Fill In / 填充 #6: Sandtable 沙盆推演

Welcome to Fill In / 填充 #6. Suddenly it’s all systems go for us over here as the lead up to the Hong Kong pavilion in June gets closer! Having just recently started the first phase of reopening in the UK, we’re crossing our fingers that the lockdown lifts go to plan in time for the exhibition.

But we do have something to ask you, our wonderful subscribers from the beginning: To cut to the chase, things have not been easy for us in terms of funding, and after a long time debating in the team, we have decided to try crowdfunding ourselves. As funding sources for Hong Kong arts projects get increasingly pressured and removed, this has been the case for us too. In order to continue to have a Hong Kong presence in the Biennale, we have scaled down our pavilion, and the curatorial team have been working uncompensated for this project. The designers are also working with only a nominal fee that is far from covering their time and manpower, with numerous postponement and design changes over the two-year conception and development of the project. This is why we have started an Indiegogo campaign for the Hong Kong Pavilion, to ensure we can finish this project to the best it can be. If you have enjoyed what we do so far and want to help us grow, please do consider supporting us and sharing with your friends and colleagues. You can back our Indiegogo campaign here (there’s some incredible perks! Including a poster by Trilingua!) and you can see our feature on the LDB website here. Note: our campaign has now ended, if you would like to support us please see this page on our website.

_Watch_ _ 觀看_

As ever, 2021 has proved to have its own turmoils. On top of a year of racism against East and Southeast Asians in the wake of coronavirus, the Atlanta shootings created further shockwaves in the diasporic community. While most protests and campaigns are being held in the US context, the BESEA community has been having its own reckoning. The discourse is noticeably behind, hindered by the severe lack of education on British colonial history in schools, and by the denial in the reports and proposals coming out about controlling the ‘narrative of British history’ in educational institutions. But more advocacy groups are on the rise here, many started by first and second generation ESEA joining the ranks of more established community centres and support groups. Doing the rounds in the British Chinese community is Rosa Fong’s 1995 film ‘Red’, one of the few films addressing the cultural clash in British Chinese identity. Right now it’s available to watch on BFI for free.

_Notice_ _啟事_

On a geopolitical note, the news of global fashion brands withdrawing from using Xinjiang cotton (after the in-depth reports of forced labour of Uighur people held in the internment camps in Xinjiang were released last year) is one of the most significant motions in the fashion industry of late. We found this read from Lumi Hong Kong important and useful, laying out the reality of Xinjiang cotton in frank terms: 22% of the world’s cotton is produced in Xinjiang. But at the same time, cotton production itself is both high-maintenance and highly controlled, and intensely draining of resources, contributing to serious soil erosion and air and water pollution; While certifications are significant, the focus was never on basic human rights. As awareness shifts, there is further hope that consumption practices will change as well in line with demand for more transparency.

In London, we recently found out about illustrator Pat Wing Shang Wong on her project Barter Archive, documenting the Billingsgate Fish Market in Canary Wharf ahead of its move to Dagenham together with the old Spitalfields and Smithfields markets. Reflecting on her work in community projects in Hong Kong, this project also is about engaging and encountering the fishmongers at Billingsgate. As part of the project, she gifts her drawings with the fishmongers in exchange for borrowing their objects to 3D scan into the archive. So far the objects have ranged from characterful hats, boots and keyrings, to a sign with a pair of shark jaws on it. In June she’ll hold an exhibition in the market curated by Sandra Lam inviting performances by the fishmongers and displaying the objects and sketches from the project.

After a year of ‘doing’ research from our office chairs and laptops, it was a very exciting moment to find that HKU have digitised all the copies of Hong Kong and Far East Builder (and its various other names over the decades) from 1938 through to 1971!! We’re missing our libraries and archives, but it is a blessing to get to see some of the most important ones available to us at our desks too.

_Read_ _ 閱覽 _

Tiffany Sia, artist, filmmaker and founder of project space in Lantau, Speculative Space, just released Too Salty Too Wet 更咸更濕, a ‘’wet ontology’’ and ‘an oral history of tears, geography and necromancy in and outside of Hong Kong’. This is the sequel to Salty Wet 咸濕, a chapbook series made in collaboration with Inpatient Press, an ‘an anti-travelogue essay on distance and desire’. Tiffany references material culture often, proposing in the book that

‘history is a series of receipts, an assemblage of primary and secondary accounts. At a time when we’re so focused on huge receipts – blockbuster IPOs, luxury real estate prices and dizzying lawfare – it’s urgent that we recover digital receipts that are in the process of obsolescence and disappearance. Twitter posts and local forums like LIHKG tell day-to-day narratives about people living through this moment, forcing the question: what enters into the archive? Who are the legitimate authors of this time and place?’ 

You can read Too Salty Too Wet 更咸更濕: in an online exhibition Slippery When Wet, open until May 1. You can read an excerpt Too Salty Too Wet 更咸更濕: Leak as Discharge here, and this interview in Frieze about the publication and her film Never Rest/Unrest.

Just at the beginning of the year, Hong Kong typographer Julius Hui launched a crowdfunding campaign for a Ming-style typeface, Ku Mincho supporting Traditional Chinese and other languages like Hakka. As Florence Fu’s article on the project in Eye on Design lays out, the process has been complicated, after centuries of using Japanese metal types, phototypesetting, and many years of Chinese-language designers adopting the Hanzi from Japanese typefaces for their work. Clearly there has been excitement and anticipation for Julius’ project – Up until now, the goal of 4m NTD has been raised five times over (over £500,000!) allowing Hui to expand the project to commission Latin and Japanese as well. Nevertheless there has been some controversy about the design questioning the retention of ‘colonising’ typographic aesthetics – shouldn’t it have departed even further away from the Japanese Generic Mincho? 

While we’re not the ones to judge (after all, typography can be such an intensely detailed, theoretical practice) the antagonism is not an unusual dynamic, with typographic and typographer rivalries in history still passing down into design education today. But instead, we’re intrigued about the widespread response to rigidity in the discipline, seeing a rise in crowd-funded models that instead push ideas of process: Initiatives such as Future Fonts, where users can invest in typefaces by individual designers and small foundries as they develop the design, or Taipei-based Just Fonts using their platform to support the development of new Taiwanese typographic design seem to show a shift in the design approach to become more open and responsive. 

_Join_ _ 連結 _

We recently joined the current curators in residence at CHAT introducing their current project Reading Textiles, Weaving New Narratives: Virtual Exhibition on Textile Artworks of Contemporary Urgencies taking place on Instagram. With curators based across Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia, their process has been a fluid and collaborative one, working together to choose pieces for the virtual exhibition and mitigating the missing presence and tactility we crave in lockdown time. The exhibition can be found @reading.textiles, and look out for a video of the discussion on their website.

With digital platforms here to stay, there’s been even more enthusiasm for harnessing the power of the internet to exchange and disseminate as alternative education to traditional modes. This is especially as the world around us continues to perpetuate structures of privilege and oppression, belief in the ‘institution’, in life, in work, in school, might be at an all time low. Recently some of us signed up to Futuress’ online course, Against the Grain, hopes to explore ‘the construction of these systems, and examines the designed past and the pastness of design, brushing its histories against the grain.’ Registration is on a tier basis, but they have also introduced 32 fellowship spots for students from all over the world, with priority given to people of marginalised backgrounds. The course starts in mid-April and will continue on until June.

And the marrying of digital/physical (or ‘phygital’ as is the word of the day) continues through into conceptualisation in CHAT’s upcoming forum, Poetic Emergences: Organisation through Textile and Code, examining how both weaving and coding are processes of organising, interpreting and transforming information. The forum runs for three days this week, and will involve weavers, programmers philosophers and community workers in exchange ‘unique histories, tensions and more importantly, the poetic possibility of shaping change.’ You can sign up to each session here.

_HKDHNet_ _ 我們 _

As we mentioned up at the top, we’re back again in business as both LDB and the UK overall slowly wakes up again after lockdown. We’re getting back to work on our blog, and we will be introducing some more In Conversations with designers, researchers and practitioners we’re excited about, including the designers of the HK Pavilion coming to you soon! In the meantime, we have recently posted about the plentiful world of Hong Kong Instagram Archives, as promised in the previous newsletter. As always, please do get in touch with ideas and suggestions, and we would love to hear your feedback, and again if you enjoy what we’re doing, please do consider supporting our Indiegogo!