With the outlook to understand Floating Projects itself as a collective incentive, and to understand other collectives in order to be part of a bigger critical community with art in the core, Linda Lai wrote a personal “interim report” on FP 1.0, 2.0 and, projectively, FP 3.0. 黎肖嫻寫在據點 3.0 的萌生時刻。已知的，未可知卻可見的，「據點。句點」群體如何朝向更落實的參與式藝術創作？
**feature image: video still from artist WU Jiaru’s Parasympathetic Hong Kong, collected in Our Manifestos 2: Videography, Documentary Impulse.
*last update: 15 October 2021, 5:22pm
Floating Projects at Wong Chuk Hang, a personal gift by Kin-choi Lam to Linda Lai, 2018On-site water-colour painting by Pat Wong on the first Spatial Pressure Calibration event 2015 | 後南港島藝術區臨時草根青年工人們 2015
Ever since its inception in 2015, Floating Projects (FP) has sustained itself as a strange lifeline that is generally appreciated (by others), somewhat questioned (by its own players), occasionally excitable and nonetheless persisting in tightening up for the needs it should ideally serve. However I look at it, it has been a rich radical experience that is also a node of complex social relations. My envisioning of contemporary artists as multi-tasking art makers and facilitators consolidates; I also think there could be new ways to understand how a collective may contribute to the critical reflection and use of art without necessarily pointing back to star individuals. Enhancing the artistic career of individual members should be a natural consequence, but not administrative objectives, neither programmed nor as a program.
Trial and error … in good company…
I initiated FP in 2015 as an open project; it could well have been a self-sustaining charity cafe had not government land lease regulation restricted us. Vaguely, at the back of my mind, the question of how to understand art as always embedded in society reigns. Personally, it was the launch of my long-term research-experiment in participatory art. Teaching the course “Critical Theory & Socially Engaged Practices” once a year to undergraduate students since 2013, I have found it necessary to think along what I am teaching by doing something; it is also what Rosi Braidotti calls thought-as-practice. Participation, its historical and theoretical origins and the situated practices it indicates, is central to this course which I am still teaching this current semester.
Together with 13 SCM graduates and those from other art institutes, in 2015, the collective occupied a 170m2 (1,800sf) site in the Wong Chuk Hang industrial area to explore new models of art association beyond the commercial gallery system, the white-cube configuration, and public funds-dependent charity models. This phase, we now call FP 1.0 in retrospect, churned out a few categories of events by serendipity and chance encounters with FP members’ acquaintances, laying the groundwork for future experiments. In August 2018, Floating Projects relocated to a new repurposed industrial building in Shek Kip Mei’s JCCAC where FP 2.0 was launched, whereby “participation” through sharing of talents and skills was augmented by self-conscious international collaboration and networking.
I Dream of Wires (2014), film by Robert Fattinatto and Jason Amm, to accompany Video Forum + Spatial Pressure Re-calibration 0.00 curated by WONG Chun-hoi, 13 May 2020
Floating Projects has been conceived as an interdisciplinary and intermedia practice of art making in a collaborative environment that supports both individual and group projects. FPC member-curated shows are noted for falling between established categories experimented by FPC folks, such as Expænsive Cinema (Hugo Yeung and Bill Tam) and Sketch Out (Andio Lai, Jess Lau, Wong Fuk-kuen Winnie Yan and Kin-choi Lam). An experimental sound-making performance-concert hybrid genre, Assemblage, was invented, which recycled everyday objects to reconfigure human-thing hierarchies.
Accompanying rigorous mutual critique is an approach to art making that views a work as always a work in progress with generative potential for its next iteration. Each work, display or event is also meant to inspire and interact with works made by other artists, raising new questions as things happen. “Collaboration” at FP is not to be taken for granted: it is something to be tested and experienced rather than an ideal description. FP advocates artists of varied generations to work together, engage in conversations, and write about what they do. The impact of individual personalities, negotiable personal commitment and interpersonal dynamics are always part of the game.
Starting with FP 2.0 (2018), all members contribute to the monthly rent and general expenses. A new sense of ownership instilled, it has not always been pleasant to be sure, but it certainly led to a stronger sense of accountability – how to keep the space alive and functioning, what should an individual bring to the venue and how to design projects and events that benefit one’s own learning needs and long-term objectives, how to take advantage of FP’s sales corner and library to share new ideas and so on. The other side of the coin is equally important: what does FPC membership contribute to advance each individual members? What should they expect to take in this give-and-take arrangement? Questions like these may sound pragmatic — but why not? It is time we thought about art through the lens of artistic labor and its exploitation to subject permissive practices to refreshed contracts. FP members are aware of this on varied levels.
In FP 3.0 (renewal of lease at JCCAC in July 2021), I wish to carry on FP’s commitment to cultivate the space to stretch the vocabulary of art (and living) and to publish such expressions with archiving proclivities. The question of survival, sustainability and principle of co-individuation remains in the core of my investigation and, obviously, I am aware that we are addressing a moment of rupture. A re-assessment of what we have done may surprise us about who we could be against the broad social landscape.
What we have lost in re-location from FP 1.0 to FP 2.0 — the loss of our library + reading room
FPC players and what we do…
While Wong Chun-hoi, Hugo Yeung, Andio Lai, Kel Lok, Fuk-kuen Wong, Winnie Yan, Bill Tam’s Moving Moving Image, John Chow, Andy Li and Emilie Choi persist as key-players, the latest FP 3.0 (2021.09) just welcomed Martha Mai Hatch, Winsome Dumalagan Wong (2018), Michael Leung, Ray LC and Dory Cheng to bring in new visionary elements. Whereas Jess Lau and Cheuk-laam Ding are on leave outside HK, Kin-choi Lam, Kai-chung Lee, Natalie Lo and Wing-lam Cheuk had been key players at various points. Wai-leung Lai, our only paid staff-member, has been a devoted caretaker in sustaining our daily operation.
Together FP members’ skill sets amount to a long list of diversity: photography, animation, writing, videography, moving image production, coding, sound arts, hardware programming, carpentry, zine-making, installation, drawing and sketches, design, cooking, comics, web-composer, music, journalism, dancing, farming and more.
“The Hong Kong Way” (2020) in Quotidian Diversions: Kin-choi Lam in search of time lost, published as a series on Floating Teatime
Floating Projects is partly defined by space. With a smaller venue at JCCAC of 110m2 (less than 1200 sq ft), FP has steered further away from the white cube model to become a playground and a meeting point for artists, curators and writers, short-term workshops, and pop-up events. FP welcomes projects that do not conveniently fall into established categories, thus we have sound instrument-making for on-site playing, sound performance with objects, re-invention of obsolete media, which populated our first few years with self-invented event place-holders such as Spatial Press Calibration, WCH Assemblage and SKM Assemblage. Turning into a series are the experimental toy shows (Andio Lai, Wai-leung Lai, Kel Lok) and Ding Cheuk-laam’s Have a Balanced Diet, a video diary series in collaboration with FP friends. In a way, these are the prototypes of our digital zines as they are all archived in our in-house media library, ready to be “published.” We have never stopped churning out low-cost learning events; these include, among others, stop-motion workshops using smart-phones (Kel Lok), an easy-to-start 8mm film workshop (Andy Li), sound as artistic raw material and basic tools (Wong Chun-hoi), and a DIY zine workshop appending to an auto-biographical exhibition of zine-making and zine-collecting to examine the many ways an artist can be and as a social being (Michael Leung). These and more educational programs are all centred around individual members and their ongoing experiments.
Spatial Pressure calibration, 5 June 2016 (Wong Fuk-kuen in performance)
International networking partners include, in FP 1.0, workshops for FPC members by artist-experts who passed by HK, such as Theresa Mikuriya (photography),Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie (16mm film), Catherine Clover (sound walk), and Charles Richardson (3D photo-scanning into animation). FP 2.0 was marked by our bilateral writing-imaging-exhibiting collaboration with Australian young artists in Return Flight: MEL>HKG project (presented by Going Down Swinging, curated by Elizaveta Maltseva), followed by our overseas residency program with C3A (Cordoba, Spain), which has lasted for two rounds. Added to our list of overseas guests who generously ran workshop with us found Elico Suzuki (sound), Mario Guzman (Latin American experimental video), and visiting artists through FP’s own Elemental Dynamite animation research program. We have also welcomed many young artists in need of pop-ups, or whose projects require more dynamic and fluid modes of presentation.
Research on animation (in progress) + screening series (Linda Lai and Winnie Yan). FPC in Town
“Floating Teatime,” a writing platform on FP website which I have been editing, has continued to publish art and research field notes, critical features and creative writings. Contributing writers include Vanessa Tsai (Tai Chung), Zach McLane (US), Emilie Choi (HK), Natalie Chao, Yuk Hui, Hector Rodriguez, and PhD researchers Vennes Cheng, Michael Leung, Gyung-Jin Shin and Yeon-Kyoung Lim, young graduates Cherie Wong, Ryan Chung and, most recently, Elliott Wan, recently relocated to the UK, with his 10-part notes on HK’s indie music scene. FP’s own Wai-leung Lai has been slowly growing his fiction-memoirs of growing up in HK. Without doubt, Floating Teatime is also my own field notes platform where I jotted occasional notes of my research, thoughts on experimentation, as well as my often unclassifiable prose-notes-documentary poetry.
Floating Teatime promotes writing methods and styles that are not confined to the binary opposites of journalistic versus academic writing, and seeks to juxtapose the thought worlds of writers disregard their age, generation and background. Teatime is premised on a documentary impulse — to remember, to form thoughts into narratives, and to articulate experiences before we forget.
Floating Teatime may not have caught the attention it deserves. In my view, that could be due to a milieu in which the general culture is for fast or cursory reading and, understandably, due to the intended irregularities of speech modes, styles and methods of writing. But it is robustly growing. And it has retention value: many writings, critical, analytical, confessional or creative, deserve in-depth conversations, as Floating Teatime is an assemblage of individual memories and thought paths that stand by the experiential events and experimental efforts in Hong Kong.
Le Collectif, field notes series, On Land, by doctoral researcher Michael Leung on Floating Teatime.
FPC always in town, and increasingly outbound…
Two FP 2.0 projects took my research-investigation of “participatory art” to a new height — with D-Normal/V-Essay, a completely on-line video zine (since November 2020), and Our Manifestos 2: Videography, Documentary Impulses (2018-2021). The two projects overcome the “FPC Outbound” versus “FPC In Town” dichotomy by building cross-regional communities using on-line communication platforms. Both projects were possible because of two ADC grants, and one augmented by Hong Kong Jockey Club’s contribution, which enabled FP to move beyond routine activities to engage members as well as non-members, within and outside HK, in projects to attempt greater impact and more extended conversations.
Designed to be a quarterly v-zine, D-Normal/V-Essay started with the building of a sustainable on-line video essay platform. It has run by making open calls for videos with the following place-holders: videos on things and non-humans, detailed documentation of an art work, a show or a performance, thematic expose and expressive journaling, narration and monstration, and videos that explain the technical processes or algorithms of machine works. The project also aims to open up the use of video by refreshing the possibilities of the diary film/video essay, accompanied by my revisionist-critical attempt to re-cast the history of moving-image essays and their uses. In the first three issues (Dec 2020, Mar 2021, Jun 2021), about 150 works came from around the world, including countries in Eastern Europe, Middle East and Latin America. A published peer review process resulted in roughly 60 videos published so far. The titles of the 3 zine issues — “Ocular Oracular” (issue #1), “The Ultra-Realist, the Extra-Ordinary” (issue #2) and “Presencing – Becoming” (issue #3) — result from the selection of each round of open call as our due response to what submitters want to articulate. It has been a fruitful assemblage of ideas, from marginalized communities’ voices, exploration of on-line culture, historiography, experiments in dance video, to activism and interspecies thinking.
Our Manifestos 2 is a 368-page book project with 60+ videos from 49 artists gathered by open call, multiple on-line workshops and critique, manifesto-writing and rewriting and preparation of video components. Like D-Normal, Our Manifestos 2 also aims at preserving the space of free artistic expression. The emphasis on “documentary impulse” highlights the need to move beyond the established corpus of the documentary film as videography has become a regular part of contemporary life, and proactive remembering via new technologies. Our Manifestos 2‘s social turn asserts the existential needs to articulate and agential realism with tools.
Some participants (submitters) of the two projects overlap and carry on their connection with FP in other events. The network is emerging with different shapes, and all those remaining in the network share the same expectation: to have deeper conversations. Both projects, too, put me back onto the review of the notion of “minority literature” (Deleuze & Guattari) — not literature for the minority, but literature (for the majority) with minority usage. This, perhaps, could be developed into a general direction of deep conversations in future.
What is “participatory art” and what can it be?
The account established so far speaks of FP as a learning community. We learn from each other on the basis that each one of us is a centre of a unique mix of knowledge and talents. FP 1.0 was full of close-door workshops conducted by member to members, which gradually grew to FP 2.0’s trial of more open door workshops. Stretching our horizons resulted in many guest workshops. And in several key projects — such as “Algorithmic Art: Shuffling Space and Time” (SCM, CityU), “Elemental Dynamite” (FP with HK Arts Centre), “Exit Strategies” (H Queen’s, David Chan), “No References” (Videotage), “ifva Everywhere Carnival,” on top of “D-Normal” and “Manifestos 2” — we worked together “thoroughly” and affectively on multiple levels. Depth of exchange is a core value in participatory art, also premised on the notion of art as an open work.
The on-going FP events assert the artist as the producer, often finding herself at the insertion of multiple social roles – logistics manager, writer, negotiator, manager, maker, researcher, critic, juror, designer, interpreter, performer, counselor, community organizer, educator and many more. And how could “participation” be materialized to activate individuals on an equally rich range of cognitive-perceptual capacities, with the objective to uphold deep experiences?
Not only do we un-write ideal organization in the general outlook, but we purposefully incorporate the tackling of incommensurability, differences in skills and views, and logistic problems as the routine and the regular. Hierarchical structures are replaced by horizontal association — to keep minimum structure so as to preserve autonomy, mutual respect and ethical practice, not by default, but by proactive negotiation. Structured participation is indispensable — it should seek to turn the sheer task of sustaining a community for the sake of it into a series of new questions.
Participatory art is not meant for perfection or full closure, and I hope this is supposed to be liberating. I will not deny all the discomforts and inconveniences there have been. Our inadequacies are the marks of our living honestly, unafraid of facing who we are. I have been FP’s founder and initiator and remain so, but FP has many leaders, each operating in different tasks, projects and moments. Specifically, I charge myself with the task of observing FP quietly, writing about it, communicating with FP individuals, and working with them in specific projects. I keep wondering if it is too much to envision FP growing the way circumstances take it, while struggling to assert a specific niche I must place myself.
Participation is not to be confused with interactivity. The assessment criteria for participatory art, according to Claire Bishop, is antagonism. And what may “antagonism” mean? Antagonism must not be short-cut to activism; and it needs not be driven by immediate social issues. I share Bishop’s sentiments and propose that antagonism, in my wording, is about embracing conflicts and irregularities, and raising instability to reveal hidden structures of exclusion, in that sense, embracing the social, always.
FP has been burdened with self-narratives in many media interviews and art research projects. It is time we entered a fresh moment when other collectives and collectors of collectives can tell us who we are, especially how “eduction” — with all the burden and baggage of the term — could be deconstructed and re-conceived for a unique moment in history.
Performance by FPC, “Object-Subjectivities” produced by Linda Lai, 28 May 2016, at Cattle Depot (Videotage event)