【Intimate Portrait】Heterotopia in Art / Sze Mei-ting Muses
Heterotopia is “the other space” – an existence that is both real and unreal, between physical space and utopia (virtual space). Besides cinema, museum and zoo, where else can we find heterotopia in reality?
Graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and a Master of Arts Fine Art at the University of Reading (UK), emerging artist Sze Mei-ting, Muses has chosen ceramics as her primary medium for sculpture. Sze uses sculpture as her potent response towards different spaces. What would her ideal arts space look like? Perhaps her studio is an archetype of a heterotopia.
S: Sze Mei-ting, Muses
J: What motivates you to explore the themes of “animal rights” and “heterotopia”?
S: After watching some videos on the ins and outs of slaughterhouses during my undergraduate years, I decided to become a vegetarian. It also led to my creation of a series of works on animal rights, including this photorealistic oil painting. On the front, viewers see the portrait of a pig, while the edges show patterns of pork meat. It alludes to the fact that a pig, no matter how “cute”, will eventually be consumed one day. Nevertheless, more recently I tend to touch less on animal rights in my arts because I think writing about it and activism are probably more effective and suitable. Besides, I prefer my artistic creations be purer in essence.
Heterotopia is a concept elaborated by French philosopher Michel Foucault to address the differences between a real space and a utopian space, and to describe the otherness and significance when combining the two together. There are plenty of heterotopias around us, with zoo being an example. A zoo may look like a utopia for humans and animals, but in fact it is an illusion constructed in the realms of reality. An arts space also shares the same qualities between reality and virtuality. Therefore, I wish to challenge the boundary of this subject through the interaction between arts and space.
J: The biggest differences between studying arts in Hong Kong and the UK...
S: In Hong Kong, the bond between tutors and students is very strong and intimate. We keep in touch even after graduation. For example, I had the opportunity to learn from ceramicist and CUHK alumni Sara Tse after graduation. In Hong Kong, education is generally more inclined towards spoon-feeding, while in the UK it is more focused on academic freedom and proactive learning. Professors encourage students to delve into a topic they pick by themselves, and students are expected to be self-motivated and to dig deep with the resources available. Galleries and museums visits and internships during my time in the UK had been life-changing experiences for me.
J: I understand that you were engaged in arts administration part-time at the Oi! arts space. What was the most memorable exhibition or arts programme you were involved in?
S: “Play to Change” was a rather memorable programme that spanned more than two years. We co-organised 19 exhibitions with 19 different groups of architects. I was mainly responsible for arts administration, as well as translation and editing of promotional materials. The biggest reward from this programme is a true understanding of community arts. I was also able to learn from the architects for their insight and ingenuity on the handling of spaces.
Original article【JCCAC Intimate Portrait】: https://www.jccac.org.hk/?a=doc&id=7740