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Cosmin Costinas, Executive Director, Para Site Art Space, Hong Kong, April 16, 2015

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Cosmin Costinas, Executive Director, Para Site Art Space, Hong Kong, April 16, 2015
Cosmin Costinas, Executive Director of Para Site, Hong Kong. (Image courtesy of the ESRTE Foundation)

 

Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors.

 

 

I am Cosmin Costinas, the Director of Para Site. Para Site is the first contemporary art institutional space in Hong Kong that was founded as an artist run space in 1996. It has grown over the years together with the Hong Kong art scene in a dynamic relationship, to become a significant centre for contemporary art.

What makes Para Site unique?
As the Hong Kong art developed so dramatically, it offered an important and increasingly solid platform for critical reflection that is needed, both for the art scene in Hong Kong, but also for the wider society. Considering the major changes and issues that are affecting the Hong Kong society, we see Para Site not only as a contemporary art institution relevant for the visual art scene, but also as a contributor of discussion in the wider public sphere.

Why are there not more not-for-profit art spaces in Hong Kong?
The idea of occupying a space for the purpose of working on non-commercial art exhibitions is almost a luxury in the current landscape. So I think this is ultimately the main reason why opening a space is a daunting prospect for many, because usually this kind of scene develops where there is a possibility of a trial and error situation. Cheap spaces can be obtained, and secured through some sort of collective effort. Given the actual prices of the real estate market in Hong Kong, it is quite unrealistic.

What are the ingredients to create a vibrant art scene in Hong Kong?
This is not necessarily a way in which I would like to look at things, because I don’t think our purpose should be to imitate another existing art scene, and to copy. At the end of the day what is vibrant? What does it actually mean? This is a little bit of a non-signifier. There is more of a marketing appeal, than something that is really relevant for artistic practice. You can also argue that a city like New York is hardly vibrant in many ways in which one would understand its style, also because of the market situation in the city. It is quite a stale place, and very little originality, mobility, and surprise - things you should associate with the term ‘vibrancy’. I think the mission for us, and other people working in Hong Kong would be a bit of what I mentioned before, to offer the city the kind of institutional infrastructure, and the critical tools it actually needs.

What are some of the highlights of Para Site?
One example is the one that you mentioned: Kwan Sheung Chi’s exhibition. It was actually a solo show that lasted for a week, in which there was a performance in the exhibition, in which he lived day and night in the old space of Para Site. It was the last programme we did till we moved to our temporary and future home. It was a whole critique of the status of artists in Hong Kong. A critique on the ways in which values are created, on what exactly is the economy behind creating values in Hong Kong. Another project that had a very strong impact in Hong Kong, even beyond the visual art trend was ‘A Journal of The Plague Year’, which was a group exhibition in 2013. It was looking at the decade prior to that in Hong Kong, and how the SARS crisis in 2003 and a number of related events affected the city in so many ways. The proposition of the show was that in many ways, that was the major turning point in the contemporary history of Hong Kong. We used art and the language of exhibition making to look at that, to try to explore all these propositions. I think we managed to demonstrate that art and exhibition making has a particular ability to shed light on the development of the society.

 


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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