In January, Wellcome Trust, the London-based global charitable foundation, will present Contagious Cities in Hong Kong, an international cultural project taking place across global cities including New York, London and Geneva, which supports local conversations about epidemic preparedness and how diseases have shaped the city physically, socially and culturally. The Hong Kong installment of Contagious Cities explores Hong Kong's experience of pandemics and the cultural and social impacts of disease on its community, and signifies Wellcome Trust's first project of its kind in Asia.
In Hong Kong, the city-wide project invites its six local arts, culture and heritage partners to tell illuminating stories of the city's history of epidemics - from the plague in the nineteenth century to the more recent SARS outbreak in 2003 - and its impact on the society. Opening to the public in Hong Kong in January with a talk on SARS at the Hong Kong Science Museum and an exhibition at Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, Contagious Cities' insightful series of multidisciplinary programmes will run until July 2019. The project in Hong Kong also features works of art produced from artist residency programmes supported by the Wellcome Trust, including Hong Kong artist Angela Su, who has recently completed a residency at the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, and artist collective Blast Theory's residency at the World Health Organisation in Geneva. Contagious Cities will also bring together a diverse range of in-depth programmes in collaboration with Art in Hospitals, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, Oi! Street Art Space, Tai Kwun and The Common Core (HKU).
Officially kicking off the six-month long programme in Hong Kong is Far Away, Too Close, a research-based exhibition curated by Ying Kwok at Tai Kwun Contemporary, opening to the public on 26 January 2019. The exhibition explores the psychological and emotional dimensions of disease and contagion, particularly in relation to people and their ways of life. A heritage component in the exhibition will address the historical context of the bubonic plague, revealing how this relates to Tai Kwun and perpetual changes in daily lives and city development. Far Away, Too Close will include new works by ten emerging and established artists from the region: Oscar Chan Yik Long, Eastman Cheng, Enoch Cheng, Cheuk Wing Nam, Gayle Chong Kwan, Chou Yu-cheng, Firenze Lai, Angela Su and Wang Sishun. The ambitious exhibition also includes works by eight artists that were specially commissioned for this exhibition, including Chou Yu-cheng's olfactorial interactive work that will conjure ideas of sanitisation and habit-making; a experiential and interactive work by Enoch Cheng that takes audience on an audio-led tour of Tai Kwun and will include performances; and Angela Su's video- and performance-based work that explore the complicated implications of the project's title. The exhibition will also feature UK-based artist collective Blast Theory's A Cluster of 17 Cases, an interactive installation that explores the World Health Organization's response to the 2003 spread of the SARS virus that started at the Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong, and a result of the first ever artists' residency at the World Health Organization that was held in collaboration with Wellcome Trust for their Geneva leg of Contagious Cities. Far Away, Too Close will run until 21 April 2019.
Press release courtesy Tai Kwun Contemporary.