Q&A: Yung Ma – Curator of moving image, M+

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Everyone knows about M+. The massive museum for visual culture set to open in the West Kowloon Cultural District is undoubtedly one of Hong Kong’s most ambitious cultural endeavours. Yung Ma is one of the people working behind the scenes, with a focus on moving images.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into curating?
I did my BA in fine art in England, specifically video art. At that point I was really into the previous generation of Chinese filmmakers who all went to the Beijing Film Academy, so I applied and got in. After I left Beijing, I came to Hong Kong to work, only to return to the UK to study curating at the Royal College of Arts. I realised that I didn’t want to be an artist or a filmmaker. I wanted to be working with artists and curators to realise something. Once I got started I really enjoyed it.

What’s the most interesting thing about curating?
Being able to work with artists and to realise something together. That’s what’s important. Sometimes you develop a friendship, which is nice, if you’re working with someone you really like and admire. I also think it’s really exciting when you see something new… not necessarily different, more like something that’s transformative.

Do you have a favourite exhibition?
An amazing one was the Taipei Biennale in 2008. I like how it’s a really funny, humourous show that tackled serious issues. It was talking about something very serious – globalisation, neo-liberal mentalities and how we survive that – without being overly academic. It’s not something that happens often, to have a show where you talk about something so serious but still manage to be funny. It wasn’t so much about information, but how the artworks were put together. You just understand what the curator is trying to tell you through the works. It all went back to the art.

What are the challenges unique to curating moving image?

When you talk about film, video, animation and sound-based media, those terms are more used in the art context. ‘Moving image’ is more expansive. The conservation of it is extremely challenging. It’s a new form compared to painting and sculpture. Painting has long history behind it, while moving image shifts from film to video and more, and the presentation is never easy. There’s also the issue of conservation, which is connected to the presentation of the works. How do you restage historical pieces? That’s really challenging. It depends on the work. Often when it’s a painting, you are able to present it however you want, because it’s hanging on the wall. But for the moving image, installations have to be extremely precise. They come with a long list of instructions from the artist, and it’s challenging if your space just doesn’t have that kind of set up. So you have to work around it with the artist, which takes a lot of negotiation so that all parties are happy. Creating the spatial experience is really important to curators.

What makes you satisfied in your job?

When something is done properly and everyone’s happy.

What can the Hong Kong scene improve upon?

We always talk about the scene’s lacking, but I don’t think it’s about that. We can’t force it. The local art scene is changing a lot. I think it’s because we’re changing too fast, a lot of things are trying to catch up. So I feel that’s why people think it’s lacking. I always think Hong Kong has amazing artists. It’s just always changing, and I don’t know what will happen so I don’t know the answer.

M+ West Kowloon Cultural District, westkowloon.hk.

See also

The curators shaping art in Hong Kong
From independent curators to directors of major institutions,
meet the individuals shaping perceptions of art in our city. Read more

 

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