Ma Wing-man, Mandy
Your works have been based on textile in the past and it was not until three years ago that you first encountered performance art. Can you share with us your experience with performance art?
When I was an exchange student in Switzerland in 2018, I befriended an advocate of performance art from Austria who happened to be an instructor at the school. I had been harbouring a performance concept at the time but lacked the courage to put it into action. And it was she who encouraged me to take the first step. She also invited me to participate in the performance art festival that she co-organised which became my first exposure to performance art. I never had further encounters with performance art or learned more about it upon my return to Hong Kong. It was not until 2020 when I noticed a series of workshops organised by “The Originals”, a group promoting performance art in Hong Kong. I plucked up the courage to sign up for the workshops to learn and practise with the veterans. My knitted work started in 2019, so it basically developed in tandem with performance art!
The content of your work in performance art are all related to the society. Can you tell us more how the art medium of performance art connects with the society?
We often do performance art on the streets, and those who saw it, intentionally or otherwise, became involved participants. Occasionally, there would be interactions and exchange, making natural connections with the location. When dealing with some works, I will interact with a specific group according to certain event through performance. It is like a gift to them and to remind myself or people on the occurrence of certain things or emotions.
Any interesting/memorable experiences from your performance art in the past?
Each performance to me is deeply memorable because the work is performed only once. Because of changes in environment, weather, the crowd and my own state of being, a unique experience will be formed every single time. A recent performance had been rather memorable as I inflated a balloon while lying flat on the ground and tried to seal off the air by clenching my teeth. With my line of sight completely blocked by the balloon, I tried to light up a candle. I kept trying to approach and touch the flame to ascertain its presence. After quite some time, I was able to light it. After the performance, an audience was in tears and came up to me. She told me it was the most beautiful and touching way of lighting up a fire she has ever witnessed, then went on to thank me. I was shocked, too, while feeling quite warm as this affirmed how the strength of the work was communicated to people.
What are the similarities and differences between textile and performance art?
For my creations, both knitting and performance involved repeated movements. A different set of vision and significance was borne from this repetitive labour. People are also connected through both knitted work and performance. The difference lies in how knitted works broaden my thinking by reaching a wider group of audience with people of different ages, abilities and identities. The processing of performance is more self-oriented, allowing myself to settle and examine the relationship between the self and the surrounding environment. The two complement each other.
Most of your knitted works involve interactions with people. What significance do knitted works have for you?
Knitting by hand, to me, contains the warmth, memory and touches of people. The relationships between people and things or between people are being sorted out and connected through collecting, disassembling and reconstructing. It becomes a place where emotions can settle and I feel safety and warmth just like a safe haven. I also wish to share this feeling and experience with everyone through the knitted works.
Can you tell us more about “Practising_____”, your upcoming exhibition to be held at PMQ?
The exhibition documents my performance art works in the past three years. There will be two on-site creations during the exhibition with performances, leaving traces in the form of installations and sculptures in the exhibition space. Through images, fragments and videos, I present the state at the previous performances and events in order to examine and respond to the changes in myself and the surroundings.
Can you tell us the artists who influenced you the most in your works?
I was influenced by a number of artists and teachers during my different stages of learning. There are many whom I like. My personal favourites include Francis Alys, Olafur Eliasson, Ai Weiwei and Tehching Hsieh. There are also many works by other artists that I appreciate. As far as art teachers are concerned, I was hugely inspired during different stages by teachers including Kingsley Ng, Momo Leung and “The Originals”.
Any plans for creations in the future?
I will continue with knitted installations and performance works in the future. As for knitted works, I will work together with some arts and cultural institutions in Hong Kong to lead different groups for creations and exhibitions. I will also continue to do performance art at public spaces to discover the public spaces that were lost.