Kwan Q Li: Strolling Along the Periphery of Mainstream Discourse

Oui.Gallery Interviews Kwan Q Li from Hong Kong

Introduction of the artist

Currently based in Hong Kong, Kwan Q Li is perhaps the most dedicated in crafting performance-based situations coalesced with writing, presentation and installation, and recently delivered performance lectures at various institutions including the University of Cambridge and the University of Hong Kong. Her research-based practice explores post-colonial intricacies and ideological alternatives within the neoliberal context. In 2019, her collaborative writing will be featured in the publication of UABB, Shenzhen. Queenie holds a Fine Art degree from the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford and a B.B.A. in Global Business Studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Happy Hours, 2019
Kwan Q Li, Happy Hours, 2019. Performance.

You hold a Fine Art degree from the University of Oxford, do you think your creation and artistic outlook are more academic and research based?

I find my inspiration often being text-based. I enjoy reading and writing very much, and a large portion of my creation revolves along these processes. But whether this tints my art-making into being more academic-basedm, I am not sure. Does this mean focusing on a rather niche type of conversation, or a more specific environment of art-making? I am interested in overcoming certain boundaries that used to define the realm of the contemporary art world, like talking to the general public the ‘non-art’ audience so-to-speak. And in the end, whatever I want to express will not be easily contained within words. So whether my practice is academic or research-based may not be so clear.

What are the most common concepts in your artworks? Please list three of them. And why they are important to you?

One… I used to contemplate the post-colonialism of Hong Kong. But what is going on these days has seemingly led me to think about a bigger notion, or anti-notion of nationality, especially within the context of accelerating digital urbanism. I start to be unsure whether the standalone specificity of Hong Kong is sufficient anymore.

Two… the capitalist play, a self-sustained system of spectacle fuelling a fully immersive subsumption of contemporary life. It is derived from my former corporate experience of working long hours with deprived individuality. Also relating to the title of the show ‘Subsumption’, what Marx coined ‘real subsumption’ like how social relations and daily lives become completely subordinated to capitalist production.

Then I look into urban weeds… because ultimately I realised that a lot of the above are related to power and marginality. But where is resistance? Weeds survive in cracks of concrete structures in plain sight, resting on the hope of hopelessness. In such trope I hope to further stretch this postulation, to sidestep establishment through fiction as a means to an alternative truth.

Prototype (23.01m²), 2019
Kwan Q Li, Prototype (23.01m²), 2019. Performance.
Photo: Dan Pan

Your artworks seem to be more performance-based. For you, does this form have any deeper connotations beyond their actual being?

I guess a deeper layer may exist in whether there is a state of ‘actual being’, and this skepticism also explains why performance to me is closer to the ‘truth’ compared to many other mediums. Contingency mirrors the complexity of worldly operation, the toil between circulating on the surface or actually getting deeper? This is an infinite loop.

How would you define the relationship between yourself and your artworks?

I never see my work as static. In contrast, I am always learning from the work created. It is an experimental process, and my role is just to engender different situations for the work to evolve. So it is a pretty organic and horizontal relationship when the causality becomes unstable.

Untitled (Beijing), 2018
Kwan Q Li, Untitled (Beijing), 2018. C-type photograph.

What can viewers expect at your show at Oui.Gallery this time? Tell us more about your collaboration with Frank Lee.

Frank’s works are attentive to the local context, which I appreciate. And they are pretty inciting, allowing me plenty of room to respond. We talked a lot about the notion of multiplicity, like the east-west ideological fusion in Hong Kong, moving from the subliminal submission of Victorian table etiquette to the modern fetishisation of health supplements. In our collaborative show, we hope not to fixate a temporal and spatial anchor. I look forward to the final outcome.

Feel Good Flesh Zero 1, 2019
Kwan Q Li, Feel Good Flesh Zero 1, 2019. Performance. Production in-progress.

As an artist, which word could better define your role in society? A prophet, dissident, intellectual, citizen, or other? And why?

I see the need for an artist to be able to stroll along the periphery of mainstream discourse and unpack narratives from fresh perspectives. There is constantly something to challenge, something to break but also values to defend. How far could I elaborate on a potential role though, I guess better not to settle down with any labels as categories are essentially limiting, if not stirring false pride. Or perhaps, all identities are equally true…

View Artwork by Kwan Q Li

Oui. Gallery is an international gallery founded in St. Louis, Missouri in 2018. Later, Oui opened a new space in Central, Hong Kong. Oui. Gallery is devoted to cooperating with emerging artists and making innovative shows.