Inside the living room zoned off by the semi-sheer green curtains, one can embroider upon old black and white photos of their own or on those of The Mills, bringing colors and textures of the present into the past.
“There are textile lovers who have some background knowledge in embroidery, and there are people who are completely new to the subject. There are also young couples who are in search of things to do on the weekends and the mother-son duo who first experiment with textiles. Regardless of their embroidery skills, they are all very excited to be part of the collective creation and to get involved in recreating historical images. It allows them to rediscover the history of Hong Kong’s textile industry,” said Eugenia Law, CHAT Assistant Curator (Community and Learning).
“Those who grew up in Taiwan during the 1970s and 80s are probably familiar with the life of ‘living rooms as factories’. Back in those days, many families turned their living room into small-scale subcontracting factories and made a living from assembly and processing. While the processing industry bloomed and contributed to Taiwan’s economic miracle, the living room served as a multi-purpose arena that connected people with the outside world — it was a space for the men to sing karaoke, a venue for children to do homework and have fun, and an area for the family to dine, watch TV, and carry out their assembling tasks. This dynamic is what I wanted to create in The Hall at The Mills. A multi-purpose space with three islands where we can exhibit, and at the same time, allow people to rest, labor, and interact with history. Such a space brings people together. They can freely participate in a variety of activities and spend a relaxing afternoon together.” Since the very beginning of the project, Taiwanese artist Hou I-Ting has hoped to bring both Taiwan and Hong Kong into this collaboration with CHAT. For that, she completed some parts of the embroidery work in Taiwan while leaving the rest for individuals from Hong Kong to participate in this collective creation.
Bruce (CHAT六廠共學助理策展人）問:「什麼樣的畫面會引起你的注意？我們怎樣才能像從前般近距離和親密地感受圖像或照片？ 」
“What kind of image catches your attention? How can we experience an image or a photograph closely and intimately as we once did?” Bruce Li, CHAT Assistant Curator (Learning) asked.
I-Ting believes that the photo selected by a participant for embroidery is a reflection of the participant’s mind and own personal stories.
“We hope that people will come to this revitalized space, not only to experience the history of this place, but also to take the chance to create their own unique meaning with The Mills through labor and embroidery. With an old photo, they can revisit and make sense of their own history as well as the Big History. I think this could be a way to look at history in the future.”
Paola Sinisterra, CHAT Textile Specialist said, “My favorite moments happen when hands are busy, eyes are focused and conversation (and often silence) flows comfortably. There’s a certain feeling of connection that happens in these situations that is not about achieving or mastering something, but emanates from the joy of sitting together, sharing a making moment. Hong Kong is such a busy city that we seldom make the time or exercise the patience to allow these moments of tacit community to happen organically. Working together with our hands brings a sense of community and closeness that is respectful and quiet.
Sewing Fields: CHAT Living Room brings the joy of storytelling by inviting participants to interact physically and emotionally with memories via old family photos.”
Hou I-Ting grew up during the martial law period in Taiwan. Her work is greatly influenced by the substantial disciplinary training she received and laboring she did back in school and how the society at that time defined body and gender.
“I have heard so many similar stories during my residency in different countries these past few years. I came to realize that what happened in the past is still happening in the present; just that they might be in different forms and in different physical spaces. Almost every country has undergone similar growth in economy and evolution of division of labor; the intertwining relations of history, women, and labor could be read as local history, but it could also be viewed as the women’s history in a global perspective as it reflects female labor and their life stories amidst global capitalism.”