鴿子歇腳亭 － 李繼忠 An Interview with Lee Kai-chung on his artist’s residency at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art（MMCA）and the subsequent founding of The Archive of the People (English version after Chinese)
（Y－忻慧妍；C－李繼忠）| 訪談: 2018.03 | 局部於《麵包屑》第1期發表，以下為訪問的全部。
C：2013年在SCM唸碩士一年級，當時已經很好奇香港社會運動的歷史。我們很容易可以在網絡搜尋到雙十暴動，六七暴動，或之後的八九六四⋯ 但我不想停留在二手資料的階段。我想翻閱政府檔案，所以我去了位於觀塘的政府檔案處 (Public Records)。後來發現檔案處的二手資料大概佔了館藏九成；報紙，刊物，或少量官員之間的書信來往。那時我專注找六七暴動的資料，在一個政治動盪的時期，為甚麼只有這麼少的原始資料呢？後來我才了解到檔案處只儲存一個小角落，其他一大部分的資料可能被燒毀，又或者很多1997年前的政治犯拷問或由政治部（Special Branches）產生的檔案都會被列為機密，在回歸前被運送到英國國家檔案館（The National Archives）。檔案處作為一個政府機關儲存檔案，但又有很多殘缺的部分，如果要進行公眾教育的時候，從這些官方的資料中可以著述的歷史是很片面的，然後我又想到公眾的參與性何在？公眾，甚至學者可以接觸和參考到所謂的「事實」只屬一小部分。
我已不太確定第一件作品是哪一件了，只記得當時找到一張相片，裏面有一個身穿拆彈衣服的人，以後有一張枱放在路中心，周圍有一些人圍觀。那一場相是來自於明報，然後賣了給南華早報（South China Morning Post）。我很好奇為何這個拆彈過程可以在群眾中間發生，我懷疑拆彈者可能不是警察，但照片描述卻列明是警察，哪為何可以這樣不顧及民眾的安全呢？因為當時報章之間，又或者偏向政府的報章和左報也有輿論自由，大家能擁有截然不同的意見，當時的報紙正正就是最好的宣傳媒體。我想像可能這張相片本身就是一個宣傳，拆彈者是故意表演拆彈這件事，因為想借此表達左派在街上放置炸彈傷害民眾的安全。之後又做了一個雕塑回應對這張相片的其他想象。
這次駐場計劃之前的一年，我去了光州雙年展參觀，發現韓國和香港其實有少許相似的地方，例如兩地都曾經經歷過極權，而有些文獻亦會因此消失。自從韓國有民主法，經歷了很長時間的民主化運動以後，漸漸形成以文獻監察社會的狀況，Presidential Archives 便是一個例子。韓國是個財閥支配的國家，政府反而是處於弱勢，這個情況是源自於八十年代經濟起飛，國家開放後出現嚴重的工業化，以致大量資源都落入這些機構當中，所以國家不得不尊重它們。
我對於他們整個民主化運動的過程十分有興趣，因為我想借此與自己的身份和處境作出一個對比。基於他們這個過程牽涉到如何將不同的文獻（政府、藝術檔案）很有系統地儲存，我曾經到訪過位於光州的 Asia Cultural Centre，是韓國其中一個比較重要的文獻庫，文獻庫所在的地點亦是光州民主化運動當中第一次開槍鎮壓民眾的地方，是個殺虐場地。當然亦有人說將所有房屋移走去興建一座文獻庫舉動是一種士紳化（gentrification）的舉動，事實上那裏並沒有很多紀錄民主化的檔案。我覺得文獻庫的架構很有趣，所以我嘗試向一些藝術館申請駐場計劃，到最後就決定參加這一個。
Y：你在分享會中*提及過作品與駐場計劃的必然性，你在前往National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art（MMCA）的時候主要準備的資料是偏向地域性的考究還是針對事件／建構上的疑問？駐場完結的研討會或展覽與起初計劃有所出入嗎？
Archive of the People－ https://archiveofthepeople.com/
*人人檔案於一月六日／一月六日在富德樓舉辦的”Can’t Live Without” 放映會及對談，題目包括藝術與藝術文獻庫及藝術駐場的模式。
Y = Interviewer Winnie YAN | C = artist-interviewee LEE Kai-chung (both FPC members)
Y: When did you start making the first work for Can’t Live Without? What chances and opportunities provoked you to delve into this series of studies?
C: I was a first-year MFA student at the School of Creative Media back in 2013. I was already very curious about the history of Hong Kong’s social movements. It was quite easy to grab a lot of information on the internet about the double-10 revolts, unrest in 1967, or June-Fourth in 1989 and so on. But I was not happy with just working through second-hand material and wanted to move a step further. I wondered if I could browse through government documents on these incidents and so I visited the Public Records in Kwun Tong. It occurred to me that second-hand material took up 90% of their collection. Then there were newspaper and magazines and an insignificant amount of written correspondence between government officials. At that point, my focus was on the 1967 revolts. It surprised me that for such a prominent moment of political turbulence there was so little information available. Later on, I figured out that what is stored at the Public Records was just a tiny portion of what’s available; the majority of the big bulk of material was probably destroyed or burnt. It also looked like information such as interrogation records of political prisoners before 1997 or files of the Special Branches had all been classified, and sent to The National Archives in the UK. Public Records is where the government stores records, but a lot of such records are elliptical and incomplete. From the perspective of public/civic education, the kind of “history” one may draw from these documents is very partial. I also thought of public participation and whether it is feasible or not. The facts accessible by scholars and the public are minimum and far from wholesome.
I was very interested in how archived documents function as a medium and how the archive functions as a structural framework. How do we obtain knowledge from archived documents? How is history written? I therefore started with looking for information from archived documents. I was extremely curious of the “blankness” left by the absence of facts. I felt compelled to fill up these gaps, and even more strongly I wanted to understand how the “blankness” was created and why. But what’s most intriguing to me remains an archive’s structural framework.
I don’t exactly remember any more which work was the first work, except that at one point I found a photograph with a person in a bomb-defusion vest in it, and behind him a table placed in the middle of the road, surrounded by some onlookers. That photo was from Ming Po, which was then sold to the South China Morning Post. I was very intrigued by how bomb defusing could have taken place with a crowd around, and I wasn’t even sure if the bomb defusing person was really a cop although the caption said so. It’s simply mind-boggling that the general public’s safety was totally ignored. I guess at that time the press in general, whether pro-government or pro-left, was entitled to freedom of opinion, and therefore allowed to hold different views. One may also say that newspapers back then were the best propaganda medium. It’s totally imaginable, to me, that the photo I mentioned was a piece of propaganda, that the bomb-defusing cop was deliberately performing that act for the camera, to highlight the leftists’ planting bombs on the streets to threaten the general public’s safety. Later on, I also made a sculpture in response to articulate my other associative imagination for this photo.
Y：Is this your first Artist-in-Residency? Why did you choose Korea?
C：Yes, this is my first artist’s residency program. I want to point out that before this one I have in fact failed in many submissions. I have applied for many artists’ residency programs and mostly didn’t make it. In fact, one time, I got a chance to be a resident-artist in Fermont, but finally gave it up due to my financial condition back then. It is also true that many residency programs are in place far away from the city, which makes it difficult for collecting historical documents and related material. For this and many more reasons I gave up several opportunities until this one in Korea.
A year before my residency in Korea, I had the chance to visit the Gwangju Biennale, and noticed many similarities between Korea and Hong Kong. For example, both had gone through authoritarian rule, which caused many official documents to disappear. Ever since South Korea instituted democratic legislation, she had lived through a long period of democratisation moment, a result of which is to use documents, or archival practice, to monitor society. Presidential Archives is a prominent example of such efforts. South Korea as a country is subordinate to plutocrats, and not really the government, a situation that emerged in the 1980s alongside the country’s economic revival and heavy industrialisation.
I am very interested in investigating the series of events evolving from the Gwangju Uprising (1980). As well, my reflection took me to re-think my own identity situation. From what I know, the whole process was very systematic, especially in terms of how they stored diverse documents collected from the government and art institutions. I then decided to visit the Asia Cultural Centre in Gwangju, which is one of the more critical archives in Korea. The location of this archive is where gunfire was first applied to suppress the minjung (the masses) during the Gwangju Uprising. It was a killing field. Undoubtedly some people think demolishing the housing altogether on the site to build an archive is a gentrification move. There aren’t that many records or documents on South Korea’s democratisation process in general. I find archiving as a practice very intriguing. That is why I started to apply to residency programs hosted by different art institutes. I want to be part of such institution processes.
Y：In a way you have intervened an institutional system as a foreign visitor. Can you share some thoughts regarding the difficulties/dilemmas in your research process, such as language, culture, and pop-up circumstances? …
C：In the beginning, I was expecting myself to conduct substantive research. Other than language, norms of the Korean system, too, were major barriers. Protectionism was obviously strong. It is not at all easy for a foreigner like me to have mutual exchange with them. As a matter of fact, it was difficult even on the level of getting the precise documents I needed. Even when setting aside language barrier, the administrative procedures involved in were highly complex, which delimited the amount of study I could manage in two to three months. And yet because of my resident-artist’s status, I managed to get help from their curators to get in touch with archiving units that were inaccessible to foreigners. As a result, I was able to observe how their Archivists manage the documents in their collection. You may say that I was constantly functioning between the role of a foreigner and that of an artist.
Y：In the sharing session, you mentioned your doubts for whether the final works presented are necessarily connected to the original objectives of your residency program. Before you arrived in the Nation Museum of Contemporary Art (MMCA), was your preparation more to look for regional differences between Hong Kong and Korea, or to focus on individual incidents and the institution? Is the post-residency seminar and exhibition very different from your initial conception?
C：As a matter of fact, this residency program sprang from my first short visit to MMCA right after the Gwangju Biennale. At that time, I was not aware of any art-residency opportunity. The visit was conceived solely out of curiosity. Fortunately the material I gathered from that visit turned out to be very useful for my residency application. As for how I deviated from the original plan, I have to admit I find it strenuous to comprehend the local situation. For instance, I proposed to host a series of workshop to get in touch with the minjung and, by that, as a way to intervene the system or other possible institutional frameworks, assuming that with the minjung’s direct participation, we may begin to interpret art from their perspective. This was a very crucial objective in the original plan, but after two to three months of intensive visits with different stakeholders, I decided that I had to shift. Therefore the entire project has transformed into one very much from my own personal perspective.
Y：Will this project of yours continue in another direction or other extended forms?
C：I guess my earlier attempts had been more sensitive to physical objects and what to do with them; and such emphasis was distant from my curiosity with the archive itself later on. An archive’ main components are images and written text, the latter taking up almost 90%, whereas my interest lies more in texture. This is why the moment I returned to this project, I spent a lot more time on relatively small sculptures. I understand that was also a matter of how much resources I’d got.
As to what the greatest impact is in this residency experience… I remember the two curators I met during the residency asked me two questions. First, given such a great effort I have put into exploring the archive, do I have the habit of storing/collecting documents, or the intention to establish an archive? I said ‘no’ on the spot, but I also mentioned the difficulty in doing archiving in Hong Kong, though I later found it might be just an excuse. So now i have a plan to build an archive about artists in Hong Kong. Second, how can I store my own things effectively? That is for sure connected to the first question. For example, book publication is one of the more effective approaches, but can my objectives be also achieved by simply managing my own work systematically? Ever since then, I have become more self-conscious and my works right now become more focused: every work is somehow a milestone of the same general direction. Systematic self-archiving is more my focus, and I have started to do less small-scale works.
(English translation by Linda Lai)
*Archive of the People’s screening and sharing session about Art and Archive/The Mode of Artists-in-Residence took place on 6-7 January 2018 at Foo Tak Building, Wanchai, Hong Kong, in the exhibition titled “Can’t Live Without.”
So Many Quiet Walks to Take (2016 @ Floating Projects):