Archiving Project for AAA, Asia Art Archive

Photo: ©️ Virgile Simon Bertrand

This unique project evolved from creative collaboration with the researcher / curator Michelle Wong and AAA who have taken custodianship of the archive materials and documentation left in his studio space in To Kwa Wan by the late Hong Kong artist Ha Bik Chuen, and their effort in digitising the materials to make them available for general public encouraging new understanding and interpretations of art history in asia:

Between 2015-2021, SKY YUTAKA have been involved in a series of projects including design of two exhibitions for AAA, assisting with logistic planning and moving of the archive materials and the design and fitting out of a dedicated archive facility in Fo Tan.

In spring 2015, we began working on design of planned exhibition at the library space of AAA to host exhibition contents relating to the Ha Bik Chuen archive. Design brief called for design solutions that works with unique context of using the library space as exhibition setting and display system that has long term value. The proposal included design of a flexible display system which can adapt to different programmes in the future. In response to a curatorial question about “what can archive do?” based on the exhibition documentation contained in one of Ha’s Kodak boxes, our studio working with local students produced an architectural model from the First Choice exhibition in 1977 which required skills in architectural training background and an investigative mindset to reconstruct the space.

The following year in Spring 2016, sensing the unstable conditions in which the archive materials are kept in the artist‘s dilapidated studio, AAA made an arrangement for the materials to be relocated to dedicated archive facility in Fo Tan. We took part in the logistic planning of moving the contents from Ha Bik Chuen studio to the new archiving facility; designing special labels in tracking the objects found location post-move. We also worked on the fit-out design of the newly leased archive facility using modular storage system that allows for gradual transformation of the interior initially focused on storage and digitisation of archives to more workshop orientated venue as the archive process progressed and more artists and public are invited to engage with the materials.

In late 2020 we started working on the second exhibition “Portals, Journeys and other Stories” reflecting on over 6 years of the archive process with the new exhibition held at Tai Kwun Contemporary. Conceived as series of acts, the exhibition comprises ten sets which re-stage documents and historical objects in new contexts and features commissioned works including Kwan Sheung Chi, Lam Wing Sze, Raqs Media Collective and Walid Raad.

Photo: ©️ Virgile Simon Bertrand
Photo: ©️ Virgile Simon Bertrand
Photo: ©️ Virgile Simon Bertrand

On reflection, we felt that pragmatic approach to architectural design, particularly the modular design elements used in the Library were adopted successfully as demonstrated in the subsequent years of different exhibition iterations was rewarding. Also seeing the recent modular archive storage system taking on a second life in other locations such as Hong Kong University, to create objects that has long term value, when the exhibition industry has been known for being resource heavy.

It was also important that simple palette of material choices and minimal detailing would allow the designed structure to act as backdrop, and how the physical infrastructure can facilitate conceptual questions about the archive. Our tasks have often evolved beyond the conventional role of what one might consider as spatial designer, helping with logistics, climbing on the roof for inspection, participating in curatorial dialogue, promote the topic for academic discussion, try to contribute to research through model making, project management and sometime take the role of builder and contractor, this hands-on approach to design is reflection of our enjoyment in working on the project with dedicated AAA team but it was also useful and perhaps even necessary to remain relevant in the discussion and being able to make meaningful design contribution. Ultimately the project is about the curator and AAA’s vision in exploring the possibility of this archive material and their commitment in believing in the cause of enriching art history in Hong Kong and Asia.

“Excessive Enthusiasm”
AAA Team: Michelle Wong, Vivian Poon, Ingrid Chu,
Date: 11 March – 30 May 2015
Venue: Asia Art Archive, 11/F, Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Publication: MAJO
Contractor: Hattrick

“Archive Facility Fit-out and the moving logistic”
AAA Team: Michelle Wong, Vivian Poon
Date: Spring 2016
Contractor: Ming Hing Development

“Portals, Journeys and Other Stories”
Organizer: Asia Art Archive, Tai Kwun Contemporary
Venue: Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hollywood Road, Central
Date: 26th April – 1st August 2021
Client: AAA
Curator: Michelle Wong
AAA Exhibition Team: Garfield Chow, Michelle Wong (Curator), Vivian Poon (Exhibition Manager)
Architect: SKY YUTAKA
Exhibition Builder: Excel Trade
Graphic Design: MAJO
Translator: Wing Chan
Video Production: NOTRICH MEDIA
Artwork Fabrication: Watt Studio, yucolab
Exhibition Graphics Production: Fully Advertising
Specialist Supplier: ShowTex