Taking part: participatory art and the emerging civil society in Hong Kong

Stephanie Cheung
/Woofer Ten's penetrative approach, and its conscious departure from exclusive forms of high art, make a notable difference; especially when art that complies with capitalism can be an accomplice of gentrification. Critiquing capital's numbing erosion of life in East Asia, cultural critic Hui Yuk argues that art today needs a kind of criticality that expands into society, and that the meaning of aesthetics must be rethought (2012: 16–17). In a discussion on the art of Woofer Ten, core member Lee Chun-fung defined artists as ‘producers of aesthetic experiences and dialogue’.24 The quote aptly sums up what the group has been doing so far. Artistic decisions – from democratizing curation to appropriating mass appeal, negotiating with signs/sites of power, experimenting with self-organization, actualizing social relations and giving people full respect and attention – have shaped processes that make sense to the participants and society, and have at the same time resisted inertia and oppression./
/Artistic logic enters into dialogue with a plurality of voices. It is only through being responsive, and letting the form be reinvented through participation, that this mode of practice makes sense. This history, as much as it is about how art enables people to participate in the social realm, is also about how art itself learns to take part./