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Interview: Ho Siu Kee and Alex Hofford on shark preservation and activist art

“As a member of society and an artist, we should be concerned with issues that affect the living environment of our planet”

Confessional, Ho Sui Kee, 2017

In partnership with international non-profit organisation WildAid, the Hong Kong Maritime Museum and Parkview Arts Action are joining forces to present On Sharks and Humanity. Through its multidisciplinary collectio, which includes sculptures, paintings, films, photography and poetry, the exhibition aims to draw public attention to the issue of shark preservation.

The exhibition is open to the public at Hong Kong Maritime Museum from June 28 to September 29. For the Hong Kong edition, the works of two local talents – Peggy Chan and Professor Ho Siu Kee  are being showcased alongside 32 internationally recognised and emerging artists from China, Singapore and Taiwan. 

Ahead of the show we chat with Professor Ho about her work and discuss with WildAid ambassador and photographer Alex Hofford about WildAid’s mission and what they're currently doing to reduce the demand for shark fin in Hong Kong. By Sarah Lau

On Sharks and Humanities

Professor Ho Siu Kee

Could you briefly introduce your art for anyone not be familiar with it?
I trained as a sculptor. Over the past 20 years my works have been focusing on how bodily perception can be a means of expression, particularly in the form of wearable sculpture and performative installations, while photos and videos can be used for documentation and presentation.

Why do you think activist art is important?
Not every artist or piece of artwork needs to be engaged in social issues directly but as a member of society, an artist, like any other person, should be concerned with issues that affect the living environment. It's an important objective for me, sometimes exemplified in my art in a more direct way, and sometimes in a more subtle way.

Could you tell us more about your piece for this exhibition, Confessional?
It includes a shark fin/cage-like metal sculpture, a performative installation on the sea, and a photo documentation. For the exhibition, I’ll show the sculpture and the photo and do a performance (standing inside the sculpture quietly) during the opening ceremony. The performative component connotes the confession of what human beings have done to other species — 100 million sharks killed every year.

If you were to recommend one other piece at the exhibition, what would it be?
I would recommend Wang Lu-yan’s Downward Force on Upward Moving Objects, which is a more conceptual piece.

Are there other social issues that you would like to base future works on?
I'm currently looking into organic farming in a metropolitan city like Hong Kong. I might develop some works along this line.

On Sharks and Humanities

Alex Hofford

Could you tell us a bit about what WildAid does?
WildAid is the only NGO that focuses solely on reducing the demand for endangered species, with the strong and simple message: 'When the buying stops, the killing can too'. WildAid's mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes by reducing demand through public awareness campaigns and providing comprehensive marine protection.

How does shark fin consumption affect the ocean ecology?
Removing sharks from marine ecosystems has a devastating and cascading effect on coral reefs.

Are exhibitions like On Sharks and Humanity effective in raising social awareness?
Yes! We really appreciate Parkview and the Hong Kong Maritime Museum for hosting this important exhibition as these beautiful artworks can help raise awareness of the shark fin problem in Hong Kong. This, in turn, can reduce the demand for shark fin soup from the public.

Apart from exhibitions, what else is being done to reduce demand for illegal wildlife trade?
In Hong Kong, we are mostly targeting the corporate sector. Many young people are already aware of the issues of shark conservation, but it’s harder to reach the older folk and convince them to change their habits. That's why we have been targeting the airlines and shipping sector so that we can cut the supply chain of shark fin. We now have 44 airlines and 17 shipping lines that have pledged to stop shipping shark fin to Hong Kong.

See the exhibition

On Sharks and Humanity

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The Hong Kong Maritime Museum presents a special exhibition highlighting the importance of shark preservation and the declining health of the world's oceans through a variety of creative artworks.

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Hong Kong Maritime Museum , Central Wednesday June 28 2017 - Friday September 29 2017

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