Jul 26, 2012|
HK Magazine: What is your involvement in the project?
Joanna Lee: I really like how students are engaged. I’ve been involved in [other] schools’ art education projects in Hong Kong, and many of them are very skin deep. Usually, we go to a school [Lee is a dance instructor] and what we do is give a performance of about 30 minutes and explain what we’re doing. It’s very shallow. [For this project,] I’m helping with the performance part, which we’ll be doing along the river. [The organizers] needed someone to teach the kids how to dance.
David Haley: It’s opened up a whole new way for them to think and teach. [One] workshop was to take them on a walk along the Kai Tak River—which some of [the teachers] have been working next to for 20 years—just to ask some very simple questions about the place that they know intimately. All of them said, “We hadn’t seen it in this way, we hadn’t realized these things were here.”
HK: How do you hope this will change the way teachers teach?
JL: Here, people [teachers] teach according to a curriculum. They don’t really have the time to develop new things. If they really open up their minds, I’m hoping that they don’t just [spoon-feed] the students, but inspire them and let them think. We’re not following up with the students on a day-to-day basis, so we really have to rely on the teachers. What we can do is let the artists open up a conversation and get them thinking, so they can find their own way to inspire the students.
HK: What’s the relationship between art and education?
DH: I think if you leave art out, you leave out one of the most important elements in being able to think. Education is an art. A world that is only science has no heart, no soul, no understanding of humanity or anything else. All it can do is measure things.
JL: If we try to draw a line between art and education, that’s already where the problem starts. If we can appreciate the air we’re breathing or the clean water we’re drinking, that’s art in itself. It’s not knowledge you can impose on students, it’s a sensitivity that they need to grow by themselves. Again, I’m not supportive of the way art education in Hong Kong is done, and I think one reason is that the schools are really looking at art as a subject that can be taught, like geography or history. They bring students down to watch a concert or visit a gallery and write a report about it. But that’s not the way to teach art, if art can be taught at all.
HK: What are some of the environmental goals of the project?
JL: If you know the history of the San Po Kong area and the river, economic development and the quality of the natural landscape have been mutually exclusive in Hong Kong in the past 60 to 70 years. The reason why the water gets polluted is because of all the factories in the San Po Kong area. And that really made Hong Kong’s economy take off in the 1950s and 1960s. It really helped a lot of new immigrants in Hong Kong—but the river and the natural environment paid the price. I don’t think that’s the way it should be. Humans and nature should be in harmony, they should cohabitate.
DH: It also comes to a historic point at the moment, where developers want to develop the old Kai Tak Airport [area] into low density housing and enhanced landscapes. The idea is [supposedly] for the local people. Actually, it’s for more rich people to make use of the area, to use the marina, the sports stadium, new hotels, and to basically move [the area] into a leisure lifestyle. There’s actually very little real environmental improvement.
JL: The urban planning of Hong Kong is really backwards. Think about the way we plan the city and the kind of price we are paying for high rises and keeping the metropolitan image. We aren’t planning ahead. I don’t know how many years Hong Kong can survive if we go on like this.
Catch the exhibition component of the festival at 1a Space through Aug 10.