Dark skies. Back pain. Heavy bags of salt crystals dissolving in the gutter. These are my memories of dismantling the demo for my VR work Lithium Hindsight 360 in October 2019 by myself after an exhausting weekend filled with visitors and social unrest. It had been a valuable and necessary experience in order to finish my PhD research, but the overall process left me with many questions. Why does it have to be done alone? Why did it have to cost so much? And why is it so hard to make artistic research accessible to the general public?
Fast forward to July 2021. And the Ship Sails On is on the verge of opening at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre for two weeks.. For the first time, a diverse group of current students and recent alumni from the PhD programmes of the Academy of Visual Arts (Hong Kong Baptist University) and School of Creative Media (City University of Hong Kong) have banded together as the NAO Collective. These artists and researchers have come out from the ivory towers so that the greater Hong Kong community can more easily learn about what is artistic research. This collective model also means that no one has to do anything alone.
Although this showcase does not focus on mental health, it is worth remembering that the process of going through a PhD programme does take a toll on an individual’s mental health over time. Sometimes this ends up affecting their friends and family as well. This stress comes from the overall structure of contemporary academic culture which requires enduring a lot of uncertainty and intensity without any guaranteed reward. As the producer of this event, I feel pride and gratitude for all the challenges that the curators and artists have overcome to produce their artistic visions.
Amongst all the artworks, there are a few that stand out for addressing social factors that can affect one’s mental health:
Kay Mei Ling BEADMAN
Enmeshed + Invisibility
This artistic commentary on mixed-race identity invites visitors to put on different cloaks and choose to be as visible or invisible as they wish. Once inside one of these comforting cloaks, however, it is easy to see how the concept of in/visibility can apply to other situations as well. The work is also very timely as racial identity and tensions have been affecting the mental health of many people around the world.
This series of drawings of a familiar figure – the Buddha – in unfamiliar settings challenges the notion that anything is purely good or bad. It was initially motivated by the challenges of moving to Hong Kong as a foreigner and the impact of technology on the daily lives of citizens. From a broader perspective, the drawings are a visual reminder that each person can be seen as good or bad depending on context – and that these qualities always co-exist in a person.
Nerve Loop, Hong Kong Urban Machine Jazz
Imagine diving through your nervous system at a dizzying speed while colours are changing rapidly. This is the sensation produced by Nerve Loop with its fascinating twists and turns. Originally a reflection on the transportation system of Hong Kong, it also makes the viewer more aware of just how complicated our nervous systems are. One misfired or misdirected signal and the whole system can react in an unexpected way.
There are many other interesting works on display ranging from sculptural pieces to live performance from 5-18 July along with several interesting workshops and talks. As a space, the gallery can be a place to take a quiet moment and simply breathe. Depending on the day, different artists are on-site and can talk about their works more. It is our hope that during this time we can create a community of dialogue that lead to new questions and insights. Most importantly, it is proof that collaboration can lead to amazing things.
Special thanks to MetaObjects and Dr. Can Liu for their support with this event.
Eugenia Kim is a Mental Ideas Ambassador and a guest on the first series of our Mental Ideas Podcast. She is an interdisciplinary creator and researcher who identifies as a patient with bipolar and several other chronic medical conditions. Her creative work is inspired by her lived experiences as a patient and expressed through movement, dance and multimedia technology. She holds a PhD from the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong.
5-18 July 2021
JCCAC Hong Kong