Introduction of “Woofer Ten”
By: Jaspar Lau, 2010
Originally Published in Creating Spaces: Post Alternative Spaces in Asia
As its platform, “Woofer Ten” utilizes the Shanghai Street Artspace developed by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Located in the Yau Ma Tei old district, this art space operates on a community center model. Adding a sense of humor to its exhibition environment and interactive guided tours, Woofer Ten seeks to lift the wariness of those who are relative strangers to art. As a result, it continues to share rich and relatable contemporary art with the public while fusing a grassroots neighborhood tone with an avant-garde approach. Woofer Ten serves as a testing ground for community arts, and does not avoid social or political issues. It hopes that fresh ideas and practices will arise as a result to energize the Hong Kong art scene and enliven the vibrancy of civil society.
Woofer Ten registered as a non-profit organization in 2009. Its members are active Hong Kong artists involved in creating, curating, reviewing, educating, or operating art spaces. Such members include Yee Man Cheng (Ah Gum) and Clara Cheung from “C&G Artpartment” located at Prince Edward; Luke Ching who brought forward, “Hijacked Art;” long time reviewers, Edwin K. Lai and Jaspar Lau; literati, Cally Yu; Liveart artist, Wen Yau; husband and wife concept artist team, Sheung Chi Kwan and Doris Wong; the pioneers who opened up a new frontier in the art and culture scene, Man-Lok Law and Chun Fung Lee, as well as staff member, Ian Chung. Woofer Ten members all pay attention to society, politics, democracy and livelihood issues. Even more, they have also planned a number of exhibitions, such as Chief Executive, Hijacked Playground, ChiE - Culture Sieges Politics, Out and Walking, Talkover/Handover, 6644 Fix it, and Feng Yu Piao Yao Ai Guo Shi. Through the priming of art creation, authors, and frame construction, Woofer Ten combines art with social issues. For community art, Woofer Ten has watched the development of contemporary art, nurturing the process of attention, participation, cooperation, and interaction in matters of political aesthetic principles.It believes that these methods provide unique inspiration for community art by setting up encounters between the community and art, and cultivating the role of art in daily life. Additionally, it hopes to develop the social awareness of community art through examples of daily life, and even more, to take on the challenge of making contemporary art more accessible. Woofer Ten will also write into their application more sensitive political issues (such as the Tiananmen massacre) in hopes to promote political art in art circles and make applications for funding such an area commonplace.
From 2009 to 2010, Woofer Ten organized many exhibition plans, the first being, “Prize! Prize! Prize!”, which modeled itself after an awards ceremony and attempted to let people enjoy the lifestyle and sensations of the old district. The exhibitors led a group of artists/art students to modify a variety of awards and trophies based on interesting experiences provided by the neighborhood, and then presented them in neighboring shops. This twisted the entire image of public commemorative sculptures. Aside from guided tours of the community, two artists used consolation prizes to attract neighborhood interaction. Through activities such as these, Woofer makes the neighborhood an object or character from a martial arts novel and begins a new type of community art model. The exhibition, “Master’s Praise,” focuses on praising arts and crafts instructors. It is comprised of both commissioned works and those created through the matching of different-styled artists. Objects are not limited to those made through traditional crafts, but also practical skills (such as locksmithing and TV repairs), and D.I.Y.(do it yourself) from the general public. It explores the special operating modes of the development and existence of crafts, reflecting the Yau Ma Tei community’s cultural landscape and drawing from much folk wisdom. The “You Dare Learn, I DareTeach” workshop series undertakes the “Household” skills sharing plan.
“Presentable” is a project undertaken by Woofer Ten for Hong Kong Arts Development Council and Leisure and Cultural Services Department‘s “Artwork on Loan” plan. Later, it became an opportunity to highlight the wastefulness and bureaucratic thinking of the project’s planning. Woofer Ten soon started a parallel plan of its own； The exhibition, “Fake It,” uses the authenticity of artworks, and imitations of their form and content to present the loss of core values and mirror the dysfunctional political reality of Hong Kong politics. Both exhibitions highlight various non-official versions of “parody” to provide a rich interpretation of space.”Geomancy and Feng Shui for Sculptural Installations” grasps the taboo gap between popular folk customs and superstitions to turn the various overlapping of art space, artworks, and Feng Shui into a multi-language system of thought for artist and viewers. While it follows tradition, it simultaneously challenges established notions. In fact, Woofer Ten uses the tone of a community center, beginning from an anti-modernist white boxed art gallery and artwork center exhibition model, and attempts to create exhibition space from such objects as glass surfaces of desks, computer screen desktops, fish tanks, and refrigerators. In addition to optimal interior usage, Woofer Ten is also active outside the window, opening up the Democracy Wall and graffiti space, as well as providing solid support for various street events, park performances, and other activities. Furthermore, Woofer Ten used its “Resident Artist Program” to provide longterm housing for flower plaque master Nai-Chung Wong, who was forced out of his home due to urban renewal. On one hand, it lets visitors approach this unique traditional industry. On the other hand, it visualizes Woofer Ten’s position on many major issues of urban development. And, in the promotion of cultural preservation activities, Huang’s example also provides a learn-by-analogy effect.
In addition to performance art’s use of location and pedestrian interaction with street windows in the monthly, “Neighboring Window Has Something,” Woofer Ten usually organizes intense extracurricular activities that do not go by the book, expanding interest in the neighborhood and spurring the natural development of grass-roots organizations. There are also some members who prepare to give back to society. For example, the National Flag Series exhibited during the October 1st opening highlighted the tense relationship amongst national and regional flag laws, freedom of speech, and creative freedom. For traditional festivals, Woofer Ten has also organized community events to celebrate the neighborhood, such as mid-autumn song and lantern festivals.
At the “Anti-Manchuism” exhibition heldduring the Chinese New Year period, New Year paintings were matched with satirical political posters and feverish “referendum” comics. Aside from New Years stalls, a
political party calligraphy art election was organized which opened up a new social awareness about the funding of the arts. The exhibition, “64 Incidents,” is not only a collection of documents regarding the June
4 Massacre Beijing, but also a juxtaposition of artists across two different generations. It also presents scenes of the vast army of crossing bicycles on June 4. These out of-image types of Woofer Ten activities receive an impressive response similar to those of mainstream media coverage, particularly attracting the attention of Hong Kong journalists. They jump out of the supplementary and consumer guide pages that culture and arts are typically confined, as well as open up soft approaches to exploring social issues, policies to revitalize and preserve old cultural districts, and other avenues. Monthly, in Ming Pao newspaper’s “Sunday plugged“ section, Woofer Ten not only announces upcoming events, but also brings a humorous twist to current events, generating general curiosity about it. As for the Internet, in addition to blogs and Facebook, Woofer Ten has also partnered up with the Hong Kong Arts Discovery Channel’s (HKADC) net platform and participated in the fight to open the radio airwaves
of the FM101 station.
All in all, Woofer Ten’s exhibition planning model hopes to spur the creative thinking of art circles and possibilities drawn from the experiences within downtrodden areas. It also aims to stimulate the creation of innovative programs to provide inspiration to different communities and cultural groups. And, for the neighborhood audience, Woofer Ten attempts to discuss life with commoner words, believing that accumulated, long term, and sustained exposure is the unique advantage of an art space situated in a downtrodden area. With the rare space resources acquired by a location in downtown Hong Kong, Woofer Ten is happy to support the post-80s generation and other different social movement organizations. Woofer Ten crosses out of the narrow space of pure art, entering cultural and social movements who acknowledge Woofer Ten’s existence and
continue undertaking different types of cooperative
A year later, Woofer Ten has gradually attracted momentum with visits from nearby residents through mutual interaction and assistance. And with each event, it makes every effort to involve appropriate neighborhood participation, strengthening the natural creativity from these types of exchanges. Through affecting the people of the community, it provides daily participation in culture and art for the community, as well as links the perspective of culture and art. This enhances the appreciation and care that the residents have for their living style and space, letting them feel as if they were stakeholders with a sense of civil rights and belonging. This becomes a cultural participant’ s feeling of self-worth -- this is the key measure of Woofer Ten.