Charcoal on paper | 2021
J: What motivated you to become an artist?
Y: I became interested in the arts ever since I learned Chinese landscape painting at a young age. I especially enjoy the process of creating works from scratch, the sense of peace and comfort while being in the zone, as well as freedom and satisfaction that come with it. Although I majored in painting at Hong Kong Art School, I always look to break boundaries and explore other creative possibilities through experimenting with various materials.
J: Why did you take “the body” as your creative element?
Y: “Body” has been a significant theme for me over the years, especially in performance art, as I wish to understand the body and soul of myself and others. I often feel the push and pull between my own body and soul, as if the soul is trapped within the body, trying to get free without a sense of harmonic coexistence. Thus, art becomes my outlet of these ineffable feelings.
I have given much thought on why I am keen on performance art and audience engagement lately. Perhaps subconsciously, I am hoping to find my hands through interacting with the audience. Moreover, performance art can present tension and conceptual ideas remarkably well, which drawings or installations alone cannot. Performance art is a collective experience. I hope the audience will resonate with my works, but even if they do not, I hope at least we have created unique memories by having them become part of my works.
J: Can you share your body learning experiences in Taiwan? How do they benefit your work?
Y: I was not fully aware of my own body in the past. To deepen my understanding towards my body and prepare for my solo exhibition “Body Schema” in 2019, I went to Taiwan and took the physical theatre courses taught by Taiwanese dancer Lin Yen-chen. She activated our body perceptions through various exercises, one of which was to practise walking. Before taking each step, we had to make sure we were standing properly. It was only then that I realised standing with a proper posture alone was so hard, and something as simple and fundamental as walking is not quite so simple after all. Through physical trainings like this, my body and soul become more synchronised, and I felt that my senses have sharpened, which enabled me to discern the smallest of changes, for example, muscle contractions when walking, and energy in a variety of forms.
These new insights not only opened up the potentials of my body, but also changed my way of thinking. I used to strive for perfection by following a plan. Having been more cautious and worrisome in the past, I have since become more flexible. I am also more willing to take on challenges, such as attempting long hours of performance art pieces.
Upon return from Taiwan, I started sharing my knowledge with others by conducting workshops on body exploration in the hope that people can slow down, focus on their balance, let go of body memories, and rediscover their own bodies.
J: What was the most memorable art project you participated?
Y: My recent performance art piece, Disc, might have been the most memorable one so far. It is inspired by recent observations of some people in the society who seemed shrouded in a kind of collective fear. To me, fear is as contagious as happiness. So I wrote words like “they/fear” on my t-shirt using photosensitive materials, and “Why should we fear them?” on my trousers, inviting the audience to read the writings on my clothes using an ultraviolet torch, to reflect on their own fear, and further to write their responses or thoughts with a black marker pen.
To me, performance art is all about the relationship between artist, audience, time and circumstance. I do not wish to be the sole creator of my work, with the audience merely there to look at me (as an artwork). Therefore, I keep trying to narrow the distance between the audience and me. This time, I let the audience decide freely their distance with me.
The duration of performance often depends on the atmosphere and situation, artist would improvise and adjust accordingly on the spot. For example, I chose to cover my eyes with tape when the environment was crowded, so that I would not be affected visually or keep my distance with the audience subconsciously. Interestingly enough, the audience interpreted the work from a political perspective, alluding the blindfold to white terror. Although this is not my original intention, I am still quite satisfied with the feedback, which to me seems to turn back time to 2019.
J: Any plans for the future?
Y: I will participate in this December’s JCCAC Festival together with other artists, presenting a performance art piece that challenges the limits of the body, in relation to “strength”. Through the use of elastic materials, it explores the connections between people and the body’s tolerance towards pain. How does one decide on an appropriate level of strength? Will people take into account of other people’s feelings? These will be the questions posed by the work.
J: How do you perceive the identity as an “artist with disability”?
Y: I think the label of “artist with disability” is not ideal. I am only an artist who happens to not have arms. However, I do not see this is a hurdle in my creations. Just like other artists, I always try my best when creating my works. There is no need to label me in any other way.