Arts and Culture
While socially-engaged art has arguably accomplished its place in the art world, questions on how to articulate its value to public culture remain unresolved. When employed as an antagonistic category against object-based art, its participatory and collaborative aspects are emphasized. When employed as institutional critique, its activism is emphasized. Other practices that are more ‘socially-oriented’ than ‘engaged’ may become under-recognized. In this paper, I argue that the notion of ‘socially-aspired art’ (Shannon Jackson) productively clears the ground for understanding socially-engaged art with more nuances, including the artist’s needs in the process of re-skilling. My case study is Hong Kong contemporary artist Kwok-hin Tang (b. 1983). Tang’s practice presents an illuminating case for understanding how artists think through their artist- and citizen-self since the Umbrella Movement in 2014. His focus shifted from being studio-based to relational- and public-space-oriented. Even when he presents in gallery exhibitions, his installations carry performative dimensions. His most recent project Every Pandiculate creates a performative structure in a gallery where participants engage with the artist-initiated idea of the ‘everyday’. The durational project does more than staging social interaction; it thinks prospectively about the social as an enduring condition for the artist’s life, and generally, human life. Tang thereby creates an ‘evaluative space’ (Amartya Sen), where what are included and excluded as valuable to public culture is based not on individual pleasures and choices as in the utilitarian approach, but how they contribute to the individual’s ‘capability to achieve valuable functioning’, and by extension, to public well-being.