice, it varies a lot. I guess the key word here is imagination.

CW:  You use the term public imagination. I’d like to talk about that later. We use art as a form, and it can also be used to create that sensibility and imagination in a less tangible and more ethereal way. If we can bring that to the property development companies and get them to listen to the city and the voice of the people, how much more beautiful could Hong Kong be, if even it was just an avenue to listen from there?

SW:  Sometimes I’m really curious. I seldom have the chance to have that conversation with people who are really working in the art institutions, to ask how they see these kinds of practices today. On my side of the world we don’t really care about genre, we seldom think in those terms. I’m really interested in how the art world thinks about these practices in relation to them, because sometimes an unhealthy distinction is made. I imagine how these two ways of considering art can be put in dialogue and form some kind of synergy. When I was at 4A one of the interesting things was the curatorial team; they never questioned whether the projects I’m bringing in is actually art. They are happy juxtaposing these practices with other material or collateral of understanding other artworks that are much more collaborative. I’ve always been interested in seeing how these kind of boundaries operate in reality. For example, when you do something in Things That Can Happen, you probably don’t bother to ask whether this is appropriate or not or whether that is art.

CW:  For me, it’s clear it’s not just about art. Things That Can Happen is a space of potential, the name alludes to this optimism. You said, ‘I believe in the transformative power of art.’ This resonates with me. It sounds cheesy, but I am an eternal optimist. I’d like to see what might occur when you put things next to each other, how can two things influence one another in a transformative way? When I set up Community College, a project with asylum seekers at Things That Can Happen, I never thought, ‘this is not art’, but rather how can mindsets change when they encounter the voices of this other kind of community. The starting point of the Things That Can Happen is like conversations that can happen.

For that particular project I was experimenting with how to break the silos of different communities, of both the art world and asylum seekers and refugees. I was wondering in what other ways the arts community in Hong Kong engage. Even politics in my view often occurs within a bubble. The questions and concerns inward looking. And if we’re talking about democracy, whose voices aren’t heard in the process? So I asked myself, is there a way that this art space could take up a role in opening up that conversation?

SW:  The most political act is imagining completely different ways of doing things unlike the current practice. I think this is the fulcrum upon which art and politics can turn. It’s about ignoring the status quo, an extremely artistic thing to do because you have to use a lot of imagination to conceive of a completely different way of doing things. In a way, I understand that the kind of artistic practice that fascinates me is simply about doing things in a completely different way. When you talk about politics it’s also full of repertoire of actions that couldn’t capture peoples’ imaginations and the ways of participation are so routine and the agency of the person or the potential of the person is not really realised. So that kind of thing is what I’m interested in, how different ways of doing things can be possible all the time and I guess what you suggest is exactly what I was imaging as well.

It’s quite interesting because all the time I’ve been doing things differently or trying to think of different ways of doing things I’ve routinely been asked whether sticking to a set of established procedures can be positive. Somehow, people are challenging me on that, at least in all kinds of practices I’m involved in. Even in teaching, when I’m teaching at APA [Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts], I think to set a different kind of curriculum that interest’s young people today.

CW:  It’s funny, we’ve never actually had a conversation before but it feels like there are a lot of affinities between what we care about. I loved your project, The Trail: Village is Where We Meet (Again). In the introduction you say, ‘it’s about believing that so long as the village has been standing there is never ceased to exist’. In storytelling and place making you are keeping the site alive. That’s very different from the Umbrella Movement Visual Archive which is more literal—you’re trying to salvage what is here now. These things exist in very different ways after. Can you say more about the project itself and what that line means?

SW:  The project The Trail: Village is Where We Meet (Again) was a very specific kind of commission. I worked with a group called Make a Difference, which is a group that concerns social practice and socially-engaged art. They have a forum every year that has about 1000 participants. In two consecutive years they invited me to design a project that could involve about 150 people on the same night. It had to be an artistic project and it had to hit that target of involvement so it was a tough task. I had to design a kind of special gathering, so this is the second one I did. I imagined it to be a forum for storytelling and it actually addresses something that I’m mostly interested in, and that is the kind of creative environment of unusual spaces existing in Hong Kong; indeed, one of the things that I find most unique about Hong Kong is that you can still manage to find these kind of unexpected spaces.

Ma Wan fascinated me for many years—the Ma Wan village that was abandoned for more than ten years now, and it’s just next to the Tsing-Ma bridge which has a stunning view. I’ve always been thinking how we can engage these spaces apart from just photographing them or having good times and wandering there. So I hoped to design a kind of program where everyone gathered there and has an exploration resulting in storytelling, a kind of variety show, testing the possibilities of how the space can become a background for a group of more than 100 people together and engage in some kind of dialogue. It’s actually very pragmatic program, it’s for people to spend a night there really.

CW:  It’s also interesting because it’s an abandoned village; the land is marked by this landmark bridge and it’s always drawing attention back to that village. It’s not in the middle of nowhere, it’s really very visible. Once you have had this event happen people will remember because it’s marked physically.

SW:  Yeah, and actually we’re not the first group of people trying to make some form of art there. I think about four years ago there was a group of university students, just graduated from art school, who wanted to make something happen. One of them is connected to the village in the past, maybe relatives living there, so they curated an art festival. That’s exactly the kind of experiment I’m interested in, leaving some mark on the space. Eventually it will be demolished. I hope people recognise the layer of the real history of that space, but also the creativity promoted by the space as another layer of history.

CW:  Since you’re talking about layering history and art, it brings me back to Things That Can Happen. In the beginning it was just a modest attempt to provide an alternative type of site to create, but without the focus being on the objects in space but about artists’ particular needs. We’re not really interested in having a white cube—this model feels totally arbitrary. So artists have experimented with the constraints and possibilities of the space itself. For instance, Ocean Leung brings the structural and psychological violence of the outside in, creating a scaffolding structure forcing viewers to duck and crawl into the space. He also drilled holes and cracks into the floor tiles and doors, and tore down wallpaper to reveal the hidden histories of the building. More recently, Yang Chi-Chuan from Taipei responded to the space very differently. Adding only the sound of a ticking clock on the background, she annotated the marks in the space, thanking past artists and people who have crossed paths with the space for making Things That Can Happen what it is now. In a way, she turned the entire space into an artwork.

Like you said before, what you’re interested in is the potential for things to happen and doing things outside the structures that already exist and that is the articulation of creativity. I think in the beginning Lee Kit and I said we wanted to explore the many different forms art can take, but we didn’t imagine what that looked like. I think the workshops with refugees is part of this creative project. It’s intangible, you know?

SW:  The space you create, it actually makes the experimental mindset possible when you’re not using a space that is not a white cube. I really like the idea you just explained of the latest show fromYang Chi-Chuan. That is, if I want to create a shortcut to something, I first ask myself about space. The biggest inspiration I have when I’m commissioned for projects is not even about the content, it’s about the possibility of forging a new kind of space, testing boundaries to see what can happen.

CW:  I want to hear about the International Commerce Centre (ICC) project. I find this an amazing project—the thinking behind it, the space, the physicality, the property, the symbolism of that building. Can you also talk about the use of time in that project, that sense of impending doom or just futurism?

SW:  It’s difficult—it’s very controversial, I have to admit that. I will say how the whole project began was that there was a dream of mine that I recall in late 2015: someone asked me, ‘if you’re allowed to create without any restriction, what would you be interested in?’ So naturally I just answered quite in reflex: I hope to have a count down on the ICC building. The conversation was happening during Art Basel Hong Kong. There was some new artwork being placed on the ICC commissioned by Art Basel and, in fact, a lot of my friends are not quite satisfied with what is usually shown on the ICC. So a friend challenged me: ‘if you got the chance what would you like to show?’ After we got the commission we were told that the proposal was too political, so instead I asked for permission to embed this work in a larger piece of work. But I didn’t want a larger piece of work to be just an excuse or just a cover. So when we designed the larger piece we decided that it had to be a work about time. One of the biggest inspirations to us is Wong Kar Wai’s Days of Being Wild, so we think of this scene in which Leslie Cheung tries to make friends with Maggie Cheung. No matter what, after all the controversy I still think that the whole work about flagship/ friendship was a complete work that lasted for nine minutes. The ICC project can still be viewed on Vimeo and YouTube. I tell my friends to look at that video and they find it poetic or nothing controversial. So there are two layers there, a work that I’m satisfied with.

I also embedded a piece of work that is my dream on the ICC. This work was completely accepted by the curator and the authorities, even after the opening they thought it was fine, they liked it. At the time, I had the quote of Francis Alys in mind: doing something political can be poetic and doing something poetic can be political. Three days after the opening of the artwork one of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party visited Hong Kong and a lot of the roads were blocked and protests were not possible, and so some friends of ours were talking about this and it just so happened that the opening of our work and the visiting of the Communist Party delegate coincided. So we were having a discussion, debating whether we could simply invite him to look at the artwork and to say that the countdown truly occupies our imagination. We decided to announce that as a kind of hijacking of our own work. I was actually inspired by some practices about hijacking or destroying all artworks, but we were quickly told that our undertaking was disrespectful of the curator and of the authorities. I think the controversy is still there, but I often tell people to look at the complete video and I find that to be a piece of very calm and peaceful work.

CW:  Do you want to say something more about time in relation to Hong Kong? We spoke about physical and memory. But the ICC project is about future time and capturing time. It also interlocks with property.

SW:  We can easily run into cliché…

CW:  If it’s cliché we can take it out but I still want to hear it.

SW:  Maybe I can respond only in a direct way. I’ve always been interested in the term transition. Hong Kong is always told that we are in a transitional period, that after the final British declaration was signed we had entered the transition period. Then after 1989 we were told again we were entering a second transition period; after 1997 we were told again that we were entering a transition period. I’ve been really interested in the world’s relationship to transition and time—we are always told that some radical development is on the horizon. Before that arrives we can only hope to remain unchanged, or wait for the coming of change. So I’m interested in the kind of delaying, that kind of forever delaying of what should be done, or what will happen to Hong Kong is something is done or nothing at all. So that sense of time is always happening in relationships and love and that’s exactly the kind of theme addressed by Wong Kar Wai: that if we don’t make a change for now there are forever deadlines somewhere that structure our sense of time. I’ve been quite interested in that.

CW:  That’s very beautiful. So, what do you think the future holds?

SW:  If we talk about this more philosophically, in literature people juxtapose space against time. So in a way when we talk about space it’s about here and now, about action, about this moment, about looking here. This is a tragedy of a way to response to how Hong Kong is always dragged into a conversation about time, the future and the past. Space is about here and now, about the limitation to act now, to respond to actual environment. I’m interested in this kind of quality about space.


Image courtesy Umbrella Movement Visual Archive.

Top image courtesy Umbrella Movement Visual Archive.




Chantal Wong is head of strategic development at Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong. Chantal co-founded Things That Can Happen with artist Lee Kit, a non-profit art space for experimental art in Hong Kong.



Sampson Wong 黃宇軒 is an artist, independent curator, academic and urbanist from Hong Kong. He engages in art-making, curatorial practice, teaching, research and writing, and sees these practices as intellectual means for exploring issues about urbanism, space, power and freedom. His research interests also include politics of epidemics and Hong Kong studies. Wong is currently writing books about plagues in Hong Kong, urbanism and art, and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement. His writings often appear in Stand News and Mingpao (Sunday Life). Recent projects include Before the Rain, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney (2017); and From 60 Seconds to 2047Countdown Machine and Land Visions: In Search of Land Art in Hong Kong (2016). Wong’s curatorial projects include 2nd Emptyscape Art Festival: Beyond the Village School (2016); Studio in-Situ Assembling! (2016); Affordable Art Basel! (2015); and Thereafter: Objects from the Umbrella Movement (2015). He received his PhD in Urban Studies & Geography at the University of Manchester in 2014 and is currently Lecturer at Department of Liberal Arts Studies, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.



See more from 4A Papers, issue 2

Commissioned for 4A Papers Issue 2. © Copyright 2017 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and the authors, artists, photographers and other contributors. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission from the Publisher. The opinions expressed in 4A Papers are those of the contributing authors and not necessarily those of the Editor or Publisher. Permission has been sought to reproduce all images with appropriate acknowledgement where possible.