WMA Commission 2018/19 – Opportunity Recipient Announced

The WMA Commission, invites entries for proposals from artists and photographers from both Hong Kong and the international community to create new research-based photography work in Hong Kong, focusing on the annual theme each year. This year the theme of the proposals had to contextually related to “Opportunity”. The panel selected Lo Lai Lai Natalie as this year’s WMA Commission recipient. Her project “The Days Before Silent Spring” explores opportunities in Hong Kong by looking at alternative lifestyles and sustainable development after the “Anti-XRL movement and protect Choi Yuen Village” movement.

The WMA Commission, one of the most recognised commissions focusing on photography, invites entries for proposals from artists and photographers from both Hong Kong and the international community to create new research-based photography work in Hong Kong, focusing on the annual theme each year. By facilitating and supporting original, creative interpretations of “Opportunity”, the WMA Commission encourages a unique perspective on how Hong Kong is affected by the theme that has global implications, while increasing public awareness and knowledge.

A five-member selection panel comprising of John STANMEYER, photojournalist and educator; Dr. Linda Chiu-han LAI, Associate Professor, School of Creative Media, the City University of Hong Kong, Jacqueline Francis, Associate Professor and Chair of the Graduate Program, Visual and Critical Studies, California College of the Arts in San Francisco ; Melissa Karmen LEE, public art curator and consultant;  and BUT Ho Ming, WYNG Foundation Trustee selected Lo Lai Lai Natalie as this year’s WMA Commission recipient. Lo will receive a HK$250,000 grant that contribute towards the production of her proposal and a public event featuring the completed work, which will be given a place in the WMA Collection.

According to the panel, ”The Days Before Silent Spring” intends to explore an ‘Opportunity’ for everyone in this moment of transition and upheaval. When no one believes that farming is a possibility or an opportunity, there are actually cases in Japan, Holland and Finland where people create small farms in the metropolitan area and explore an alternative way of living from the mainstream. The judging panel looks forward to Lo Lai Lai’s critical review of her practice after the ‘Anti-XRL movement and protect Choi Yuen Village’ movement in the last decade through this project. The story she will bring to us will be salient and relevant to many audiences in Hong Kong and beyond.


About WMA Commission Recipient Lo Lai Lai Natalie

Lo Lai Lai Natalie was born in 1983 in Hong Kong. She received her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the Department of Fine Arts of the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2017. Formerly a travel journalist, Lo currently focuses on artistic creations related to natural ecology. At present, she is learning agriculture at collective organic farm Sangwoodgoon (Hong Kong), while exploring the lifestyle of “Half-Farmer, Half-X”, a practice that prompts her to examine alternative lifestyles and the autonomy as both an artist and a Hong-Konger. Lo’s research concerns issues such as food, farming, fermentation, surveillance and meditation. The media of her artworks include moving images, photography, mixed media and installation.

Recently, Lo is captivated by the mutual attraction, as well as the counterbalance of emotions and desires, between nature and mankind. She presented her solo exhibition ‘Down into the Abyss’ at Bonacon Gallery, Guangzhou, China (2018), ‘Slow-So TV – Ann Eilathan’s Gaze’ at Floating Projects, Hong Kong (2016) and ‘Souvenir and Gift’ at Observation Society, Guangzhou, China (2014). Lo also participated in the following group exhibitions and projects: ‘The D-Tale, Video Art from the Pearl River Delta – EP-ISODE III: The Politics of the Self’ (Times Art Center, Berlin, Germany, 2018-2019); ‘Today Could Have Been a Happy Day’ (Taikang Space, Beijing, China, 2018); ‘The Fish Pond Sustainable Art Festival’ (Tai Sang Wai, Hong Kong, 2018); ‘Talkover/Handover 2.0’ (1a space, Hong Kong, 2017); ‘Oi! : Interlocutor – You Are Not Alone’ (Oi!, Hong Kong, 2017) and ‘The HK FARMers Almanac’ (Spring Workshop, Hong Kong, 2015). ‘Her moving image work Deep Flight’ was shortlisted in the 23rd ifva Awards, Hong Kong, and will be presented at the Biennale OSTRALE 019 in Germany in 2019.


About The Days Before Silent Spring

Is there room for hope in a dysfunctional society? Where do our opportunities lie?

Hemmed in by problems such as a society gone out of balance, political uncertainty and an unsustainable way of living, Hong Kong people are increasingly weighed down by a sense of helplessness. Hong Kong is not alone in facing these challenges; many parts of the world are troubled in a similar way. The frustrating realities seem to have rendered any talk of opportunity downright implausible. Is it still possible for us to encourage our generation to be hopeful and believe the next opportunity is in sight?

Through a series of visual images, WMA-commissioned project The Days Before Silent Spring explores opportunities in Hong Kong, a city in distress. In particular, it looks at alternative lifestyles and sustainable development as a way out.

It all started with a social movement in 2009-2010 when residents of Choi Yuen, a village in Yuen Long, fought against the government’s plan to build a high-speed rail line connecting Hong Kong and China. Choi Yuen village was in the way of the rail line and its residents were told to leave their homes to make way for new development. While the protests were eventually defeated, they brought together people from all walks of life to contemplate the meaning of autonomy for Hong Kong people. Among them was artist Lo Lai Lai Natalie who began to consider an alternative lifestyle and became more engaged in farming.

The Choi Yuen movement not only resulted in the villagers moving to another village where they retained their agrarian way of life, but it also changed the way of living among some Hong Kong people who had since adopted the ‘Half Farmer–Half X’ (半農半X) lifestyle, a term coined by Japanese farmer and writer Naoki Shiomi that denotes growing one’s own produce to develop a relationship with Nature while engaging in other areas of work related to one’s profession, purpose and social mission for financial support. Can the practice offer an avenue for balancing farming and personal vocation, and become a viable way of living in Hong Kong? Does it provide an opportunity for Hong Kong people to re-assess their lifestyle choices?

The artist wonders.

Despite rampant urban development, Nature remains full of life and seizes every opportunity to fight back and expand its territory. Seeing how the flora and fauna continue to thrive inspires us to stay strong and be hopeful. Our experience of farming has heightened our sensitivity, receptivity and creativity. The opportunity for our future lies in the sustainability of our land.


About WMA

Initiated by WYNG Foundation, WMA is a series of non-profit programmes developed to spark awareness and engage the public on social issues of great importance to Hong Kong, with a view to fostering positive change. They include WMA Masters, WMA Commission, WMA Open, WMA Student and WMA Film. The programmes have been encouraging dialogues through selected annual themes, including “Poverty”, “Air”, “Waster”, “Identity”,“Mobility” and “Transition” in the past. The theme for the 2018/19 cycle is “Opportunity”.