Downtime: HK video art hits China

Hong Kong’s underground film collective Experimenta forms alliance with the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing

Video art has long felt like an afterthought at museum exhibitions and art fairs, hidden behind hastily constructed rooms blocked off by black curtains with minimal seating for viewers. But that is starting to change. Museums are building dedicated theatres with proper seating for both video art and experimental films.

Experimenta, founded in 2009 by Gina Wong See Yuen, founded the first site to see experimental video in Hong Kong in 2009. Originally tucked away in an alley off Hollywood Road near the tomato soup dai pai dong, and open only when holding art events, Experimenta built a quiet reputation among the young and the hip. Wong added to this reputation, creating the annual Pineapple Underground Film Festival or PUFF. 

Success has prompted a recent move to a more congenial location at 2 Monmouth Path off Kennedy Road in Mid-Levels, an area that offers access wider audience. 

“This year has brought big changes,” said Wong. “We are now involved with the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum in Beijing. Our first cooperative effort in September was a new film programme, Six Ways to the Senses as part of the Beijing Media Art Biennale. The exhibition will continue in Shanghai in November”.

Wong said she met a professor from the Academy at a panel discussion in Hong Kong a few months ago. He suggested that she submit some titles to the biennale. To her great surprise, all of the videos and films she chose are now being featured in the new film programme there.

Another new partnership is with the Beijing web site, Le Eco, which is striving to provide steaming video to China’s internet users. Wong said, “Putting Experimenta videos online will take away that gallery vibe, stark white walls and the attitude, and allow people to experience them at their leisure.”

Experimenta runs an international artists’ residency programme, which has hosted artists from Argentina, Chile, Germany and China, while artists from South Africa, France, Romania, Pakistan, Japan and New Zealand have shown their work in the space and in other art venues around Hong Kong. Wong added a video section to Art Central in March 2016. 

Video art may have been left out in the cold for some time. But Asian curators are now embracing its potential — and groups like Experimenta  stand to benefit.

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