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近期有兩個展覽，都用廣東俗語概括當下香港的生活態度。前陣子的「鑊鑊新鮮鑊鑊甘」（WMA art space，2021），既抒發了運動後的失落，也展示瘟疫下的新常態。這次曹穎祺的個展，取俗語「天跌落嚟」為題。後國安法時代，不受恐懼支配，由它天塌下來，在不正常中過正常生活，是為反抗。
版畫在運動中的作用，曹穎褀自言有點像「文宣」。作為傳播訊息的媒介，雖然版畫有著可以複製的特性，但作為手藝的製作速度，顯然不合時宜。那麼，為甚麼還要繼續做版畫呢？這些年來曹穎祺其實一直都沒有自己的版畫機，即使像今次展出較大一點的作品《晚夜榮昌》（木刻凸版，102 x 72cm，2021），也是以馬連手印。所付出的體力勞動，與今日概念先行的當代藝術創作方式大相徑庭。這樣「攞苦嚟辛」，一方面在「還原」藝術的手藝特質，也在透過自己的身體力行，與勞動者同行，突顯勞動與藝術的同質性。同時，這也以其複數的特性，挑戰藝術作品「獨一無二」的既有想法，搗亂勞動被貶值，而藝術卻被捧上神枱的經濟邏輯。
Printmaking Economics, and On Nurturing Aspirations Through Art
Leung Po-shan, Anthony / art critic of “Free Walk In”
Two recent exhibitions have used Cantonese colloquialisms to give an overview of the current attitude of living in Hong Kong. The exhibition Can’t Touch This (WMA art space, 2021) held not long ago expressed both the sense of loss after the social movement and the new normality under the pandemic situation. The title of this solo exhibition by Cho Wing-ki derives from the proverb “the sky collapses”. In the Post-National Security Law era, to not be governed by fear and live a normal life amid abnormality is already a display of defiance.
Cho Wing-ki graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2011. Instead of entering the glitter and glamour of the art market following the “art explosion”, she has taken up part-time job to support herself in exchange for the freedom to create and to walk with the underprivileged. In 2014, there was a migrant worker abuse case in Hong Kong that had hit global headlines. Despite being a victim in an abuse case, Ewriana is a decent looking and energetic lady in Cho’s portrayal. More importantly, Cho uses her art to care for different communities, not just using the Other as her subject matter.
Together with Wong Wan-sze Denise, Yentl Tong, Au Wah-yan, Tai Hiu-ching Nata and Wong Hong-yi Gillian, Cho Wing-ki established the laidback yet pliable and tough group “Printhow”. Its name is also a Cantonese wordplay implying “how to printmake”. This group of artists shares their knowledge and skills with the migrant-worker sisters and uses common materials to empower the underprivileged. Some of the members of Printhow were involved in the Anti-Hong Kong Express Rail Link movement and Occupy Central.  These are grassroots movement that not just centres on democracy and “big politics”, they criticise capitalism and experiment with alternative economies, and, at the same time, reflect on the role of artists in the movement to the point of destroying the halo effect in art. The “works” of the Printhow are often created in collective production with an eclectic approach to avoid the accumulation of “style” which might become the cultural capital of the artists.
The role of printmaking in the movement is, according to Cho, a bit like making “publicity materials”. As a medium of communication, although prints are reproducible, the speed of production as a craft is clearly out of date. Why, then, should we continue to make prints? For all these years, Cho Wing-ki has never owned a printmaking machine. Even the larger work in this exhibition, Enchanting Cheung-wing (Relief printing: Woodcut, 102 x 72cm, 2021), is hand-printed using a bamboo baren. The labouring involved is a far cry from today's conceptual-oriented contemporary art. In doing so, which is indeed a way of inflicting unnecessary pain to oneself, Cho is “restoring” the nature of craftsmanship in art. In addition to that, she manifests her endeavour to walk with the labourers, highlighting the homogeneity of labour and art. At the same time, printmaking also challenges the idea that art is “unique” by its nature of plurality, and disrupts the economic logic of labour being devalued while art is held in high esteem.
Nowadays’ DIY activities, ranging from leathercraft, woodwork, glassmaking to pottery, might seem like a trendy thing to do for the artsy types and the petite bourgeoisie. However, if we take it seriously and reflect on its economic operations, we could create an alternative circular economy, which serves as a good way to nurture our aspirations and be together amidst the new normal.
 If we put it in the neo-liberal context in today's universities, the term should be “knowledge transfer”.
 It is not a reference to the “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” campaign during the 2014 Umbrella Movement, but rather to the group of citizens who, in late 2011, rebelled against capitalism in response to the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. Camps were set up at the plaza beneath the HSBC headquarters for eight months until it was cleared by court bailiffs.
Good Night, Sleep Tight: Solo Exhibition by Cho Wing-ki
Exhibition period: 4 May - 30 May, 2021
Venue: ACO Art Space (6/F, Foo Tak Building, 365-367 Hennessy Road, Wanchai)