Creative Forces: Beatrix Pang Sin-kwok
When asked recently what kind of art project she's working on, Beatrix Pang Sin-kwok's answer proves surprising: independent publishing, rather than her familiar mediums of photography, video, installation or performance.
She displays two slender books with stapled bindings and only 20 pages - dummies of the two "zines" she's publishing this month.
For Pang, a zine is a work of art, not a mainstream mass product: it has a limited circulation (normally a few hundred copies) and it feels like a craft with its handiwork. But unlike many artworks nowadays, a zine is never a money-making tool (it has no advertisements), it's purely a channel of expression.
"It's all about how to present as many ideas as possible out of the most limited resources," the 36-year-old artist-publisher says of zine-making, which is usually low budget and therefore an ideal outlet for emerging artists.
The two zines, titled I Need to be Physically Healthy Because My Mind is Weak and I Dream Because I Don't, are co-published by Pang's Small Tune Press and young local talents Leung Yiu-hong and Hun Law (a.k.a. Siufung) respectively. The former is a series of photographs capturing everyday anxieties in Hong Kong, while the latter comprises a dozen illustrated English poems about trees in the city.
I Need to be Physically Healthy will be launched today (4pm, Basheer Design Books, 1/F, 439-441 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay), while I Dream Because I Don't will come out on February 24 (3pm, Hong Kong Reader, 7/F, 68 Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Mong Kok). These self-publications, Pang says, celebrate an independent spirit. "It took me a long time to realise what independence is. When I look back on my works, I see myself struggling for years, wanting to break free."
One of them is Distance = Time x Speed, a video installation selected by the Hong Kong Art Biennial in 2005. It charts the artist's journey of self-discovery from Hong Kong to Norway, where she finished her master's degree in photography in the same year.
"I used to be very insecure as I cared much about what was 'good' and what was not," Pang says of how social values in Hong Kong had once hindered her creative freedom. It was not until she studied and exhibited in Europe that she was exposed to unorthodox ways of life: "I realised there's no right way to make art and a life."
Now she lives in a village in Yuen Long and teaches photography, visual culture and zine-making at schools and organisations.
In 2009, Pang received an Asian Cultural Council grant that allowed her to spend six months in the US to explore the independent art publishing scene there.
The Hong Kong-born artist started printing her own zines and harboured a dream of building a similarly vibrant community here. Two years later she set up Small Tune Press to publicise voices not ordinarily heard.
"I seriously think zine culture has to be promoted in Hong Kong."
Check out Pang's indie vision at http://smalltunepress.tk
Creative Forces checks out young and creative artists in Hong Kong