Cu­ra­tor-at-large, Spring Workshop

Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

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.

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