Super Warm

Artist: Stephanie Sin
Location: Kowloon, Hong Kong
Year: 2011
Researcher: Yang Yeung

West Kowloon Cultural District Authority contacted Make A Difference (MaD) to make art of the construction site for the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), temporarily turned into a public park. MaD took up the invitation because they found it symbolic that the site could be opened up for the imagination of an ideal WKCD - what it is, and how it is run. For MaD, it was an opportunity to show it is possible that culture isn't made with a top-down and elitist approach, but rather, the participation by citizens of Hong Kong who may not be art initiated.

By engaging with artists, MaD aimed to set up the right conditions to engender an environment where people from various communities would experiment and explore making art and culture together. Major themes addressed in the MaD programme included the relation between art and life, the cross breeding of various art forms (visual art, performing arts etc.), art education as learning from all and by all for the purpose of freeing our minds. Stephanie Sin is chosen as one of several young artists who has an established practice, but has not had concomitant opportunities to exhibit in public. Upon deliberation, MaD and the artists agreed that the artworks they made would have to do with forging inter-personal relationships, and that their presentations could be finished works or works in progress.

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Super Warm is a 100-meter long ‘scarf’ made from hundreds of old and new clothes wrapped around the fences of the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade. Stephanie Sin, an artist with a studio painting practice who has never made public art before, conceptualized the fences as panel units and worked with the color and touch of the fabric to come up with the work. Making prominent the tactile and sensuous qualities of fluidity and warmth, the work affirms the commissioning organization Make A Difference (MaD)’s vision – “Let’s Own It!”, to open up the site for public ownership that is concrete, specific, and intimate.

To make Super Warm, Sin sought donation of clothes from the public via social media, starting from her own circle of friends in and outside of art. In doing so, Sin began to engender multiple mini-publics, activating their imagination of the idea of public art. She then had them sewn together in her studio. On site, Super Warm became a shelter from the wind for those participating in the programme “$0 SQ/FT”, which allowed for 260 creative units to show and share their creative talents at the promenade at no cost over four days. Super Warm was exhibited for another four weeks.

Presenting unwanted (not necessarily old) clothes as vehicles of emotions in public produces another way of imagining how art makes culture. Sin observes that in Hong Kong, the imperative to buy new clothes is motivated not by need, but by the privileged status of the new – at work are deliberate policies of compulsory obsolescence regulating the consumerist society aiming to sell surplus production.

By figuring the bodily warmth of many anonymous people between land and sea, Super Warm situates the citizens of Hong Kong in a different possibility of coming together not by the systematic fetishization of a promise in the name of art, but by freeing art and showing it to be real presences.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency