Monthly Highlights
Taking Art : Danny Yung Ning-tsun  

As a Board member and member of Development, Performing Arts and Remuneration committees of the WKCDA, Danny Yung Ning-tsun is an experimental art pioneer who has been deeply involved in multifarious fields of the arts, mainly theatre, cartoon, film and video, visual art and installation for over three decades. The founder cum Co-Artistic Director of the 30-year-old experimental art group Zuni Icosahedron and Chairperson of the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture promotes cultural exchange and creative education through his theatrical productions in over 30 cities worldwide.

Q: What was your first encounter of art and culture?

A: I guess it was the Cantonese opera performance at a traditional wedding ceremony. It was a small shiny stage with some old-fashioned costumes, only the kids were watching while most guests were busy playing mahjong. I think the wedding and funeral rituals are also my first encounter of “art”, these traditional rituals are the accumulation of artistic creation from the past. Similarly, our current experimental art will eventually become future art classics if it can survive the test of time.

Q: When did you seriously start drawing which eventually led to your famous bubble comics?

A: I liked drawing on textbooks since I was a child. Later my mother knew I was into drawing and she took me to learn sketching and Chinese painting from Zhou Shixin. The training set my painting foundation and made me realise the power of cross-boundary culture. I continued to learn painting from Ding Yanyong in secondary school. Ding did not really have a regular teaching system and left it to us to comprehend the art and I gradually began to develop an interest in comics.

Q: Do you play any musical instruments?

A: I managed to play half a song by Bach through self-learning. I found it very interesting as the music notes evolved when my fingers danced. I liked to try out new things because an open mind and experimental spirit are very important in the process of learning and creation. It will be tragic culturally, if artists shut their minds and become stubborn. Art becomes an ornament, entertainment and commodity in an economic-driven environment and it can become a tool of propaganda in a political-driven society. Art can only excel its unique critical thinking and boundless creativity under a cultural-driven environment and I attach high hope for the WKCD.

Danny Yung Ning-tsunQ: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the WKCD?

A: Talent nurturing, particularly in the area of creative, management and planning, is the most urgent need to spur local cultural development. Grooming for creativity should be the main theme of WKCD development. It is also a form of general public education as well as professional elite training. The biggest yoke restraining the current cultural policy is the discrimination against arts and culture in our education system, resulting in a general lack of arts and cultural knowledge among the public. The local mainstream entertainment culture brought hollowness to the cultural spirit in Hong Kong. This is an issue WKCD must face. Our future arts hub should not merely be a “tourist attraction”. Hong Kong is not a third world country so it should possess cultural vision and be responsible for the world’s cultural development like any international city.

The worst thing is: Our leaders from the political, academic, commercial sectors and the media generally lack cultural vision, cultural etiquette and a global vision. This is the biggest challenge facing the WKCD. Apart from the challenge of managing rising construction cost, it is of vital importance to develop cultural software. WKCD should not only be an activity centre with pretty packaging nor another cultural district with LCSD’s operation mode. It should be a think tank with brain and global cultural vision, and that is the direction which its cultural software, mode of governance and all staff of the WKCD should follow. While the cultural development in China and Taiwan are still heavily political driven, Hong Kong is lucky to enjoy its free cultural space with independent thinking. We should leverage on this advantage and take the lead in cultural critique within Greater China and build a strong cultural network in the Asia Pacific region.

Q: What do you expect from WKCD?

A: I think WKCD has to be connected with the creative industry. We should not manage our cultural industry merely from an economic perspective but rather make the economy more creative from the cultural perspective. WKCD can play a vital incubating role at this stage where the creative industry is yet to be fully developed, for example, building an Asia Pacific creative industry centre in the WKCD.

The Authority should actively interact with the 18 districts, LCSD and local art groups. Hong Kong’s most valuable cultural resource is community cultural organisations. The Authority should have both short-term and long-term goals to coordinate and enhance these organisations, connecting them with cultural bodies from the Pearl River Delta, Greater China and the rest of the world. Local cultural organisations are active, energetic and creative but unfortunately they are bound by the lack of government support or long- term resources development plan. When planning the development of WKCD, the government should consider providing more support to enhance these organisations’ cultural visions and long-term planning ability so that they can thrive sustainably. If there is no mutual trust and cooperation between cultural organisations and the government which already lacks cultural vision and long-term planning experience, WKCD can only become a sand castle.

Q: What kind of programmes do you think WKCD should organise?

A: The most important thing is to unlock its untiring spirit in a cross-culture and cross-boundary sense. We can start by building cultural networks for Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan and Macau. I have an initial idea of a one-week theatre festival named “Asian Autumn Bamboo 1T2C Festival”. We can invite critics, scholars, art administrators, policy makers, traditional and contemporary artists of performing arts, visual and multimedia culture from the Asia region to create art works based on the xiqu concept of “one table two chairs”. This is a creative cross-culture “forum” providing a platform for the exchange of ideas on future Asia cultural development. This can be done in the temporary bamboo theatres at the WKCD site, paving its way to become a cultural metropolis.