Embodying an Ecopsychological perspective, artist Itit Cheung builds a conversation around the notions of diversity, connection and Human rights.
Featured Thai-Chinese artist Weera It ITTITEERARAK, cross-disciplinarity practice focuses on climate issues and the post-pandemic era to bring awareness to ecophysiology and the importance of the environment's connection with humans.
20 de setembro de 2022
Most of the moral conundrums of today's society are rooted in the premises of individual rights and connection within diversity. Despite the tremendous effort of several activist groups, organizations and governments to balance the global scale, topics of human rights and inclusivity still engulf much of the conversation – and the art world is not immune to its touch.
In Hong Kong, a reform of mentalities and policies regarding racial equality has been the talk of the town. As with every significant reform, their precursors have unprecedented roots in several societal pillars, making it an uphill task to sprout meaningful change. Hong Kong's problem with racial discrimination is no different, as its grounds rest within systemic racial barriers more than at an individual level.
Although Hong Kong has a long history of diversity, its social blueprint has always been divided into groups and communities with highly distinct cultures and languages. Most reports show that one does not interact beyond their community, which creates biases and wariness or plain avoidance of those who are dissimilar. We can debate the importance of integration and equality, although the discourse prevails in acknowledging and preserving different cultures, languages, appearances, family customs and languages that makeup one's core identity.
Indeed these are the challenges that Hong Kong policies encounter, as they must take into consideration several factors such as equal representation, language barriers and ditching the majority mentality as every individual has its unique cultural print.
A combination of arguments must be laid out regarding individual rights and identities, stretching the premise that diversity enriches and strengthens a nation. Although a concept best summarizes the issues, there is a need for connection when building a healthy nation - the connection with our individuality, others and the world surrounding us.
This alluring notion doesn't go unnoticed by Thai-Chinese artist Weera It ITTITEERARAK, whose cross-disciplinarity practice focuses on climate issues and the post-pandemic era to bring awareness to ecophysiology and the importance of the environment's connection with humans. These explorations build a conversation around the societal problems of diversity, identity and human rights.
For the ones who are not familiar with your artistic practice, can you describe it?
Most of the time, I work with lens-based media, which can be in pre-production and also post-production processes. To try my best to "play" with the medium itself, the play attitude is an essential part of my progression, a workflow to keep going back and forth and explore the possibilities that a lens-based media could bring me more than its functions.
I hope this makes sense, as I do not think the media is a tool only designed for a particular purpose. We have the freedom to use it in many different ways. Like a pencil, we can draw, sketch, write, or even use it as a pointer, spin, roll, and throw it. A lens-based media is likewise a bridge to connect me and the surroundings and make sense of how I perceive the world. In recent years, I have merged the approach of artistic practice with installation, drawings, computer programming and performances.
Currently, you are focusing on ecopsychology, the relation between wild, domestic & technological. Can you tell us how you incorporate this concept within your work?
To be honest, I have not thought of how I incorporate the concept within my work, but more about how the environment affects me. In other words, I am trying to reflect on myself and analyze my psyche to understand the feelings or emotions I have while living in a situation where everybody lives.
And sometimes, it is all about intuition. I see nature and technology as a spectrum, not a dualism, in this digital age. Especially in Hong Kong, where I am based right now, the city is surrounded by mountains and seas; within about an hour in any direction, we can visit the wild nature by public transport.
At the same time, facing the restrictions of the pandemic limited our activities. Seeing the news on social media from around the world without being there is a kind of telepresence. The concept is living within us now. An Anthropocene is often heard as how we affect the environment, but also as the world affects us as ecopsychology, the interaction of us and the ecosystem.
One of your recent works, entitled When I can see you through the fence only, it's a work where the concepts of inquiry and quiet obsession seem to be interlinked. What can you tell us about it?
I love the phrase quiet obsession you use to describe it. I researched the local abandoned place with its history and how we connect with the site across time. A question on the crisis of consciousness leads to sustainability thoughts of experience, ecology and evolution, and emotions to bond with the environment.
Fences are commonly seen on different bridges these days in Hong Kong after the past social movement, which is a comparison to the fences used to protect, block or separate something. I tried to connect myself with places, showing the viewers how to make sense of themselves with the past by revisiting the site continuously for eight weeks.
How important is the process behind an artistic creation?
From an ecopsychological perspective, I can see how human-to-human interaction has an intimate relationship with nature and human interaction. An analog camera with a fixed setting is used as a bridge to embody the wild, domestic and technology together. Although we accept the notion of evolution, nature is a resource, and we depend upon it physically and psychologically for well-being.
Beyond a series of photographs, it is an action or a performative event, including a process of embodiment. And expanding senses through the media or medium can extend our capability and free us from limitations. So for me, the process is a really important part, sometimes, it is even more than the outcome, and I keep being patient in the process. Only take your time. Take it slow. We can become more sensitive to the environment and would not miss what we actually need, both physically and psychologically.
Can you tell us about your ongoing project, Symbiosis with Weeds? What is the concept behind it? How do you approach the creative process?
The project started in 2020 (the pandemic). I moved to stay in a bungalow with my wife and a dog. I was in my daily routine, walking my dog around the neighbourhood, and a huge plant caught my eye.
Then I started to notice more different weeds that grew around the community and how they intertwined with the architecture and the relationship with the environment. I was more like an observer. Observing my dog sniffing everywhere and leading me to engage more. I am still obsessed with walking around different areas and seeing those tiny hints told by the weeds of how the community lives. Where I understand more about the urban structure, at the same time, to make sense of being a person living as a part of the environment...or make sense of the relationship between myself and the surrounding elements.
Perhaps everybody has their own way of perceiving this world. I see weeds as similar to us; we are living in between something, obviously not only about the location, yet, like living in the changes of development and the adaptation. Sometimes, they helped me recall memories when it comes to the creative approach. Several artworks have developed since 2020, including Trigger the lost past pass (2020-2022), Still in Hong Kong (2021, by Scarlet Yu & Xavier Le Roy), When I can see you through the fence only (2021), and The flower is red, is sweet and is dead: ขอโทษ (apologies)(2022).
In 2020, you were an assistant for the artist Chi Wo Leung. How important was it for your creative development? Can you describe the experience?
To have a chance to work with a professional and established artist was an incredible experience. Warren Leung (Chi Wo Leung) is an experienced visual artist who works with a diverse medium that combines with exploring historical events, especially related to the site's specifications. I could see one artist's sensitivity to the art-making process with my own eyes, from the development process to the outcome. I have learned much from the workflow. And the experience somehow influenced and encouraged me to explore one topic with different perspectives and methodologies.
Do you have a specific creative process? How do you start a project?
I usually start a project with a lot of research or collecting lots of material (like an archival action). And usually, it is a mess at first. I spend a lot of time in the decision process, choosing the material that might be useful and studying them again. But as an artist, doing research is not the same as a scientist; artists do put themselves into the investigation. The feeling is essential, as the artist is always the first audience enjoying the artwork, turning the material into something creative, and art becomes a language for communication.
As part of the Dial-in Dinner Collective, can you give us the story behind the collective and its motivations? How important is collaborating with other artists for you?
Dial-in Dinner Collective (DDC) is an art collective that was co-founded remotely by Me, Weera-it Ittiteerarak (Thailand, Hong Kong), Florence Lam (Canada, Hong Kong), Alberta Leung (United Kingdom, Hong Kong), and Eugene Park (South Korea) in June 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. We first met at the cooking workshop co-leaded by Martha Rosler and Rirkrit Tiravanija from the Tai Kwun Summer Institute. Despite the cooking process becoming more complex since all the members are amateur cooks, it is a group of people who are generally working together towards the same goal (making a dish) that makes the process 'easier'.
Although each region has different cooking cultures, the highly intense labour in food preparation evokes a sense of companionship. It is through the participation of the work of cooking that performs an egalitarian dynamic.
Due to the pandemic, we reunited and questioned whether it is possible for an individual to feel a sense of belonging through cooking, especially during this challenging period. Undoubtedly, the food/cuisine culture has generally changed in the modern age when the fast-food culture proves evidence of the global-capitalized world. The practice of cooking/eating alone more often happens in a metropolitan city where the odd working hours and long commuting in a person's daily life. The unaware physical isolation of oneself having a meal enhances the usage of social media/online platforms; this phenomenon reaches its peak during the pandemic. DDC aims to use cooking as the artform to investigate togetherness by using digital technology in our global-capitalized world.
As a young artist with multiple works in publications, solo and group exhibitions and private collections, how do you approach the professional aspect of an artist's life?
This is hard to say; I am still on my way. Doing what you love does not mean you always need to be happy. However, I am pretty much enjoying the process of exploration of myself and am curious about my surroundings. Always keep learning new skills and read books that are usually not art related.
Where do you see artistic creation within societal boundaries?
Adapting to the situations within the boundaries is already included in creativity. But occasionally, I am instead not using the word "creative" as I am not trying to "create" something new, and for myself, I am trying to step backwards of what is the position of art in my life. Art is like something between me and the world, and the way of seeing this world is artistic to everyone in my sense.
Can you lead us through your day-to-day? How do you manage networking, studio time and studying?
Recently, I am waking up around 5 am - 7 am and started with caffeine, spending time on yesterday's emails. And I have two dogs right now, which need to walk several times a day, a break for me to leave my computer and spend time with the living thing. Every week, I spend one day searching for different open calls and sending proposals and portfolios. Networking gives me a headache, as I am too introverted, so luckily, technology helps. Social media platforms do all the networking jobs.
Although the university has a shared space for us for studio purposes, I primarily work at home in a small room with my computer. Due to the limited space in Hong Kong and the high rent of places, I do not own a studio or share one with others. Because of this, my practice is drifting around the city. And when I need to make an installation or something, I also need to consider the assembly and shipping methods, where I need to transport and carry it by myself. As pursuing an MFA study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, different from the taught postgraduate programme, I am mainly focusing on my research, preparing for my thesis and developing my artistic practice.
And as the coming year will be my last year in the programme, I will need to round up something at this stage. This will be challenging and, at the same time, fun.
What do you struggle with the most about being an artist?
The dissension-making constantly is quite challenging. As an interdisciplinary artist with diverse mediums, I always want to say a lot of stuff in one work or see a lot of layers that might need to be simplified as if I need to transmit the message to the other person except for me. Limited resources can do limited production; hopefully, the outcome can still achieve a certain level.
Artist featured on the print edition of July/August, 2022.
Personal Ocean with Ultramarine Light, Light up Blues by Itit Cheung. Image courtesy of Itit Cheung
Weera-it ITTITEERARAK (วีระอิทธิ์ อิทธิธีรรักษ์; 張國樑) is also known as itit Cheung (b. 1994) is a Hong Kong-born-Thai interdisciplinary artist with a rich cross-cultural and cross-discipline background allows him to develop unique sensitives that nurture through his surroundings artistically and scientifically.
Practice develops from the interconnection between individuals, technology and surroundings, the existing histories, approaches and norms: revealing the environmental, climate change and post-pandemic era to bring awareness about identities, rights and diversities by engaging pictorial in intricate introspection methodologies, whose transformation with mixed methods constitutes a slow and stoic appropriation. He was diagnosed as in PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) in 2015; he transforms his sensitivities of senses in his artistic practice by analytic and embodiment the states of emotions, the reaction of surroundings, the connection between gaps and triggering the human sensations through sound, light, and smell. His installation artworks gain recognition from the university and local government. Private collections span Hong Kong, Thailand, UK and Italy.
The ongoing research project, Sacrifice: Dabble (2019- ) and Symbiosis with Weeds (2020-) investigates the trace of human activities in the ocean and land. Aims to use technology to create an analog in Hong Kong by looking into the ocean waste or the weeds merged with architecture. And reconnect the relationship between humans and the environment. The project challenges the perspective on how artificial technology invades the natural environment and questions the meaning of identity and sense of belonging. Approach using data collection and other science methodology combined merges such as photography, moving-image, installation, sketching, computer programming and performative. itit seeks to find inner peace and provoke our understanding of the natural environment within our society in past, present and future.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Science (honors), New Media from the School of Creative Media at the City University of Hong Kong (B.A.S.) and is currently pursuing a Research Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Studio Art at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
See More of his work here.