UNSW Art & Design and 4A presents: Socially-engaged Contemporary Art in Rural Hong Kong



via Zoom Webinar: register in advance for this webinar:

Join Frank Vigneron, Chairperson and Professor, Fine Arts Department, CUHK in conversation with artists Natalie Lo Lai Lai  and Monti Lai about socially engaged art in rural Hong Kong, with moderator Paul Gladston.

Mainland China is experiencing a renewal of art education in rural settings thanks to official policies developed as part of the ‘Beautiful Countryside’ initiative. This top-down initiative has seen, for instance, the establishment of brand-new teaching centres set up by major universities with financial support from the highest echelons of local government. By contrast, in Hong Kong rural art projects have been initiated mainly due to grassroots initiatives. Even though some of those projects have been funded by branches of the local government of the Hong Kong SAR, most have been led by independent artists and activists eager to explore local sociocultural identities as well as develop alternative artistic lifestyles.

Emerging from which are new regionally-grounded communities of engagement with aestheticized thinking and practice. Several of the projects in question are described in this presentation. At a time of heightened uncertainty in the Hong Kong SAR brought about by the imposition of new national security laws, artists/activists involved in such grass roots initiatives are no longer sure of the freedoms previously guaranteed by China’s “one country, two systems” framework. This discussion will take stock of socially-engaged art practices in rural Hong Kong and how they might be taken forward under changed conditions.

About the speakers:

Lo Lai Lai Natalie is based in Hong Kong. A former travel journalist, Lo is interested in the development and the construction of nature. She is a learner at the collective organic farm Sangwoodgoon (Hong Kong) where she also explores, as an artist and a Hongkonger, the lifestyle of “Half-Farming, Half-X”, a practice that seeks alternatives and autonomy. Lai Lai finds her interests in food, farming, fermentation, slow-driving, surveillance, and meditation. Mixing multiple media including moving image, photography, and installation. Her works are collected by the Sigg Collection and Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (US).

Monti LAI is an environmental artist and a farmer recognized for works that reflect on the relationship between art and the environment. Monti received her MFA from Aalto University majoring in Environmental Art. Her artworks range from site-specific environmental installations to drawings and participatory art. She set up the Farmside Art Research Lab to explore her agroecological concerns through artisan farming practice.

Frank Vigneron received a Ph.D. in Chinese Art History from the Paris VII University, a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the Paris IV Sorbonne University and a Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He has lived in Hong Kong since 1990 and joined the Department of Fine Arts, CUHK in 2004. His research focus is on the history of Chinese painting from the 18th century onwards and on different aspects of contemporary Chinese art seen in a global context. 

Paul Gladston is the inaugural Judith Neilson Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of New South Wales and was previously Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures and Critical Theory at the University of Nottingham. Paul has written extensively on contemporary Chinese art with regard to the concerns of critical theory and, in doing so, has been formative on the development of a critically informed contemporary Chinese art studies both internationally and inside China. His recent book-length publications include Contemporary Chinese Art: A Critical History (2014), which received ‘publication of the year’ at the Awards of Art China 2015. He was founding principal editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art from 2014 to 2017 and an academic adviser to the internationally acclaimed exhibition Art of Change: New Directions from China staged at the Hayward Gallery-South Bank Centre London in 2012.


Presented by UNSW | Art & Design in partnership with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.

Series organisers: Prof. Paul Gladston and Dr Yu-Chieh Li


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