MA alumna Wendy Lau talks about art residency project in Japan

Alumna Wendy Lau (MA Design: Critical Practice 2017) recently completed a collaborative residency project in Japan, working to create a kinetic art installation with participation from the local community. The outcome was exhibited at Matsudo City Festival; find out more about the work from Wendy’s website.

Wendy shared with us a few reflections on her work in Japan and the current direction of her career:

“I participated in the creative programme PARADISE AIR in Japan with a financial grant from the Hong Kong Government. I was staying in the town Matsudo, only 30 minutes away from the vibrant and hectic Tokyo. I lived there for a month making art creations for the programme. I was impressed by the organisers’ passion and commitment to building a more vivid and cultural neighbourhood in the Matusdo City through art experience. One thing I have to mention – the accommodation and studio space I was offered was a former love hotel! The team started the programme about 5 years ago with support from the local government, and they revitalised the place into an art hub hosting international artists for residency programmes, as well as providing studios for local creatives. The concept came from an ancient tradition in that area that people paid for staying overnight by leaving a piece of art, not money. I found it really interesting and I was glad that they found a smart way to continue the custom in modern society.

To me, Matsudo is a less metropolitan and less commercial city compared to Tokyo. When I wandered the city, I sensed a warmer and more connected community. Quite a lot of buildings, architectures and traditional houses were well-preserved and renovated into venues for cultural events. On one occasion, the organiser brought us to a coffee place nearby. He told us the place was co-managed by various vendors. Saturdays and Sundays were for coffee, Mondays and Wednesday were for English classes, whereas on other days people might run regular art workshops. I was fascinated by the idea of sharing and also how well-operated it was. That made me rethink the situation in my hometown, where rents were dramatically raised and many shops were forced to shut down. It would be nice if there were more cultural spaces like that and people were more willing to share and take care of them together in the community. I also noticed how people appreciated nature and imperfections, and how they expressed their gratitude through planting. With inspiration from the Japanese Bonsai and Miniature Culture, I developed my project with the concept of life and plants, and ran several workshops with the community members before constructing an installation exhibited during the Matsudo City Festival. Visitors were very curious about my artwork and shared different views on life and nature.

This year, I have made plans to work on art projects around the world, allowing myself to be more open and to learn more about different places and cultures. Currently I am in Australia, developing another collaborative project for the Northern Rivers Community Gallery under the theme of “Environment Futures” that I will highlight in my installation. It has been a busy but amazing year.  I have experienced and seen a lot in different cities, and I think it’s about time to bring these back to my home town, Hong Kong, and help shape a more desirable place for living. It will be challenging, but I think I will find a way!”

Wendy has been previously featured on the Design blog with another residency project, as well as her graduation project from Goldsmiths.

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