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CHOI YAN CHI

Polytechnic University, she decided to make the job a part of her artistic practice and launched an experimental teaching approach. It was entirely at odds with the conservative Hong Kong education system, which discouraged independent, creative impulses. She led her students off to the sands of Big Wave Bay in Shek O Village, where she inspired them to make Land Art with light, air and space. Within the walls of the university, she developed early forms of installation art—one day the class even set off small fires, after which university officials began placing security guards near her classroom doors. While continuing her painting, Choi was also starting to dive into a rich array of interdisciplinary projects with poets, dancers and performers. The 1980s was the second wave of the avant-garde in Hong Kong, the decade of the homecoming of young Hongkongers like Choi who had been born in the 1950s and trained in the best art schools of the West. A new group of innovators—including modern dance pioneer Willy Tsao, filmmaker Ann Hui, sculptor Antonio Mak, experimental art and theater pioneer Danny Yung, curator Oscar Ho, poet Leung Ping-kwan and Johnson Chang, whose iconic Hanart TZ Gallery would open in 1983— was starting to make things happen. “These new seeds gave Hong Kong its new movies, modern dance, new music, experimental performances, new photography and cultural studies in its formative stages,” Choi wrote in the catalogue for her 2006 retrospective [Re-]Fabrication. “The hip slogan for art at the time was to ‘break through boundaries.’ We all wanted to grow beyond our own ‘boundaries’ of creation, and cross-media dialogues became a popular form of experimentation.” One of Choi’s major creative partners was Danny Yung, who had recently returned from studying architecture in New York. In 1980 Yung invited her to collaborate on his four-part theater project, Journey to the East. She designed the set for the third performance, Question/Problem, which was staged at the Hong Kong Arts Center. Choi built an installation of movable gauze screens, onto which she projected slides and drawn images by artist Yank Wong. Her creation provided the environment for dancers from the freshly formed City Contemporary Dance Company. By 1985, Choi was starting to smash boundaries of her own. She opened Hong Kong’s first installation exhibition, An Extension into Space, at the Hong Kong Arts Centre—forcing Galleries Director Michael Chan, as well as the Hong Kong media, to search hard for an appropriate Chinese translation of “installation” (they settled on zhuangzhi yishu).

Installation work, that is, work that steps outside of the canvas and the frame, reduces the distance between the viewer and the object viewed. Visitors, formerly outside of the work, are now inside. — Oscar Ho

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Creating Across Cultures - Choi Yan Chi  

These articles first appeared in the 2017 publication "Creating Across Cultures: Women in the Arts from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan",...

Creating Across Cultures - Choi Yan Chi  

These articles first appeared in the 2017 publication "Creating Across Cultures: Women in the Arts from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan",...

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