Water & Ashes for Creative (R)Evolution: Art in the HK Protests

by | Events, To Watch

Kacey Wong, The Shield (performance), 2019

The exhibition in Paris is inspired by the plethora of recent creations by various artists and the Hong Kong public during the recent protests against police violence and authoritarianism. The leaderless movement and its fluid, innovative tactics in Hong Kong have impressed the world. The unwritten guiding principle of this decentralised movement, ‘Be Water’, was inspired by the legendary martial artist Bruce Lee’s philosophy, ‘Be formless, shapeless, like water…Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.’ 

Badiucao, Bruce Lee Lennon Wall (b), 2019

The majority of the artists contributing to the exhibition are from Hong Kong. Witnessing the struggle and suffering of the people in their hometown, they turned to art as their way of expression. In face of Hong Kong’s dwindling liberty, they are determined not to be silenced. Such determination echoes a popular quote among protesters from Jack London, renowned novelist, journalist and social activist, ‘I would rather be ashes than dust! …The function of man is to live, not to exist.’ 

Revolving around the fluidity of the movement and the resolute determination of protesters, Water and Ashes brings Hong Kong’s fight for freedom and democracy to Paris through a variety of mediums. Some artists and their works were directly involved in the protests—either performed live in protest areas, or as protest materials or interactive art, from Victoria Park to Hong Kong International Airport. Others, through poetry, photography, digital paintings and illustrations, present their perspectives and express their emotions as they watch their city burn. The exhibition also features works of a French artist and an American artist, testimony to fact that ideas are not only bulletproof but also go beyond boundaries. 

Harcourt Romanticist, Our Vantage, 2019

What’s the drive for the explosion of creativity among the Hong Kong public and protesters? The relationship between resistance, consciousness, life, and creativity is at the heart of this exhibition’s philosophy. Resistance is something visible in protests while it is the major invisible force underlying the development of contemporary art—which is about resistance of what the traditions or authorities deem normal, matched with an insistence on thinking and expressing freely and out of the box. Therefore, resistance is about questioning the existing order. While the authorities accuse the Hong Kong protesters of instigating chaos in society, the real question is, ‘order is certainly contingent, but in relation to what’? Order is a constructed and fluid concept, which evolves and is criticised, challenged and modified throughout our human history. Questioning as well as a subversion of order, embedded with our creativity, does not imply a necessary antagonism between order and chaos, between norms and anomie; rather, it ensures our society to be free and open, enabling a genuine diversity of cultures and social orders.

Justin Wong, I See You, 2019

Consciousness is indispensable not only in any social changes, but also in creativity. As consciousness corresponds exactly to the living being’s power of choice and is coextensive with the fringe of possible action that surrounds the real action, consciousness is synonymous with invention and with freedom. 

Philosopher Henri Bergson equates life with creation while creativity is central to life for Gilles Deleuze as what he called ‘becoming’. Thus, while political movement may be traumatic, the creativity out of this batter for freedom is leading to transformation of the social and art scenes. The exhibition is an initial attempt to witness such creative evolution, if not revolution.

Tommy Fung, Hungry Ghost Festival, 2019

 

Exhibited artists:

  • Alcohol Salon, Hong Kong
  • Alice Kahei Yu, Hong Kong
  • Badiucao, Australia
  • Chan Sai Lok, Hong Kong
  • Diana Wege, United States
  • Fung Kin Fan, Hong Kong
  • Harcourt Romanticist, Hong Kong
  • Hector Bouhier, France
  • Him Lo, Hong Kong
  • Justin Wong, Hong Kong
  • Kacey Wong, Hong Kong
  • Lumli Lumlong, Hong Kong
  • Nicola Longobardi, Hong Kong
  • RC Team, Hong Kong
  • Tommy Fung, Hong Kong
  • Vivian Ho, Hong Kong
 

Water and Ashes for Creative (R)Evolution
3-7 December 2019
DOC, 26 rue du Dr Potain, 75019 Paris, France
Vernissage | 3 December 2019, 6:30-9:30pm