at 4:31pm on 13th November 2012
1. 藝術家衝上香港藝術館的平台，掛起橫額（攝影：魂游）Artists step up to the podium of the Hong Kong Museum of art to hang an over-sized banner. (Photo: Wen Yau)
2.「1001凳撐艾未未」行動，2011。（攝影：魂游）“1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei” campaign, 2011 (Photo: Wen Yau)
3.「1001凳撐艾未未」，花苑以剪紙藝術表達「釋放艾未未」的訴求。（攝影：魂游）Karden uses the art of papercutting to express the demand for the release of Ai Weiwei during “1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei”. (Photo: Wen Yau)
4.「423藝術公民大聲行」，2011年4月23日。432 Art Citizens March. 23 April 2011.
5.「423藝術公民大聲行」高潮之一——內地旅客夾道圍觀，「艾未未未回家」、「真相無罪」、「藝術無懼」等口號叫喊不絕於耳，尖沙咀廣東道。First highlight of the 432 Art Citizens March: non-stop chants of “Ai Weiwei is Not Home Yet”, “Art Fears Not!”, “Truth Is No Crime!” echoing through Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsim, thronged with Mainland Chinese tourists.
(Please scroll down to read the English version.)
要說香港的藝術家或是藝術工作者走上街頭積極組織遊行，因內地藝術家艾未未被扣留而觸發2,000人參與的「423藝術公民大聲行」當然不是第一趟。譬如說，自然活化合作社（自活社）於2010年因活化工廈政策影響租用工業大廈的藝術家而發起的「生勾勾被活化」遊行，300人參加 ；2009年由七個本地獨立藝團舉辦的「拾月當代」活動之一「宜家唔講等幾時 之 拖泥帶水人人加把嘴：一人一訴求遊行及請願」發起的一人一請願信帶到香港特區政府總部；2003年，文化藝術界亦有組織參與「七一遊行」反對23條，其後七一成了香港人每年上街示威的日子，自也少不了藝術工作者的蹤跡。
艾未未「被失蹤」的事件在本地和海外媒體報道下，不只讓香港社會大眾關注，也引起了藝術界的迴響。在艾未未被扣留一星期後，尖沙咀、佐敦及中上環的街頭出現了大量有艾未未肖像及「Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei／誰怕艾未未」字句的噴漆塗鴉，有報章指警方並非如常列作刑事毀壞案處理，而是交由重案組及刑事情報科負責調查。
4月17日亦有不少藝術家響應全球性的「1001凳撐艾未未」（1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei）行動，下午一時到中聯辦門外靜坐。當日適值先有支聯會捧著民主女神像到中聯辦示威，後有社民連為聲援內地茉莉花行動，從西區警署遊行到來並與警察發生推撞。相對有意識地靜靜坐在一旁的幾十位藝術家，胸口或有掛著艾未未的襟章，或是捧著艾未未的相片。我與友人點著小小的艾煙隨風飄揚化成無形的抗議，花苑隨手拿出紙張剪出一個個「未」字灑到地上。其他更多的只是靜靜的坐在一旁，連口號也沒叫一聲。衝擊圍欄的示威者，或是過百警察整裝戒備，與藝術家安守一角的表達方式，可說是相映成趣。
遊行既叫作「大聲行」，就是鼓勵大家「以任何創作、視覺元素、聲音、行為等等等來表達『發聲』這概念，或攜帶任何可以發聲的物品參加」。「我們不能不站出來，在我們還能發聲的時刻！」的呼喚，正好昭示了那種對失去言論及創作的恐懼。遊行當日藝術家黃國才牽著自家製作、與真人一樣高的「草泥馬」玩偶雕塑固然吸引參加者、市民和傳媒注意；程展緯也以土炮方法以手推車與膠喉管、白布等物料製作了一只大型的「白色恐怖蟲」。在「真相無罪」、「藝術無懼」的鮮艷旗幟下，鼓樂自是少不了，還有塗鴉少女的「Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei」圖像。從事行為藝術的盧樂謙把自己塗成一身紅色的「紅人」，余一心也把自己漆上一身的白再淋上彩色油漆沿路走。石家豪帶同他創作的有點像草泥馬又有點像艾未未的畫作走出來，王永棠拖行著如同發泡膠製的黑色大石一路走著，吳家俊也帶河蟹板車滑行著……各式其式的創作，隨著藝術家身體力行走到街上，就活像一個流動的藝術展覽；在大隊的鼓樂聲，與人潮中被帶上場的大大小小樂器的陪奏下，猶如一場有機合奏的巡遊匯演，用花枝招展的方式，安然平和地宣示白色恐怖下捍衛言論自由的尊嚴和勇氣。
隨後大隊移師至文化中心廣場外，在〈翱翔的法國人〉（或被稱為〈自由戰士〉）雕塑前舉行「特立獨行．自由表達——反白色恐怖藝文匯演」。最教人印象深刻的一瞬，則非蛙王郭孟浩在主持人朗讀眾多中國被以言入罪或「被失蹤」的名單後即興亮相的行為藝術「蛙玩臨」莫屬。蛙王揮動著從袋裏抽出的一疊疊白紙：「A4紙——當代藝術創術的盛載器，Contemporary creative message container，human message container，人類當代自由創作盛載器」，著大家把紙張分發開去給現場觀眾之後，「1……2…… 3……Creative Spirits Fly……創作自由精神飛翔！」觀眾隨蛙王的號令，把白紙飛揚到半空，散落到地上，又再飛揚到半空。如曾德平其後評述：「（蛙王）更把參與者帶離了示威現場，一同提升至精神的層面，縱然是那短短的一刻。那卻是人人共享的自由一刻。」 藝術的能量，正正是透過作品，展現想像。蛙王更是用行動，親身展現從一張白紙而來的辯證想像（既無內容，亦能盛載無窮可能），並透過一個如玩意般的集體行動，在〈自由戰士〉面前把想像自由釋放（set free）出來，在日落前把一個下午的遊行總結過來。難怪短短幾分鐘的展演，走了一個下午的參與者都頓然振奮起來。
《毛詩序》說：「詩者，志之所之也，在心為志，發言為詩，情動于中而形于言，言之不足，故嗟嘆之，嗟嘆之不足，故詠歌之，詠歌之不足，不知手之舞之足之蹈之也。」若詩是一種藝術的追求，當言語不足以表達心裡的情感，惟靠歌唱與手舞足蹈表達。正如社會學家賈斯伯 （James M. Jasper）指出，社會運動多藉儀式（rituals）建立參與者的情感，歌唱、舞蹈乃是常見的形式，透過「協同一致的軀體活動和身體接觸帶來必需的情緒感染」——「如涂爾幹（Emile Durkheim）最先提出的「集體歡騰」（collective effervescence），這些活動之所以重要，是它創造了，也把參與者帶到另一層面，讓他們感覺更非凡出神，或是另一個的現實。」（Jasper, 2008:192）
行為藝術與其他藝術形式不同之處，在於藝術家親身呈現作品，蛙王與「民」同樂的「創作自由精神飛翔」正是一例。而即使是藝術家帶備樂器隨遊行落伍而合拍或不合拍的大合奏著，大家也是透過與其他人一起參與，從共同行動創造及推進了集體經驗。如賈斯伯引述「社會學之父」涂爾幹之言，集體儀式及集會讓參與者覺得「正參與重大於你的事（something bigger than you）：你是歷史的一部份，或是你是合符道德，或完全屬於一個群組。儀式中的情感鞏固了認知與道德願景。」（Jasper, 2008:194）
自然活化合作社「生勾勾被活化」遊行於2010年2月20日舉行，從銅鑼灣摩頓台遊行至香港藝術發展局於鰂魚涌的辦公室。參見：社交網站「活動」（Facebook Events）：https://www.facebook.com/events/295473773123/〈四月一日工廈活化要捱貴租 藝術家遊行抗議被趕絕〉，《蘋果日報》A04，2010年2月21日。http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20100221/13747469
《環球時報》於2011年4月6日發表社評〈法律不會為特立獨行者彎曲〉，指艾未未是「特立獨行者」，「十三億中國人中，有幾個艾未未這樣的桀驁不馴者，是再正常不過的事。藝術可以強調無數例外，法律卻強調對例外行為的限制和管束。沒有艾未未這樣的人，或法律不給他們的『突破』設立邊界……http://opinion.huanqiu.com/roll/2011-04/1609672.html 同日，香港《文匯報》A9中國新聞以〈新華社：艾未未涉經濟犯罪正受查〉為頭條標題，惟新華社網站已把該文刪除http://www.bbc.co.uk/zhongwen/trad/china/2011/04/110406_aiweiwei_xinhua.shtml 同月另有〈艾未未真面目：五玩藝術家－－五毒俱全〉，香港《文匯報》A02，2011年4月15日、〈西方給艾未未的庇護太特殊〉，《環球時報》社評，2011年4月18日。另見〈劉銳紹批評新華社以文章抹黑艾未未〉，商業電台即時新聞，2011年4月9日。http://www.881903.com/page/zh-tw/newsdetail.aspx?ItemId=350513&csid=261_341
北京國家體育場「鳥巢」乃瑞士的建築事務所赫爾佐格和德梅隆（Herzog & de Meuron）的項目，艾未未為該項目的藝術顧問。
〈塗鴉少女啟發 塗鴉男接力聲援艾未未〉，《蘋果日報》A04，2011年4月25 http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20110425/15196442〈光影塗鴉表達不滿 艾未未影像登陸中聯辦〉，《蘋果日報》A10，2011年5月2日 http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20110502/15216492
〈塗鴉少女啟發 塗鴉男接力聲援艾未未〉，《蘋果日報》A04，2011年4月25日 http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20110425/15196442〈光影塗鴉表達不滿 艾未未影像登陸中聯辦〉，《蘋果日報》A10，2011年5月2日 http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20110502/15216492
〈翱翔的法國人〉是由卡地亞當代藝術基金會（Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art）委約法國藝術家凱撒．巴達奇尼（César Baldaccini）於1989-1992年創作的大型雕塑作品，並捐贈予香港市政局。自1992年雕塑於尖沙咀文化中心外的廣場擺放；後有傳聞指作品原稱〈自由戰士〉，創作意念來自六四事件，但因政治敏感而被易名被〈翱翔的法國人〉。而自1999年起，有藝術工作者以「一群市民」發起於六四當日自發到銅像前獻上白花，紀念六四；〈自由戰士〉這雕塑名稱亦一直在藝文圈子裡流傳。去年活化廳的「拜山先講——再問六四和我城」活動，於6 月3日舉行了「誰怕自由戰士？——重生儀式」，為雕塑重新命名為《自由戰士》——「透過重生，延續不斷當年的決志，為這個廣場重新定義，重寫我們廣場的歷史。」見社交網站「活動」https://www.facebook.com/events/105689369520729/梁寶山〈「六四獻花」活動的自我考掘〉，《藝文．三昧》網誌，2011年5月31日。http://samadhiinarts.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/freedomfigther/
James M Jasper撰：〈Rituals and Emotions at Diablo Canyon: Sustaining Activist Identities〉，載自《The Art of Moral Protest: Culture, Biography, and Creativity in Social Movements》（Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008）
《時代》雜誌2011年第178卷25期（2011年12月26日出版）。入圍最後五強包括（順序）：指揮擊殺拉登行動的美軍將領麥克雷文（William McRaven）、艾未未、美國眾議院預算委員會主席瑞安（Paul Ryan）與英國新任王妃凱特（Kate Middleton）。
Artists Taking to the Streets! - - 423 Art Citizens March and its Revelations
2011, the year that left an important mark of Hong Kong artists taking to the streets.
The 423 Art Citizens March, sparked by the detention of the Mainland Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei and participated by over 2000 protestors, was of course not the first time artists and arts practitioners of Hong Kong called for mass rallies and took to the streets. Earlier in 2010, the Revitalization Independence Partnership (RIP) organised a 300-strong rally “生勾勾被活化” (Revitalised Alive) (1) protested against new government measures which promoting revitalisation of industrial buildings, in view of its impact on artists leasing industrial premises. “Speak Now, or Never – one art practitioner on petition”, organised by October Contemporary (an event curated by seven NGOs) in 2009, concluded with participants each submitting a petition letter to the government headquarters(2). On 1 July 2003, members of the artist community joined the wider community and marched through the streets of Hong Kong to protest against the Article 23 legislation. Since then, the 1 July Marches have become an annual event, with local arts practitioners a common sight of it.
A group of 2,000 arts practitioners is not a small number of people (certainly large enough to fill up the seats of six performances at the theatre of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre). Hong Kong has been derided for being a cultural desert, despite the fact that there are always arts and cultural practitioners toiling behind the scenes without being known or acknowledged.. After all, during the colonial days, there was a general lack of enthusiasm about social politics among the common people, artists were no exception. Since the handover, however, social movements have become a hotly contested ground for post-colonial identity and subject realisation: the 1 July Marches are now an annual event; efforts to conserve the Star Ferry Pier, the Queen’s Pier and the Choi Yuen Village (菜園村), as well as the “Anti High-speed Rail” are all bridgeheads of social movements. Of them, last year’s 423 Art Citizens March was a most important experience for the local artist community.
Art Citizens = Art + Citizens?
423 Art Citizens March was the brainchild of Art Citizens, an ad-hoc group of arts practitioners who active in their disciplines, and enthusiastically take part in social politics or civic movements in recent years. The group has neither a fixed address nor an established organisation (there is no chairperson or convenor, only an overseer, contact person or spokesperson for individual events), and maintaining a great degree of openness (membership is extended to all art practitioners who share similar visions). Art Citizens came into existence as a result of the detention of Ai Weiwei at the Beijing airport on 3 April 2011 when he was due to fly to Taipei enroute Hong Kong to prepare for an exhibition opening in October. He was taken away by the border security and detained, and the Beijing police did not release any official information about the reasons for detention or any other details. They searched Ai’s studio in Beijing and took away records and documents. This was immediately followed by a string of articles on official media attacking and criticising the artist, which, as described by veteran China watcher Lau Yui-siu, was “a customary tactic of the Chinese administration” and “an attempt to defame and discredit”. (3) The detention of Ai Weiwei was perhaps an ignition point (and starting point). Art Citizens moved on to support other civil rights activists who were detained, imprisoned and deprived of freedom. As the name of the group suggests, Art Citizens is created as an assembly platform for artists to actively concern and participate in civil society.
Ai Weiwei is one of the most well-known artist actively engaging in civil society. He openly showed his care about the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 which thousands of students and teachers were killed by the collapsed “tofu-dregs” buildings. He organised volunteers to start a “Citizens’ Investigation”. At the time, Tan Zuoren譚作人, who was also investigating the scandal, was tried for the charge of “inciting subversion of state power” in Chengdu. Ai tried to testify at court but was beaten up and put under house arrest until after the trial. Still it did not stop Ai from releasing the name list of over 5,000 students who were killed in the earthquake, a list which the authorities had all along concealed. Back in 1978, Ai and other artists founded the avant-garde art group, the Stars (4), “in pursuit of freedom and self-expression”, which lifted the curtain on Chinese contemporary art. When he returned from his 12-year sojourn in the US, he edited and published Black Cover Book (1994), White Cover Book (1995), and Gray Cover Book (1997), a series of three books about his generation of 1990s artists, which became an informative work of art development of that period in print. Ai took part in the design of the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics, better known as the “Bird’s Nest" (5). He also participated in prominent international exhibitions abroad, including Documenta 12 held in Kassel, Germany in 2007. As an avant-garde artist enthusiatically participating in social and civil rights activities, Ai shot to fame and his identity as a “civil rights artist”, the same as his beard and protruding belly, has become well-known to people. Symbolically, the unlawful detention of Ai Weiwei represented the crackdown on dissidents and the suppression of free speech and expression, sparking concerns home and abroad, including Hong Kong.
Widely reported in local and overseas media, Ai’s “forced disappearance” not only captured the attention of the general public of Hong Kong, but also caused a stir in the artist community in particular. After a week of his detention, graffiti slogans such as “Free Ai Weiwei” and “Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei”, accompanied by stencilled images of the artist, began appearing over the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan and Central in Hong Kong. Instead of being treated as a general offence of criminal damage, as reported by some Hong Kong newspapers, the investigation was handed over to the Serious Crime Squad and Criminal Intelligence Bureau of the Hong Kong Police Force. (6)
Dubbed “The Graffiti Girl” by the media, the girl who started it all said, “I did this because I want more people to care about Ai Weiwei and those who went into forced disappearance”. Her choice of time and places – in the middle of the night; the International Finance Centre and the Avenue of Stars – were intended for “Mainland Chinese tourists who frequent those spots and politically indifferent bankers who work at the IFC.” She went on, “When you do something, you have to pay the price for it. If I get to enjoy the rights/resources the society gives me, I’ll also have the duty to pay for the price of my actions that influence the behaviour of others.”(7) Civil disobedience or not, her deeds were a very action to unleash the power of art. Indeed, this spirit was recognised and furthered by later incidents. The high-profile investigations by the police only served to spark a flurry of Ai-inspired guerrilla street art campaign: through the use of light and ingenuity, a photographer projected the giant image of Ai Weiwei onto the facades of landmark buildings across the territory – notably the headquarters of the Hong Kong Police Force and the People’s Liberation Army – which the artist recorded with camera. The photographs went viral online (8), spawning a host of imitations and variations by other campaigners. (9)
It is how Art Citizens came into existence, hastened by a precarious social milieu. If it could be said that Ai’s forced disappearance aroused the empathy of Hong Kong artists for Mainland Chinese activists and even those artists falling victim to political trials, it might also be aptly described as their fears over the loss of free speech and civil movements under the brutal suppression and white terror of the ruling authority. Art Citizens was founded on a simple and bold principle: “In support of independent minds, in defence of freedom of expression”:
The freedom of speech is not only necessary for making art, but also a constitutive element for civil society. We believe that the freedom to create and the freedom of speech underline that citizens can voice out and express themselves without fear. We stand against all forms of censorship.
We want to take up the freedom of speech promised by the “one country two systems” and defend for those who are deprived of such freedom, for those whose basic human rights are not respected. Nevertheless, 13 years after the handover, we also realise that the freedom of speech in Hong Kong is declining in light of the increasing political prosecutions without proper reasons. To defend for the freedom of speech in Mainland China is also a way to defend for ours.
The Manifesto of Art Citizens
16 April 2011 (10)
Just days after Ai Weiwei was detained, the first act in support of his release merged. Posted on 7 April, the online petition “呼籲立即釋放艾未未及所有維權的藝術工作者”(Call for the Release of Ai Weiwei and All Activist working in the Arts(11) initiated by a group of 23 Hong Kong artists, was an embryonic form of Art Citizens. It was followed by the Hong Kong Arts Discovery Channel, which called for photographs of people paying homage to Ai’s Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), by sending in full-length images of themselves dropping objects of their choice (before the objects hit the ground and shatter) symbolised liberation. A collage of the photos collected was published in Ming Pao on 10 April. On the same day, dozens of arts practitioners joined in the march from the Western Police Station to the Chinese Liaison Office organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Alliance).
Also by of Art Citizens, a “MISSING” poster featuring a portrait of Ai Weiwei taken by photographer Almond Chu began to pop up in galleries and art spaces across Hong Kong. The “日日掛住艾未未行動” (Missing Ai Weiwei Everyday)(12) campaign put out a fundraising badge bearing the image of the missing person for members of the public to “adopt”. On the 16th and 22nd of April (the day before the 423 Art Citizens March), street stands were set up in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay to explain to the public about Ai Weiwei and the Graffiti Girl.
Local artists responded to the global movement of “1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei”(13) by each bringing a chair to the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government for a silent sit-in protest at 1pm on 17 April. Sharing the site of protests were members of the Alliance who were trying to erect a replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue in front of the office, as well as protestors from the League of Social Democrats who, arriving from the Western Police Station across the street, turned up to show support for the Jasmine Movement demonstrations in Mainland China and clashed with the police outside the office, It was a stark contrast to the artist corner nearby: several dozens of sit-in artists, quiet but full of intent: some of them were wearing the Ai Weiwei badges on their lapels and others were holding photographs of the artist in their hands, my friends and I lit small moxa cones (Moxa share the same sound of “Ai” in Chinese), sending our silent protests in wafts of smoke; Karden, a fellow artist, took out a piece of paper and started to cut out shapes of the Chinese character, Wei, which she then scattered on the ground. The majority of us just stayed silent and sat down on one side, without as much as a single shout of a slogan. The image of protestors trying to break through the lines of over one hundred of geared-up police officers presented an interesting contrast to the one of artists sitting contentedly in their own corner.
The artistic power of protest
Brought together by this chain of actions and a collective sentiment, the 423 Art Citizens March and its 2,000-strong procession began marching through the busiest streets across the heart of the city on 23 April 2011, from the Mong Kok Pedestrian Walkway through Nathan Road and Canton Road before arriving at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Together, the protestors created a beautiful, uplifting experience. A rally of 2,000 art practitioners is a drop in the ocean comparing to the 1 July March which attended by hundreds of thousands of protestors. However, it was the first time for art practitioners to take to the streets, doing it without the involvement and mobilisation of any political parties(14), walking in an orderly march, speaking with a united voice in the defence of free speech and artistic creation. The march naturally made headlines the following day, with many articles shining the spotlight on the touches of creative ingenuity the artists brought to it.
“大聲行”, the Chinese name of the rally, “a voiceful march” literally, urged: “We call for your action, with any form of art – visual, sound, performance and more – to express your idea of ‘VOICE OUT’ or making sound”(15) Their slogans, “WE CANNOT BUT STAND UP AND VOICE OUT NOW, AT THIS VITAL MOMENT WHEN WE STILL CAN”(16) revealed the very fear of losing the freedom of speech and artistic creation. Among the protesters in the march was Kacey Wong, leading his life-size model sculpture of the “Caonima”(17), which became the centre of attention for fellow protesters, members of the public and the media. There was also Luke Ching with his “White Terror Bug”, a large-scale model made up of a handcart, plastic pipes and white cloth put together with backyard methods. In a sea of brightly-coloured flags of “真相無罪” (Truth Is Sinless) and “藝術無懼” (Art Fears Not), the rhythmical sounds of beating drums undulated, and there were of course the Graffiti Girl’s stencilled images of “Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei”. Performance artists Him Lo turned him into “Red Man” with a coat of red paint, while Kitty Or painted herself in white and splashed over her body other paints of bright colours. Wilson Shieh brought with him a portrait which looked like a hybrid of Caonima and Ai Weiwei. Wong Wing-tong was dragging a big black (possibly styrofoam) rock along the way. Ng Ka-chun was sliding forward on his “River Crab / Harmony” cart… The array of creations, taking to the streets on the heels of the artists, made for a mobile art exhibition. The drumbeats and music of the central procession, accompanied by the sounds of the instruments big and small brought by the protestors, composed an organic symphony for the parade gala. Boisterous in style, calm and peaceful in form, it was an extraordinary show of dignity and courage in a declaration to defend the freedom of speech in the face of White Terror.
This expression of dignity and courage reached greater heights when the procession came to Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. “Ai Weiwei is Not Home Yet!”, “Truth Is Sinless!”, “Art Fears Not!” were being shouted unceasingly. Mainland Chinese tourists thronged the streets and watched. Some pressed the shutters, others had quizzical expressions upon their faces, and some wanted to find out who Ai Weiwei was. A number of protestors were handing out flyers, while others stopped and explained to those tourists. Spirits were high among the leaders and slogan-chanters of the procession; and the drumbeats and sounds from the procession became vigorously louder. With the exception of the Lunar New Year parade, there had not been another procession in the territory that came out in such a full force. If the annual 1 July marches, which always begin from the Victoria Park (an emblem of colonial history), and end at the HKSAR government headquarters (symbol of sovereignty), were a platform for post-colonial subject realisation of Hong Kong people after the handover, the 423 Art Citizens March would be a more conscious and conscientious act in the ways the protesters marched through the busy districts of Mong Kong and Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui (landmarks of consumerism), and arrived at an everyday cultural site (the Hong Kong Cultural Centre) (18), leveraging the power and influence of art to expose the underlying issues of country and sovereignty, while conveying to their countrymen on the mainland such political ideas as the freedom of speech.
But what is “artistic power”? When the rally reached the Cultural Centre on the harbour front, several artists rushed to the podium of the Hong Kong Museum of art and hung up a banner as a backdrop, an act akin to hijacking the official temple of art, which has all along been apolitical – if art is a way to criticise the status quo, these artists of our time were taking a direct action to express their dissatisfaction with the institution at this everyday art/cultural site, and even endowed it with new imagination and meaning instantly.
The rally then proceeded to the piazza of the Cultural Centre and held the “Independent Minds . Free Expression — Anti White Terror Art Performances” in front of The Flying Frenchman (aka The Freedom Fighter) (19).The most memorable moment came when Frog King (aka Kwok Mang-ho) read out a list of names of people accused of speech crime or silenced by “forced disappearance”, followed by his impromptu act of “Frog Fun Lum”(20): Frog King, waving wads of A4 paper which he extracted from his bag, announced, “A4 paper – a contemporary creative message container, a human message container!”, urging fellow artists to pass the sheets of paper on to the audience. “1, 2, 3, Creative Spirits Fly!” Taking the cue, the audience threw the sheets up in the air, watched them fall and scatter on the ground and fly off in the air again.(21) Recalling the event, Kith Tsang said, “[Frog King] led protestors away from the demonstration area, and together, they transcend to a higher spiritual level. It was a brief moment, but a moment of freedom shared by all.”(22) The power of art is such that it demonstrates imagination through the works of art. Frog King took a step further, using action to personally demonstrate a dialectical imagination with a sheet of paper (without contents, yet infinite possibilities contained). Through a playful collective action, he set free the imagination in front of “The Freedom Fighter” and concluded an afternoon of protest before the setting sun. It was little wonder that a performance done in a matter of a few minutes was all it took to reinvigorate the spirit of the protestors after an exhausting afternoon.
In The Book of Poetry, it is said: “Poetry is the product of earnest thought. Thought cherished in the mind becomes earnest; then expressed in words, it becomes poetry. The feelings move inwardly, and are embodied in words. When words are insufficient for them, recourse is had to sighs and exclamations. When sighs and exclamations are insufficient for them, recourse is had to the prolonged utterance of song. When this again is insufficient, unconsciously the hands begin to move and the feet to dance.” (Translation by James Legge) If poetry is an artistic pursuit, and when words are not enough to express emotions of the heart, then one would have to recourse to songs and moving hands and dancing feet. In the same vein, sociologist James M. Jasper stated: “Singing and dancing are two activities often found in rituals, providing the requisite emotional charge through music, coordinated physical activity, and bodily contact. Since Emile Durkheim first described ‘collective effervescence’, it has been clear that these activities are crucial in creating it, in transporting participants onto another plane, into what they feel is a more ethereal, or at any rate different, reality.”(23) (Jasper, 2008:192)
What differentiates performance art from other art forms is that the artist works in-situ, using his body to present his art. “The Spirit of Creative Freedom Takes Flight” presented by Frog King in collaboration with “his people” (the audience) is a case in point. For those artists in the procession playing their instruments in a symphony of sounds, in unison or otherwise, keeping up or falling behind, they too were engaging in a collective act of creation and furthering a collective experience through joint participation with fellow protestors. Quoting Durkheim, Jasper went on to explain that collective rituals and gatherings suggest that “you are participating in something bigger than you: you are a part of history, or you are morally sanctioned, or you truly belong to a group. The emotions of rituals reinforce cognitive and moral visions as well.”(24)(Jasper, 2008:194)
Identity awareness of artists /art practitioners
From the anxiety over the loss of free speech, to the empathy for civil rights activists deprived of their freedom, people are elevated to a higher level of “bigger than you” through demonstrations and rallies – these are social politics and moral values founded on the belief of freedom and equal rights for all. Artists working in Hong Kong, and perhaps Hong Kong people in general, under the social conditions of post-handover Hong Kong (still enjoying a relatively greater degree of freedom of speech and assembly), have recourse to different forms of artistic expressions (art forms such as painting, sculpture, performance art, musical performance, sound art, and the performativity of demonstrations) and join forces in the hope of, in the words of the Graffiti Girl, “influencing others” – not only among fellow protestors but also reaching out in person to Mainland Chinese tourists, deliberately conveying to them cases that had been concealed from them on the Mainland. Was it not a process of constructing a cultural identity by the people of Hong Kong (at least art practitioners of Hong Kong) after the handover? Consolidating their unique position (Hong Kong as a Chinese city that still allows a relatively greater degree of freedom of speech and assembly; art practitioners engage in civil society by artistic means and turn from an neglected group into a visible one), as well as performing the civil duties of a Chinese citizen by spreading such political beliefs as freedom and human rights, protesters reveal fully what they are during the 423 Art Citizens March.
What is particularly interesting is that, in the same year , the Civil Human Rights Front, organisers of the July 1 Marches were told by the police that no music could be played during the demonstration. The music ban caused a furore, with Art Citizens joining hands with music spaces and groups such as Hidden Agenda and Revitalization Independence Partnership, organised the Art Citizens Musical March 2011. Donning imitations of Mainland police outfits, demonstrators were playing music as they marched along, declared once again: “Freedom of artistic creation and space of expression are under imminent threat”(25). This form of art adopted by Art Citizens in demonstrations and protests lives on by evolving into an even more ritualised way (specific role playing and dressing up)(26). How do these rituals, as an act of art with its unique way, construct, perform and strengthen the identity of art practitioners and Hong Kong people?
In fact, the past few years have seen local artists (the young post-80s generation in particular) actively participating in social movements: “Art Action to Conserve the Star Ferry Clock Tower" (27) held consecutive Sundays (2006); the Complaints Choir of Hong Kong (2009-10) and their compositions with lyrics adapted from complaints gathered form the public; the Post 80s Anti-Express Railway campaign with their “Satyagraha Walk across Five Districts” (2009–10) in which protestors prostrated themselves every 26 steps of the way; “Woodstock at Choi Yuen Village” and related exhibitions and performances held amid the remnants of Choi Yuen Village, the site cleared to make way for the construction of the express railway. In their own creative ways, these actions and events “use genuine emotions, daring words and inspiring street art activities… in place of formulaic traditional demonstrations and silent sit-ins”(28). (Jeff Leung, Lee Chun-fung, 2011). As a platform for art practitioners in civil society, Art Citizens is like a “home away from an artist’s home”. As an act of and approach to art, how did the different forms of taking to the streets adopted by these artist–protesters – be they traditional demonstrations and processions, or raising issues and protests in artistic ways and activities – lead to the exploration and realisation of a post-handover and colonial identity through ritualised performance? What are the aesthetics involved?
Time magazine named “The Protester” its 2011 Person of the Year (Ai Weiwei was selected as one of the four runner-up candidates (29). In the same year, the Hong Kong Economic Journal awarded “protesting artists” the accolade of “People of Culture of the Year in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan”(30). Does time make heroes, or has Protest already established itself as an unstoppable current of time?
Out in the streets, artists and art practitioners have developed a consciousness of being “a part of history”, so there is probably more action to come. How will these actions align themselves with the development of Hong Kong’s civil society and (collective) identity? Will art be a means of action, or will actions evolve into art and something more? Since the movement is just unfolding, let us wait and see. After all, there is plenty of retrospection, exploration and examination to do.
 “Revitalised Alive”, organised by the Revitalization Independence Partnership, was held on 20 February 2010. The rally started from Moreton Terrace in Causeway and ended at the Office of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council in Quarry Bay. For details, see: Facebook Events: https://www.facebook.com/events/295473773123/ “四月一日工廈活化要捱貴租 藝術家遊行抗議被趕絕” (Rent Hike Caused by April 1 Industrial Buildings Revitalisation, Artists Fear Wipe-out and Take to the Streets) , Apple Daily (A04), 21 February 2010. (In Chinese) http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20100221/13747469
 Held on 25 October 2009, starting from Charter Garden and ending at the Central Government Offices. Facebook Events: https://www.facebook.com/events/153438739747/ For more information on October Contemporary in 2009, see Chan Yuk-keung Kurt (ed): Hong Kong Visual Arts Yearbook 2009 (Hong Kong: Department of Fine Arts, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2010), pp343-348.
The Global Times editorial, “Law will not concede before maverick”, on 6 April 2011, called Ai Weiwei “a maverick of Chinese society”, and said: “In such a populous country as China, it is normal to have several people like Ai Weiwei. But it is also normal to control their behaviors by law. In China, it is impossible to have no persons like Ai Weiwei or no ‘red line’ for them in law….” (In Chinese) http://www.globaltimes.cn/opinion/editorial/2011-04/641187.html On the same day, Wen Wei Po of Hong Kong published an article with the headline, “新華社：艾未未涉經濟犯罪正受查” (Xinhua News: Ai Weiwei under investigation for tax evasion), but the article was later deleted from the Xinhua News website. Similar articles published in the same month included: “艾未未真面目：五玩藝術家－－五毒俱全”(True face of Ai Weiwei: Artist of Five Arts – and Five Poisons), Wen Wei Po (A02), 15 April 2011; “西方給艾未未的庇護太特殊”(West’s support of Ai Weiwei abnormally), Global Times Editorial, 18 April 2011. All are in Chinese. See also “劉銳紹批評新華社以文章抹黑艾未未” (Lau Yui-siu Criticises Xiuhua for Smearing Ai Weiwei), Commercial Radio Hong Kong Instant News, 9 April 2011. In Chinese. http://www.881903.com/page/zh-tw/newsdetail.aspx?ItemId=350513&csid=261_34
 Official website of The Stars: http://www.thestarsart.com/
 The Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron was commissioned to build the Beijing National Stadium; Ai was appointed artistic consultant for design.
 “少女塗鴉撐艾未未 重案組政治大搜捕”(Graffiti Girl Supports Ai Weiwei, Hounded by Serious Crime Squad), Apple Daily (A01), 15 April 2011. In Chinese. http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/first/20110415/15169662
 Interview by Yip Po-lam Bobo, “什麼人訪問什麼人：我的塗鴉 最想給內地人和銀行家看” (My graffiti is for mainlanders and bankers”), in Sunday Mingpao, Ming Pao (P01), 25 April 2011. In Chinese.
 “光影塗鴉艾未未 挑戰警方升級”(Light Graffiti of Ai Weiwei Challenge Police to Step up Enforcement”, Oriental Daily News (A04), 29 April 2011. In Chinese. http://orientaldaily.on.cc/cnt/news/20110429/00176_007.html
 “塗鴉少女啟發 塗鴉男接力聲援艾未未” (Inspired by Graffiti Girl, Graffiti Boy joins relay in Ai Weiwei campaign), Apple Daily (A04), 25 April, 2011. In Chinese. http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20110425/15196442 “光影塗鴉表達不滿 艾未未影像登陸中聯辦” (Light Graffiti Voices Dissatisfaction, Ai Weiwei Portrait Lands on Chinese Liaison Office), Apple Daily (A10), 2 May 2011. In Chinese: http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20110502/15216492
 The Manifesto of Art Citizens: https://www.facebook.com/pages/藝術公民-Art-Citizens/179399555442195?sk=info Also released via email on 16 April 2011.
[11 ]Online petition, “呼籲立即釋放艾未未及所有維權的藝術工作者” (Call for the Release of Ai Weiwei and All Activist working in the Arts), in Chinese. http://www.gopetition.com/petition/44527.html
 Facebook Events: “Missing Ai Weiwei Everyday” (日日掛住艾未未行) https://www.facebook.com/events/180731945308528/
 A response to “1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei” was, an online-project initiated by the international non-profit arts community Creative Time. The campaign re-enacted and reference the spirit of Ai Weiwei’s Fairytale: 1001 Qing Dynasty Wooden Chairs – an installation comprising 1001 late Ming and Qing Dynasty wooden chairs exhibited at Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany in 2007. Creative Time invited artists and supporters from all over the worlds to participate in the campaign by bringing a chair and gathering outside Chinese embassies and consulates to sit peacefully in support of the artist’s immediate release at 1pm local time on April 17. (http://www.creativetime.org/news_feed/96). Hong Kong was the only Chinese city where a sit-in protest was held publicly, in front of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (commonly called the Chinese Liaison Office). Facebook Events: https://www.facebook.com/events/215297865150062/
At the front of the march on the same day were dozens of protestors from the League of Social Democrats, who were carrying banners and donning V for Vendetta masks. LegCo member Cyd Ho, who was not affiliated to any political party at the time, was present at the march from start to finish. However, there had not been any political involvement or mobilisation throughout the preparation of the march.
 Publicity material of “423 Art Citizens March” Facebook Events: https://www.facebook.com/events/180507695330873/
 The Caonima (literally “Grass Mud Horse”), its origin unknown, is a name derived from a profanity and used as a form of symbolic defiance of the widespread Internet censorship in China. Later assuming the form of mythical creature that resembles the alpaca, the animal is characterised as tenacious in the face of adversity. The existence of Caonima is said to be threatened by “river crabs” (hexie, with its Chinese pronunciation resembling the word for “harmony”, symbolises official censorship) invading their habitat.
 Publicity material of “423 Art Citizens March”:“Join us in the march that begins at Sai Yeung Choi Street, the obscene territory of high consumerism, and ends at the sculpture ‘The Flying Frenchman’ by the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.” (https://www.facebook.com/events/180507695330873/)
The Flying Frenchman, by the French artist César Baldaccini and made during 1989–1992, was commissioned by the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, gifted to the city of Hong Kong and erected at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza by the then Urban Council in 1992. The work, allegedly inspired by the June 4 Incident, was originally entitled “The Freedom Fighter”, but the name was changed to “The Flying Frenchman” because of its politically sensitive nature. Since 1999, a group of artists, dubbing themselves “a group of citizens”, would lay a bouquet of white flowers at the foot of the sculpture on 4 June every year. The name “The Freedom Fighter” has since come into currency among the artist community. Last year, Woofer Ten organised “誰怕自由戰士？——重生儀式” (Who’s afraid of The Freedom Fighter? A Rebirth Ceremony) as part of their project “拜山先講——再問六四和我城” (Leave it for Grave Talk: June 4 and My City Revisited). The event was to rename the sculpture as “The Freedom Fighter” – “Through rebirth, to sustain the determination of yesteryear, to give new definition to this square, to rewrite the history of our square.” Facebook Events: https://www.facebook.com/events/105689369520729/ Leung Po-shan: “「六四獻花」活動的自我考掘” (June 4th Flower Dedication and Self-excavation), Blog samadhiinarts (藝文．三昧), 31 May 2011, in Chinese. http://samadhiinarts.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/freedomfigther/
 Performance art of King Frog was mostly performed in his persona of “Hak Bun Lum” (客賓臨, a transliteration of “Happenings”, literally meaning “guests arriving”). As the name “King Frog” became popular he changed “Hak Bun Lum” to “Frog Fun Lum” (literally meaning “frog play arriving”).
 A video recording of King Frog’s “Frog Fun Lum” performance on that day is available on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qxvOCRsPeM
 Kith Tsang: “蛙式即自由式” (Frog style is freestyle), Hong Kong Economic Journal (P41), 12 May 2011. In Chinese.
 James M. Jasper: “Rituals and Emotions at Diablo Canyon: Sustaining Activist Identities”, The Art of Moral Protest: Culture, Biography, and Creativity in Social Movements (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).
 “Art Citizens Musical March 2011” Facebook “Events”: https://www.facebook.com/events/234003419957066/
 At the time of writing this article in 2012, Art Citizens has organised “我們都是李旺陽”(We are all Li Wangyang) poetry march (Facebook “Events”: https://www.facebook.com/events/238879096223230/); under the banner of “In Public, Culture Resides; By Freedom, We Abide”, it called for artists to come up with creative slogans and “gear” and join in the July 1 Marches (Facebook Events:https://www.facebook.com/events/373330276055227/ ).
 We are Society’s “Art Action to Conserve the Star Ferry Clock Tower" http://wearesociety.blogspot.hk/2006/09/blog-post.html
 Leung Chin-fung Jeff, Lee Chun-fung: “這一年：2011香港視藝回顧” (Review of Hong Kong Visual Arts 2011), Contemporary Art and Investment, 2011. (also published on: http://www.inmediahk.net/2011%E9%A6%99%E6%B8%AF%E8%A6%96%E8%97%9D%E5%9B%9E%E9%A1%A7) In Chinese.
Time magazine, Vol 178, No 25 (published on 26 December 2011). The four runners-up are: William McRaven, the admiral who commanded the bin Laden raid; Ai Weiwei; Paul Ryan, US Congressman and Chairman of the House Budget Committee; and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
“中港台年度文化人物：反抗藝術家們” (People of Culture of the Year in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan: Protesting Artists, Special Planning by Wong Ching), Hong Kong Economic Journal (C03), 28 December 2011.
Originally published in Hong Kong Visual Arts Yearbook 2011, The Department of Fine Arts, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2012, pp16-49.
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