Saturday, 10 September 2011

Where Buster Keaton can take you

One thing Hong Kong does, all through the year, is run arts festivals.

They'll pick a theme and often buy in the content from overseas. In that way, Hong Kong sits on the international touring circuit. So we get the opportunity to enjoy theatre from the west, orchestra, musicians, ballet and dance, all with high-value production work throughout.

Home grown talent is here too, of course. I haven't lived here long enough, nor seen enough of those performers to give you names.

It might be a misconception I have, but I think Hong Kong would give you the sort of performance which is about excellence, rather than radical creativity.

For example, I never think that Hong Kong produces the type of artists that the west can produce.

Because isn't there a place in western culture for those artists who find a social boundary, then walk along it? Probably involving knitting needles sticking out of their trouser pockets while their head is wrapped in tin foil.

These people might explore a boundary that most of us never imagined was there, or we never articulated that line, until it was brought to our attention by a bloke standing still and holding a piece of string. At home I might roll my eyes, and tut. Out here though, it's much more important to me that a society can produce art that explores our sensitive points, our unspoken assumptions or hidden vulnerabilities.

Hong Kong does not seem to do that type of performance. I doubt whether they can. The arts education and culture here seems to be geared towards supervised output, perfection of end product, and completion of creative idea in a manner that can be identified as bringing benefit to society. So it's all about conformity, and avoiding anything that smacks of social discord.

So the range and quality of graphic design, designed to communicate sponsored events, is excellent. But there's not much poke-you-in-the-eyeball conceptual art. And there's certainly no exploring social attitudes by hanging yourself upside down in a lift shaft copied from one at the HSBC and calling that art. Nope. That would be too radical, too provocative; the supporting money would fear it might suggest how society and its values were less than beneficial.

I'm musing really, but it is something to put in a blog post. (Hey! Who knows? I might come back to develop a theory of art and society by teatime!)

Anyway, I haven't got anything else but arty thinks. Because we sat in a dark room. We took the kids to the festival celebrating the work of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and watched One Week, The Playhouse, and The Goat.

Which afterwards set me wandering on film history, visual arts, how provocation changes over time, which art styles slide into mainstream, what stays on the boundaries, where the money flows, Steve McQueen's Deadpan, Stuckism, and what art is for anyway.

Well it was either that or wonder what I should cook for dinner.

1 comment:

Nora said...

You do bring up the most interesting subjects. I guess you really get provoked living on that island there in the Far East. Conformism does seem to be the general attitude there. Individualism is less important. People have to behave within the narrow expectations. Everybody would lose face if they didn't.