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Pangrok Sulap and visitors celebrate the grand opening of CHAT in March 2019
Photograph: Courtesy CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile), Hong Kong

CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile) reflects on two years of history and innovation

while introducing their new spring exhibition: Interweaving Poetic Code

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong

CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile), which opened in spring 2019, is a non-profit art institution – the first of its kind in Hong Kong – at a former textile factory – The Mills. For two years, the centre has woven a tapestry of contemporary art and design, underpinned by heritage. Today, the exhibition and studio space in Tsuen Wan continues to showcase a variety of curated programmes with exhibitions, co-learning workshops, artist talks and more in three seasonal programmes annually, all of which are created for visitors to discover, have an open dialogue with, and immerse themselves in the innovation and legacy of the Hong Kong textile industry.

Yarn packing in hank form in Nan Fung Textiles Mill 1 in the 1950s

In reflection of what CHAT has achieved so far, Executive Director and Chief Curator Takahashi Mizuki recounts memorable moments of the past, all the while looking to the future.

During the construction of The Mills, “sections of the building were in various states of demolition with only the beams left standing, almost like a skeleton,” recalls Mizuki. It was during these site visits that she also took heed of the labour force on the site – how these individuals, overlapping in time with the factory workers that operated before them, had put in good work in revitalising the building. Keen to make “the invisible visible” again, CHAT shone a light on their stories through a memory bank wall at the end of The D. H. Chen Foundation Gallery, through the visual art of the Archiving The Mills Through The Lens exhibition in 2018, and in its exhibitions and programmes ever since. “I am proud to say that this is a promise we kept and will continue to keep,” she adds.


Takahashi Mizuki on a visit to The Mills on 30 June, 2017

For its inaugural season, CHAT invited artist collective Pangrok Sulap from Sabah, who are known for empowering communities through art, to perform at the opening reception. During their visit, the group had absorbed the many facets and colours of the city and used it to create woodblock print banner artworks with the help of the local community. “I felt, this is how art should be. Open to anyone who wishes to share the joy of the art experience,” says Mizuki.


Sudo Reiko & Adrien Gardère, Koi Currents, 2008/19 (Detail)

One year on and the pandemic continues to affect the whole world including CHAT. Having closed the gallery for over two months in their Winter programme, Mizuki remembers reopening to more visitors than expected and feeling an “invisible energy in the air which seemed to uplift the entire gallery.”

It is with this in mind that CHAT looks to the future; in preserving heritage while offering new knowledge in the world of textiles, art, and design for a wide and diverse audience. Mizuki expands that they aim to continue art and textile discussions on an international level. “We are not a conventional textile nor industrial museum, but we try to be as welcoming and accessible as possible, so that our visitors can find CHAT as a place of leisure and knowledge which they can visit again and again.”


Former textile worker Auntie Yee (Leung Fung Yee) operating the Cherry Draw Frame machine

This season, CHAT announces its latest exhibition Interweaving Poetic Code which will open its doors to the public from May 1 to July 18. The new spring programme is directed by artist, educator, and co-founder of New York’s School for Poetic Computation, Taeyoon Choi, who is joined by a lineup of cross-disciplinary artists from around the world, including Aarati Akkapeddi, Andreas Angelidakis, Laura Devendorf, Christine Sun Kim, KOBAKANT, Amor Munoz, and Rebirth Garments. Together, they will explore the aspects of coding in textile(s) and clothing for care with interactive installations as well as a discussion forum, workshops, creative art, and performances.


Visitors listening to stories by former workers at The D. H. Chen Foundation Gallery

Interweaving Poetic Code will be held from May 1 to July 18 on Wednesday to Monday 11am to 7pm at CHAT, The Mills, 45 Pak Tin Par Street, Tsuen Wan.

Time Out Hong Kong in partnership with CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile)

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