A talk by Wong Hoy Cheong
9 August 2017
This presentation examines the difficulties in engaging with communities through art, NGOs and local governments in various projects including video, site specific installations, religious sites, urban regeneration and participatory budgeting. Reflexivity, critical theories drawn from various thinkers and their praxes, the building of trust and popular wisdom of communities were crucial elements in developing and implementing these projects.
It will also reflect on the creative, ethical and socio-political ramifications, particularly their failures and successes. In all these projects and processes, persistent questions exist: What constitutes communities? In trying to do good, is there actually more harm done? How effective and sustainable are these interventions and socially engaged projects? What are the political, ethnic and religious dynamics at play?
(Note: Rage, Love & Hope are key words taken from Paulo Freire’s 1992 book “Pedagogy of Hope”)
About the Speaker
Wong Hoy Cheong studied literature & critical theory, education and fine arts at Brandeis University, Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) in the USA. Since his return to Malaysia, he has worked in various capacities, including as artist, curator, educator and political party worker. He has developed art projects in various contexts including working with the Roma community in Turkey and a mosque in UK; taught and given lectures in Cenfad and MIA in Malaysia and abroad at Harvard, Goldsmiths, NYU, NUS, Oxford, etc.; and in recent years, has functioned as an organiser and worker for PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) and with local governments in social housing in Selangor and Penang.
Wong Hoy Cheong gave a talk titled ‘Rage, Love and Hope: Engaging with Communities’ to a full house at Rumah Attap Library & Collective 亞答屋84號圖書館 as part of our regular public programmes. Hoy Cheong notes that the three terms come from Brazilian educator Paulo Freiere’s 1992 book The Pedagogy of Hope. Simply put, rage, love and hope are states of being that have propoelled narratives in history. Hoy Cheong considers these qualities as foundational motivation for his community engagement projects whether through art or civil society work.
Five projects were discussed, these include collaborating on a video with dispossessed gypsy kids in Istanbul 2) an urban regeneration project in a Selangor public housing area 3) a participatory budgeting in a Penang public housing complex 4) an interfaith interpretation project along Jalan Kapitan Kling in Georgetown Penang and 5) addressing Islamophobia through his work with a mosque community in UK.
In Hoy Cheong’s talk, we begin to see how political commitment shapes his methodology, or to put it in design-speak, how certain certain sympathy allows for a different kind of design thinking to emerge. The lesson is one of humility, since community engagement is ultimately a form of active listening. Instead of applying what is already known into one’s practice, the person engaging needs to begin from the community. Afterall, the building of trust and popular wisdom of communities are crucial elements in co-producing this new knowledge and experience.