At the end of August I received an e-mail from artist Amy Cheung Wan-man (with "Mars" in the subject line) saying she was at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland in the US. It's the kind of message you get from Cheung, who is always up to something interesting (who can forget her installation of a wooden tank for a group show that opened at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum on June 4 six years ago).
She had just interviewed a female astronaut for a project she was working on and was about to meet a scientist involved with the Mars rover Curiosity (which is busy picking up and analysing rocks on the red planet). "Do you have a question for this scientist? I could ask for you," Cheung offered.
A month later, there was another note from her, this time regarding her installation at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. The United Nations, through its partner platform Fashion 4 Development, had commissioned Cheung to produce T-shirts for guests who attended a gala reception at the museum last month to support Every Woman Every Child, a UN initiative set up to improve the health of women and children around the world.
The organisers liked Cheung's design so much they asked her to create an installation of her T-shirts, to be shown at the venue on the evening. The guests included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, actress Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng and UN maternal-health advocate Christy Turlington. "I'd never dreamt of having something shown at MoMA," the artist says.
Cheung has just returned home after spending the past 12 months in the US on an Asian Cultural Council fellowship/research grant. Her project was to interview people who are "revolutionary" and "heroic" in their field; hence, astronaut Mary Cleave and psychologist Phil Zimbardo, who is known for his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which had to be stopped after six days when his subjects in the role-play experiment began to behave uncharacteristically: the guards became abusive and the prisoners started to suffer from extreme stress and anxiety.
Having represented Hong Kong in the 2007 Venice Biennale and showcased at the International Exhibition of Sculptures and Installations during the 67th Venice International Film Festival in 2010, Cheung certainly is going global with her art and design.
"Opportunities are out there, you just have to be … there," she says.