Artist Talk: All elements speak their own language: video art from Hong Kong, 1980-1989

A still image of multipile frames taken from a video. A person is entering a door in a room with wooden floors and black curtains.
Ellen Pau: Drained II, video projection, 5 min. video, 1988; photo courtesy of the artist and Videotage

Artist talk

May Fung, Ellen Pau, moderated by Genevieve Trail

All elements speak their own language: video art from Hong Kong 1980-1989 assembles select video art and performance art footage from 1980s Hong Kong by pioneering artists May Fung, Choi Yan Chi and Ellen Pau. The exhibition considers the way in which artists during this period engaged with the body as an interface for environments, objects and technology.

The exhibition offers insight into an expanded definition of environments that arose during the 1980s in Hong Kong, as artists, theatre makers and dancers worked to redefine the role of space and the performative body in relation to the stage, the artwork and the audience. Created at the close of the 1980s, these works also bear witness to the penetration of anxiety into the Hong Kong psyche, as the Tianan’men Square Massacre of June 4 1989 clarified the full implications of the scheduled return of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China in 1997.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, join the artists in a panel discussion moderated by Genevieve Trail.

MAY FUNG (b. 1952, Hong Kong) is one of the most important moving image artists working in Hong Kong today. She has been an influential voice in experimental practice in the city for over three decades, with a body of work that is interwoven with history and politics. In 1985, with Ellen Pau, Wong Chi-fai, and Comyn Mo, Fung co-founded Videotage, a Hong Kong collective that supports experimental video and new media work. Her moving image practice encompasses theatre and installations, reflecting the influence of her long-standing relationship with Hong Kong experimental theatre company Zuni Icosahedron. In addition to her art practice, she is active as an art educator.

ELLEN PAU (b. 1961 Hong Kong) graduated from Hong Kong Polytechnic University with a diploma in Diagnostic Radiography in 1982 and has worked as a radiographer in Queen Mary Hospital since then.

Pau’s works have been extensively exhibited worldwide in film festivals and art biennials, including Hong Kong International Film Festival (1990), 8th International Film Festival for Women (Spain, 1992), Copenhagen Cultural Capital Foundation, Container 96 (Denmark, 1996),  Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Australia, 1996), Johannesburg Biennale (1997), 49th Venice Biennale (2001), Gwangju Biennial (2002), among others.

She co-founded Videotage, Hong Kong’s oldest artist collective, together with Wong Chi Fai, May Fung, and Comyn Mo in 1986. In 1996, she founded Microwave International New Media Arts Festival, an annual event that consists of exhibitions, conferences, seminars, and workshops. In 2014, Pau was appointed by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council as a representative of the Art Form Group in Film and Media Arts, and in the same year, she also served on the interim acquisition committee of M+ in West Kowloon Cultural District.

GENEVIEVE TRAIL is a doctoral candidate at the University of Melbourne. Her research is interested in the development of interdisciplinary performance, installation and video art in Hong Kong from 1970-1989. Her writing has been published in journals including  Di’van: A Journal of Accounts, Currents Journal, Art + Australia, Art Monthly Australasia and Photofile. In 2021, she co-edited a Special Issue of the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Art, Shifting the Ground: Rethinking Chinese Art with Dr Mark K. Erdmann and Dr Claire Roberts.