[...] How could this intelligence not also be critical of its own products and of its precedent? The readings, the interpretations and critical judgements of art, literature and music from within art, literature and music are of a penetrative authority rarely equalled by those offered from outside, by those propounded by the non-creator, this is to say the reviewer, the critic, the academic.”
Here is the story.
Between a meeting and the dentist’s appointment one day, I walked past Shop A3, #1 Sharp Street West. It is up for rent. I imagined, listened, and waited, before walking again.
Would you consider walking with me?
(Yes, there is a Sharp Street East, way over on the other side of the area, with West and East cut off by a giant Square of the Times. It is almost impossible that one sees the West from the East, and the East from the West.)
Shop A3 was up for rent. I stood at the curb on the opposite side, imagining. Perhaps I was afraid to be too absorbed to become blind that it was only until a few whole minutes later that I approached it up-close. Many property advertisements were posted on the ceiling-to-floor panes, which served simultaneously as doors, windows, and walls, hence openings, closings, and borders. A shift of attention shows the small space at once bulging out from the building onto which it leans and at the same time, an indentation of the street. The place presents a certain sense of unsettling restlessness, for carrying the potential of distracting whatever that is going on in the streets, and for pointing all the way to the end of the alley, in an increasing degree of darkness.
Shop A3 triggers memories of artworks tucked away in my mind for some time – Walter de Maria’s The New York Earth Room, its smell, its busy solitude, the presence of its silence; So Yan-kei’s installation at the old artist-run Para/Site art space on #2 Po Yan Street, where a piano was more-than-half buried in soil at the shop window touched by a flickering yellowish light.
As much as I wanted to rent it, I didn’t make a decision right away. Thanks to my online astrology advisor who pushed my sign to consider what would be the timely moment to get into a contract, if at all. Thanks also to friends who asked many questions, which then pushed me to do the same.
Three weeks later, I rented Shop A3 on a two-year contract.
|| a process triggered
By now, around ten artists of various generations have visited Shop A3 and shared memories and inspirations they have had of what they found the space similar in design with. Imagination seems endless as presented by what already is Shop A3: it has been run as a shop, but the integral shopfront isn’t so much ‘the front’ – how could it be extended? It is certainly a shop window but if art were to be in this shop window, it would not become the instrument of selling other products – what kind of exchange could take place? When the landlady first showed me the place, she pointed to the hollow on the right. She said someone could sleep there – some artists said this might be a place for a special kind of residency. On the landlady’s later visit, as a moving painting by Dominique Lämmli, Lee Chun Fung and myself was taking shape, she commented that I am now using it for advertising; of what, she didn’t say.
These responses help me realize I am not trying to do anything other people have not done, which is usually known as ‘new’. I am instead interested in what I have not done, which could be known as ‘not-yet’. Shop A3 touched two rather old beliefs I have been holding onto – firstly, the right of art to be on streets congested with commands that we as street users are shoppers only and should remain so, and secondly, and the right of the pedestrian to be stopped, absorbed, challenged, confused, even offended by art. Both are rights of art to be; both are rights of street users to live with art as all that it is, not just instrumentalized and branded to serve particular forms of efficiency that is not interested in imagination. These rights require the efforts of those who make art and make art happen, and those who do not, to uphold.
I don’t fully understand what I have got myself into. For many reasons, the future of Shop A3 cannot be predicted: my financial ability to keep it running, the legal status of this space, the care the landlady is ready to put into this contract with me, the needs of the immediate neighbors (a pharmacy, a hotel, and a lighting shop) etc. But it is precisely the unclear future that offers the chance for the little ambition I have: to live the present in a different way with art, having joyously done away with utopic thinking.
|| a certain direction
Shop A3 does not have a name. It has an address, which will carry and situate a name when something around and of art arises, planned or unplanned.
Shop A3 is not interested in a curated program efficiently delivered. It is interested in making as an exploratory process for all who are involved. There will be results of the process, but they are not bound by any form of presentation, nor would the production of the results override the need for fast service, for as long as it takes. This is because Shop A3 is interested in the way artists ask questions, the way they approach them and open themselves up for their challenges. I am interested in what happens when my ideas come together with others’.
Shop A3 does not opt for “anything-goes”. It opts rather for a certain kind of courage of art to be on the street, while sustaining the enjoyment of a much- needed solitude. It opts for the intention via any artistic gesture to bring something to a pause, something to challenge, to wonder, to ponder for those who care to or happen to notice. It opts for a kind of freedom that is constrained by what it already is, but also what it could un-plan, unlearn, undo, and unfold. All these are to take place from the street, on the street. I want to try to be exposed, so that I am closer to understanding how artists are exposed.
|| an invitation
As Laurie Anderson once said, Walking is controlled falling. I am walking, and I wonder, if:
- you could defer, suppress, or resist the temptation to familiarize Shop A3 as what it may already be known to you;
- you are ready to do something you have always wanted to do;
- you imagine there is a lot to learn from the streets;
- you believe there is a notion of hope that brings believers and non-believers together;
- you are confident that whatever you do as an artistic gesture, it is possible that you will make a difference;
Would you consider walking with me, in support of the right of art to be on the streets, and the right of pedestrians to encounter challenging art on the streets?
Please visit Shop A3, #1 Sharp Street West at your convenience. There may or may not be someone there along with the traces left by artists. If there are thoughts that cross your mind and you won't mind sharing them with me, please mail me a letter to the above address any time. This is NOT a call for proposals; this is the first of many invitations for a chat. Would love to hear from you, really.
YEUNG Yang is a writer, independent curator, and university lecturer. Her curation includes regarding lightness: On Life’s Way (2015) and Around sound art festival & retreat (2009-2013). Her recent publications include “Back to basics: trying for the ‘international’ as good” (Hong Kong Visual Arts Yearbook 2014) and regular contributions to AM Post (HK). She is editor of STAMPED: Project Glocal (Manila/HK, 2015) and Away from the Crowd - the art of Jaffa Lam (HK, 2013) among other titles. She is member of AICAHK and Art Appraisal Club. She founded soundpocket in 2008 and was awarded the Asia Cultural Council Fellowship in 2013.