instilling an undertow: micro-autonomous art practices and inquiries around P2P
Speakers: Linda Chiu-han Lai, Winnie Soon, Display Distribute, Yang Jing, Kwan Q Li
Organizer: Zimu Zhang
Assistant: Liu Lei
Host: the Institute of Network Society, School of Inter-media Art, China Academy of Art
In the 2020 Hong Kong government policy address, “Art Tech” was one of the keywords being pushed. It tossed a directional stone for policy and capital in the midst of a post-social movement and a pandemic-stricken city. Following this, new promising investments, university majors and art exhibitions, among other activities quickly poured in. Under these future-oriented waves, HK was promoted as a performance stage for Art Tech, which is “without historical baggage”, integrates talents well, and fuses Chinese and western culture. A more shiny and secure cyberpunk image. Beneath the warm waves, there is an undertow pulling back; an undertow of generative historical remains, people’s emotional influx, and creative and destructive grassroots techniques. If the essence of P2P network technology is to multiply our social relations and connectivity based on information sharing, it could also result in a technological divide, echo chambers and security risks. In the HK postcolonial (commented by Anonymous, 9:10 AM Today: hk definitely not postcolonial, hahahah, but just my opinion) society and emerging “Big Bay” political economy, the P2P spirit can be extended to the basic unit of autonomous practices. In an urban landscape of super time-space compression as well as a highly digitally-mediated everyday life, local artists are despite many obstacles constantly searching for the fissures amidst technological discourse, suturing systematic gaps in the nearby, carrying out micro-artistic autonomies from their embodied places. In the HK city panel, from the invited speakers’ art practices, I also want to suggest several threads for this discussion, departing from the “P”s in the “P2P” and combining it with a HK context: Pocket, Platform and Provocation.
Pocket: In an extreme, neoliberal metropolis like HK, the survival of non-commercial art projects along with artists’ income have been pertinent and tricky issues to solve. No matter how virtual art practices become, artists still have to sustain themselves in a high-cost space. Art projects focused around openness and flexibility in organization and community building find it especially hard to maintain themselves. Survival and sustenance is a fundamental economic premise. In the government and corporate-led art-tech march, this is also an issue of political economy.
Platform: How do we build a platform that is more open, decentralized as well as capable of trust and mutual friendship? How do we turn platforms more towards kinship beyond blood ties rather than as technological services for aesthetic commodities? The panel speakers have all engaged in many collaborative and community practices, they have been actively constructing alternative platforms, inviting an internet of different individuals and things to enter non-commercial, non-instrumental and more joyful encounters and collaborations, whether through the queering NFT project (the Forkonomy project co-initiated by Winnie Soon), an alternative logistics network (the P2P LIGHT LOGISTICS project by Display Distribute), fluid art communities (the Writing Machine Collective and Floating Project founded by Linda Lai), urban game spaces bridging the online and the offline (Yang Jing’s game design and community building effort in game gatherings), or new forms of human and non-human rapport (Kwan Q Li’s work on weeds, algae, and annotation).
Provocation: The panel speakers are all feminists, which is not a coincidence but an active decision. This is the provocation I push for as a city panel organizer. The official image of Art Tech has a grandiose, degendered (commented by Anonymous 9:31 AM Today: ‘degendered’ in this context means ‘male’ and ‘patriarchal’, hahaha) and scientific outlook. Under this paradigm, how do feminism, queer theory and other intersectional approaches contribute to technological criticism? In an all-encompassing digital system, how do we regard and challenge our own roles within different overlapping sub-systems (the art system, academic system, all kinds of institutions…). As an urban species of both individuals and groups, in a super time and space-compressed but also diverse multispecies ecology in HK, how do artists carry out cooperation and conspiracy with other humans and nonhumans with care and humor, so as to enlarge and diversify their “peers”?
In this panel, we equally hope to inquire, not just to display. For the daily practices of technological terms like the P2P, rather than ready answers, we have more questions. We are also faced with some obstacles that may be impossible to eradicate. So we will also use this panel as an opportunity for mutual confiding and listening.
（by Zimu Zhang）
Linda Chiu-han Lai
🔗Linda Chiu-han Lai is a transdisciplinary artist, academic, and curator of contemporary media arts. Her experimental video works explore Hong Kong urbanism and historiographic experiments, grounded in a feminist sensibility that integrates history, theory and practice as central to artistic innovation. Her video works have been exhibited at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin, Women Make Waves (Taipei), and different experimental film/video festivals. Her commitment to bringing art, humanities and science/technology together began with her founding the new media art group 🔗the Writing Machine Collective in 2004, with persistent curatorial experiments to define the criticality of cross-disciplinary thinking. More recently, her concern informs her research and teaching in media archaeology. With the 🔗Floating Projects (FP, 2015- ), she explores with young graduates concrete possibilities of survival and sustainability, focusing also on deploying new technology to form new communities. 🔗D-Normal/V-Essay, a FP initiative in the form of an online video zine, is Winner of Ars Electronica’s “State of the ART(ist) 2022” initiative.
🔗https://www.scm.cityu.edu.hk/people/lai-chiu-han-linda (CityU-School of Creative Media faculty)
🔗Winnie Soon is an artistic coder and scholar who was born and raised in Hong Kong. Their practice and research intersects with art and technology in the context of Computational Cultures, engaging with topics like Free and 🔗Open Source Culture, coding otherwise, 🔗artistic tech manuals, 🔗civic technologies and 🔗minor technology. Since 2022, Soon has been the co-editor of the Software Studies Book Series (MIT Press), focusing on software as a site of societal and technical power. Winnie Soon has given keynotes, public talks, workshops as well as published and exhibited their works internationally at museums, galleries, art/science festivals, libraries, universities, conferences and distributed networks. Artistically, they received the Expanded Media Award for Network Culture at Stuttgarter Filmwinter — Festival for Expanded Media, WRO 2019 Media Art Biennale Award, the Public Library Prize for Electronic Literature (short-listed), Literature in Digital Transformation in 2019, and the 26th and 17th ifva awards (Special Mention and Silver award) in 2021 and 2012. They are currently working as Associate Professor at Aarhus University and visiting researcher at the Center of the Study of the Networked Image (CSNI), London South Bank University.
🔗Display Distribute: Among several recent inquiries into the illicit movements of goods and people, the 🔗LIGHT LOGISTICS project organised by Display Distribute operates as a burgeoning distribution platform and travelogue in service of the channels between readers and ‘semi-autonomous’ publishers. Described as a ‘not-in-time’ enterprise, LIGHT LOGISTICS appropriates the surplus carrying power of a network of travellers within the architectures of global logistics, simultaneously creating other forms of encounter and knowledge exchange parallel to the print-based production of critical practices in art and theory from East and Southeast Asia. 🔗Elaine W. Ho, co-conspirator of Display Distribute, was named LIGHT LOGISTICS August 2016 Courier-of-the-Month.
🔗Yang Jing is a game producer, curator and researcher based in Hong Kong. Her work covers many aspects of game production and gaming culture. Her recent work, 🔗Forgetter, a narrative game, has won multiple awards world-wide. She is now working on multiple game production projects, ranging from literature games, to VR platformer games and motion-capture game theater. Besides game production, Yang is known for her long-time dedication to 🔗game critique and 🔗curation works. Her narrative output such as books, research papers and curations are widely available on various game media, publishing platforms and academic books.
Kwan Q Li
🔗Kwan Q Li : Coalescing 🔗lens-based media, installation, 🔗performance, and writing, Kwan Q Li’s studio practice examines the ambivalence of institutional, technopolitical, and cultural power through 🔗interdisciplinary exploration. Queenie holds a BFA from Oxford University, and a SM in Art, Culture, and Technology from MIT. Queenie is the recipient of awards including a thesis prize – the Stuart Morgan Prize for Art History (Oxon.), the Enterprise Poets Prize, and 🔗the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer Prize (both MIT). Her work has been supported and exhibited internationally, including at Thresholds Journal Vol.50 (MIT Press, 2022), Venice Architecture Biennale (HK Pavilion, 2021), Art Machines 2 (HK, 2021), Ars Electronica RIXC Garden (LV, 2021), IdeasCity by the NTU CCA and the New Museum (SG/US, 2020), Design Trust (HK, 2019), and more. She received a graduate teaching fellowship at MIT, and is currently teaching at the Master of Arts in Creative Communications programme at HKU.
|19:00-19:25||KEYNOTE 1||Linda Chiu-han Lai: Art <– –> Tech: an inventory of an 18-year-old experiment|
|19:25-19:50||KEYNOTE 2||Winnie Soon: Civic communities and Open platforms: P2P at the intersection of Art Tech and Politics|
|19:50-20:15||KEYNOTE 3||Display Distribute: Ultra-Circulation as Form|
|20:15-20:40||KEYNOTE 4||Yang Jing: From Game Kitchen to Game Atlas: Playful P2P community building|
|20:40-21:05||KEYNOTE 5||Kwan Q Li: Marginalia|
Organizer: Zimu Zhang
Zimu Zhang is a researcher, curator and moving image practitioner. She has a doctorate on ecological visual culture from School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong and a master degree in documentary filmmaking from Erasmus Mundus Joint master program Docnomads. She is the recipient of the 2022 Landhaus fellowship at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU. She is a member of the Wanwu Practice Group that focuses on ecology and art research in east Asia.
Assistant: LIU Lei
LIU Lei is studying at the Department of Cultural Management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as an undergraduate, with minors in Archaeology and Finance. She is interested in the social meaning behind art and culture since the historical period in the Chinese context, from bronze to political pop to art tech. She is a future culture researcher and a curator-to-be.