At the 2002 Shanghai Biennale, Hong Kong arts group Project 226 pulled off what it considered a coup: without official permission, the collective mounted guerilla performance art outside the biennale's venue. The work was critical, pointing out what they saw as the festival's hypocrisy. 'The theme was about urban creation - but we felt they were only concerned about the hardware, while shutting out the humans,' says Clara Cheung, one of Project 226's core members. 'People are the most important part of urban planning, so we tried to provide an alternative view by showing the human element. 'The performance was a lot shorter than we planned. The day before, there was another performance artist and he was caught by the police right away. We went to the park next to the museum, dressed up and started. The local people there were interested and I actually didn't want to leave.' Since its establishment on February 26, 2002 (hence, the name), this group of young artists - most are in their early 20s - have used surprise performances as their mode of expression. For them, it's all about challenging complacency and pushing the boundaries of social conventions. But their target isn't just political. More often than not, they've aimed their sights at subverting the traditionalism of the art scene. Project 226's nominal leader is Cheng Yee-man, better known as Gum. As well as being the chairman of the collective, he works as studio manager at the Artist Commune, in Kowloon's Cattle Depot alternative art space. 'Too many artists are conservative,' he says. 'They're not open to new ideas. When I studied art, I found most of the traditional forms like painting and sculpture didn't reflect my ideas. The most direct method for me, I discovered, was performance art. I like the interactive side of it.' Project 226's members say there should be no boundary between art and society. They've made a mark with various playful performances. At the Venice Biennale last year, they did health checks on patrons outside venues to associate art institutions with the Sars virus. At this year's July 1 protest, Project 226's two core members, Cheng and Cheung, turned their real-life engagement into a performance, dressed in traditional Chinese wedding gowns. 'Protests are supposed to be very serious,' Cheung says. 'But we wanted to bring some joy to the event. The people around us were walking and smiling. Plus, it's nice to have this as a document for our next generation.' They took the performance a step further recently at the Kwangju Biennale, held in South Korea in September. There, they set up a fake marriage registry, encouraging people to become artists by having a wedding photo taken with a curator. Another member of the unit is Chu Yiu-wai, who works for a local television station. 'I think most of the things we've done have a certain shock value,' Chu says. 'The fact is, Hong Kong doesn't have many artists who perform and confront audiences in this method. We want to use our performances as a way to communicate and express our critical ideas.' Cheung agrees. 'We want audiences to think more, instead of being passive,' she says. 'We want to point out things that they might not have paid attention to. For me, that's a basic job of the artist.' Holding pre-organised performances as an official part of an exhibit is one thing. It's quite another to swoop in, guerilla style, and capture a surprised audience with works that protest and parody. To do so on the mainland is to risk jail for the sake of art. 'I'm sure the [Shanghai Biennale] organisers thought we were quite annoying,' Chu says. 'But other people thought it was quite curious and interesting because they'd never seen art that was so fun and new. Even from a non-critical perspective, I think people appreciated that this art wasn't so ordinary. 'Also, the people's reaction in Shanghai was very different than in Hong Kong. Here, if you dress up and perform somewhere outside, people just think, 'This is stupid, this is crazy'. It's like they're scared of art, but in Shanghai they felt, 'Oh, this is a performance, this is a show to enjoy'. What we did was alternative and different, but they still understood it.' Ultimately, Project 226 doesn't want to exist simply as a clandestine group. 'We don't want to hide,' Cheng says. 'We want to get bigger and get a bigger profile. We've been together three years now and slowly, we're developing our name. The first couple of years, we were just learning and gaining experience. Now, things are clearer in terms of what we want to achieve.' Most importantly, they want to have a little fun. 'In doing the things we do, we have to enjoy them ourselves,' he says. 'If we can't have fun then it's very hard for other people to appreciate it.'