Artbat Fest 6 – 2015

ArtOxygen partners with ArtBat Fest 6 2015, an annual contemporary public art festival by Eurasian Cultural Alliance in Almaty – Kazakhstan that aims at establishing a dialogue between art and the city. In this edition of the festival, ArtOxygen is represented by HK-based artist Mee Ping Leung.

Titled Air of the Earth, curator of the Festival Sergey Kovalevskiy explains: “…Though contemporary art exists above geographical and administrative borders, its natural mission is to find a universal potential in the local context. Based on the figure of the nomad, fundamental for the history and identity of Kazakhstan one might assume that the generalized perception of nomadic relationships with the space, time and society could and should enrich the creative content of festival artworks. However, in case of the megapolis of Almaty the key component is the fact that art nomadism is located in the urban environment. The meeting of the Nomad and the City with their fundamental philosophical differences is an intense challenge to the creativity of artists and expert knowledge of city people. How can one combine now the external space of the nomadic steppe and the internal space of a city in the state…?”

Being the first artist from HK at the festival, Mee Ping Leung’s interactive piece is part of the Special Project section. She often works with objects that have little use. She will collect fallen hair and weave them into thousands of little shoes  (Memorize the Future, 2006-13). She hoards up to 10,000 old tea bags and sews them into canvas pieces (Elsewhere V, 1991-2014). Or she piles up quotidian objects discarded by residents and seals them in individual glass boxes (Daily, 2009). This approach of finding usability and emotional, relational value in what is considered useless and worthless is reflected across her work. In Ashes & Clay… and the coin in the middle, children are given coins. Each coin has a value. Next to the coins lies a mound of clay. The children are invited to form clay money using the coin as a starting point.Clay is a sticky soil. In its stickiness it isn’t porous and thus, doesn’t allow plant roots to flourish. But when it receives moisture it becomes malleable, flexible, fluid and begins to open itself.

Leung’s work begins from this juncture. In what may be possible when the form starts to lose itself. In the very transformation from coin to clay, she removes the valueless-ness of the object. The shiny silver and gold surface embossed with symbols is now just an earthen circle without function, identity, geography. The sticky substance that connects these grey-brown articles is the engagement of the children making them and the reminder that everything originates from the soil. With the intervention of multiple authors, the worthless object cannot be quantified as its value is constantly shifting.
When people are placed in a situation that allows for endless potentiality and in this case, creativity, the function or use value of the object doesn’t matter. Because what is of weight is value in exchange – a conversation, shared knowledge, learning how to make a clay coin. And in this process, Leung reconnects us to the simplest of things – human communication.

Strategic Partners: The Major’s Office of the City of Almaty
Partners: British Council in Kazakhstan, Consulate General of the US, ACTIV cell brand, Hyundai brand of Astana Motors KMC, Tikkurila, the Foundation of Vladimir Smirnov and Konstantin Sorokin, Artwin Gallery, Pro Rest, VILLA Boutiques & Restaurants, the Kazakhstan hotel, AB restaurants, Caspian Art Foundation, ArtOxygen, Canon, Tadia

For more details on the program and individual projects, click here