Academic journal article Afterimage

Negotiating Public Spaces: A Conversation with Members of the Stag Project

Academic journal article Afterimage

Negotiating Public Spaces: A Conversation with Members of the Stag Project

Article excerpt

The fight over Hong Kong space is one of utmost intensity, not only in everyday encounters. It is a leading point for many artistic practices and activist movements. Most public spaces are taken over and strictly regulated by commmercial companies and government authorities while less and less space is left to individually run cafes shops, Or art studios. Swiss architects, researchers. and artists Geraldine Borio and Garoline Wuthrich from Hong Kong-based Parallel Lab are especially sensitive to the Lack of proper public spaces in this metropolis and address the situation in their artistic research project STAG(2012), over the course several months, they invited people to reappropriate and see with fresh eyes what they Call the "edge public spaces" of Hong Kong, situate in between the densely packed skyscrapers of the island.

During its first our events, the STAG project the name referring to a mutation of a stool phus a bag, invaded Hong Kong's narrow veins and pulled participant into their vibrant buzz. Happenings such as an evening movie screening, an afternoon tea ceremony, and a nighttime DJ show introduced people to Hong Kong's back alleys in poetic and organic ways. Finally, independent but in line with the previous events, the multimedia installation Voltae (2012) brought a different dimension to this experience in the remoteness and quietness of the gallery space. Facing a video loop of abstractions, one was deprived of seeing any image except pure computer-generated light contrasted by deep shadow. Drawn away from the familiar pictures and immersed instead into vivid acoustic data, one's sensorium was retuned to receive a fleeting, yet intimate and intensely present story of the city. As Borio and Wuthrich envision it, the cityscape on our metnal map melts to liquid and allows us to color those uncharted black spots.

Borio and Wuthrich co-founded parallel Lab, an architectural and laboratory for urban experiments around Asia based in Hong Kong. Instead of concentrating on the big picture the cit they intensify the direct relationship between people and space by exploring the different modes of space appropriation around the world. Their artistic and research projects redistribute urban space on a micro-level by employing various media and designing plastic tools and mobile structures that are tuned to the specifics of he local cultures and thus engage people's sensitivity and immediate response. Besides their work at Parallel Lab Borio and Wuthrich are the Chinese University of Hong Kong respectively.

NEVENA IVANOVA: Let us start with a short introduction to your creative process and points of inspiration. How did you choose your artistic strategies and the ways to intervene into Hong Kong's urban space?

GERALDINE BORIO: Seven years ago we started with a similar project in Bangkok. It was our intention to interact with the city at a micro, human-oriented scale. Caroline and I met at the Swiss Institute of Technology of Lausanne. Switzerland where we were each about to write a master's thesis, we both wanted to do something outside of Switzerland. We chose Bangkok because there was not enough research about its urban development. Unlike other Asian cities such as Tokyo or Beijing, it was a Fresh case with a lot of things to discover. Another reason is that Bangkok is a young city and fast developing, so one can observe in a short time the changes in its infrastructure.

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CAROLINE WUTHRICH: The cities we choose to intervene in have a free form, apparently developing without urban planning cities with no beauty, with a certain mess, which nobody is interested to explore. What captures us in such places is the opportunity to observe with fresh contextual eyes.

GB: Even the Thai or Hong Kong people don't really know how to represent their own cities.

CW: This is also the key point in our original methodology. We take interest in cities with no written documents, so we go directly into the streets and observe. …

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