Kacey Wong Kwok-choi
Who is he? A trained architect and occasional interior designer, Kacey Wong Kwok-choi (below) splits his time between running various workshops, teaching at Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Design and dreaming up schemes in his Ap Lei Chau art studio. Wong was most recently in the news with his Think Tank mobile home (right), a small house mounted on the back of a tricycle. Design, he believes, has the power to ease many of Hong Kong's social problems.
What's his story? Fleeing the New York winters after completing an architecture degree at Cornell University, Wong returned to Hong Kong in 1994 but found the industry's restrictions depressing. 'Coming back allowed me to see what Hong Kong is about with clear eyes,' he says. 'The city only offers one kind of living system. In the west, or even China, people can construct and express themselves through their homes, but here only the very rich or the very poor who live under the highways get to do that. The rest of us go to our friend's house, see the same piece of furniture [we have] and have an identity crisis.'
What's he doing about it? Wong encourages the public to value the beauty of architecture and different lifestyles. He starts with the young. Wong holds 'skyscraper workshops', in which children aged from five to eight make skyscraper costumes from cardboard. 'I teach them the design process, sketching and decorating, and how to think about architecture and the body,' he says. 'This kind of workshop inspires students to be more sensitive about buildings. Nobody has ever taught them that buildings are an art form'.
What does he design? Wong plays a similar community-oriented role with his art, from video installation to sculpture. A photo from his Drift City series (taken in Santorini, Greece) recently sold for HK$18,000 at Artmart, a charity auction run by Hong Kong's Para/Site Art Space. Although local architects are talented, he says, they are held back by market demands. 'I feel like a missing link,' he quips. 'In art, people are more relaxed ... people appreciate that because it is missing in this city.'
One of his works - When is the Exact Moment Dreams Become Reality? - is an installation of yellow houses that diminish in size; the largest big enough to walk into, the smallest the size of a matchbox. The piece was shown at the Hong Kong Arts Centre and can still be seen on his website (www.kaceywong.com). Wong's idea was to start a conversation about the ever-changing values of real estate, and about the local treatment of 'home' as a chunk of money rather than a place to live.
So what does he want? Art and architecture need not be so different, he believes, especially when it comes to education. 'We need a more cohesive way to look at all this,' he says. 'Otherwise you end up with some people who are totally logical, with no sensitivity, and others who are sensual but [not logical].'