Curator-at-large, Spring Workshop
Taking the role of assistant curator at Para Site in 2005 was the first step in Christina Li’s curation career. Under artistic director Tobias Berger, she quickly learned that a curator needs to “deal with all different sorts of people—the artist, the producer, the fabricator—how to manage people’s emotions and egos.” You have to respond to situations and “do whatever’s necessary to get it done,” says the 35-year-old, recalling how last year she had to fill in as assistant director on an artist’s lesbian kung fu movie. “You’re learning and having new experiences all the time. These are things people don’t talk about much but they are really part of the job.”
Hong Kong-born Li moved to Amsterdam in 2008 to take part in a curatorial programme at De Appel Art Centre (she now splits her time between the two cities), and notes that the main difference for curators between the East and West is the pace: “Europe is strongly funded, so the pace of conversations is a bit slower compared to the hectic mess in Hong Kong.”
In March 2015, Li curated a show at Spring Workshop, a non-profit art space in Wong Chuk Hang, after which Mimi Brown, its founder, invited her to take the helm as director of its residency programme. “We tried to become a platform and a laboratory for change and exchange between people,” says Li of the initiative, which offers artists residency studios and space for talks. “We basically try to extend their bandwidth because space is at such a premium here.”
Li describes the process of selecting artists and works as “informed intuition. You have a gut feeling but it’s not something that’s inexplicable. It comes from an ongoing interest or topic or aesthetic. As a curator, I have always been drawn to storytelling, be it in a painting, a performance or a book.” She explored her fascination with narrative in the project Stationary, a collection of short stories co-edited with writer and artist Herman Chong and published by Spring Workshop two years ago. “Through each exhibition or project I’ve done, I’ve felt like I have learnt something from it,” says Li, “and it changes me as a curator and a human being.”
Spring Workshop, which was established as a five-year initiative, is now in its final year of programming. It will enter a “planned haitus” at the end of the year—hence the change of Li’s role from director to curator-at-large.