Lecture Series on Transculturality

The economy goes global, and political systems are intertwined worldwide: goods, information, signs, and humans are on the way to (apparent) boundlessness. Trans- and multiculturalism seem to be the order of the day. But what does this “categorical imperative” mean exactly? Are our local or regional orientations obsolete? Are we now always on the road, “in-between”, schizoid and manifold in our identities? How can we gain the skills and the know-how to engage in different cultures, so as to appreciate and to relate to them? These are of course “big” questions. Nevertheless, we aim to discuss the challenge and our desire to embrace this “transculturality” in our personal and institutional work? Is it about knowledge, experience, critique, about friendship, competition, power, and authority?  Is it possible – based on our experiences – to “understand” each other? And how can we develop ourselves while experiencing yet another crucial revision of our culture? Is it at all possible to speak of “our” culture?


This autumn we launch a lecture series on transculturality in the context of the transcultural and cross-disciplinary educational format called “Transcultural Collaboration” for MA-students recently initiated by the Zurich University of the Arts in collaboration with partner institutions as Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA), City University of Hong Kong/School of Creative Media (SCM), China Academy of Art/School of Intermedia Arts, Hangzhou/China and Taipei National University of the Arts.

This lecture series focuses on various aspects of “Transculturality” form the perspective of art and design practice as well as on the political dimension of identity and globalization.

All lectures are open to the public and free of charge.

Participating Lecturers

  • 09/09: Jörg Scheller, Curator and Head of BA Photography, Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland
  • 15/09: Gina Marchetti, Professor at the Department of Comparative Literature, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 01/10: Hongjohn Lin, Curator and Professor, Taipei National University of the Arts, Taiwan
  • 08/10: Frank Vigneron, Director of MA program in Fine Art, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 15/10:Kenneth Ip Shu Kei, Chair School of Film and Television Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts
  • 29/10: Zhao Chuan, writer, art critic, curator and theatre director
  • 05/11: Gordon Mathews, Professor of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • 12/11: Ouyang-Yu, Author, Melbourne/Shanghai

Wednesday, September 09 – 7pm

Cosmopolitan Rhapsody – Transcultural Tendencies in the Music Video Genre

Lecturer: Prof. Jörg Scheller, Curator and Head of BA Photography, Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland
Venue: Connecting Space Hong Kong

Abstract: In 1995, Lev Manovich wrote: „The genre of music video has been a laboratory“. While Manovich dealt with music videos as a “constantly expanding textbook for digital cinema”, this talk will focus on transcultural aesthetics, symbols, and narratives in the audiovisual laboratories of pop culture – from sophisticated to decidedly non-sophisticated ones, from underground to mainstream, from American heavy metal to Ghanaian gospel porn rap. In place of an overview, the genre itself, this hybrid of various media – film, music, text –, will be portrayed as a genius loci for transculturality.

Tuesday, September 15 – 5:30pm

Transcultural Encounters, Transnational Feminisms: Women Media Activists and the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong

Lecturer: Gina Marchetti, Professor at the Department of Comparative Literature, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Venue: University of Hong Kong, Rm 404, Run Run Shaw Tower

Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement, calling for a more open procedure for vetting candidates for its first exercise in universal suffrage in the election of its Chief Executive in 2017, does not have an explicit “feminist” agenda.  However, initial research shows that over fifty percent of participants in the movement are female.  Although underrepresented in visible leadership roles and in media reports on the demonstrations, women have played an essential part in all aspects of the movement.  Moreover, they suffered from sexual harassment by counter-demonstrators intent on intimidating them and infringing on their right to public assembly.  As Mirana Sze-to’s preliminary analysis shows, women activists shaped the physical space and quotidian operation of occupying Central, Causeway Bay, and Mongkok in very visible ways—from redecorating public bathrooms and crafting agit-prop artworks to running supplies and operating “democracy” study halls. They drew on various transnational cultural icons and ideas to support their political aims with nods to female artists such as Yoko Ono as well as noticeable ties to global LGBTQ rainbow movements.

During the demonstrations, women media artists took up cameras to record events and document their active participation in the political process.  This presentation examines how these filmmakers see themselves as women with cameras observing as well as confronting Hong Kong’s political deadlock in relation to broader questions of the role of women in democratic movements globally. The talk highlights the diversity of the female media artists, coming from North America, Europe, Vietnam, mainland China, and elsewhere, who helped to put the Umbrella Movement on screen for world audiences.   Their motion pictures illustrate the transcultural, cosmopolitanism at the root of transnational feminist theory today, and how this plays a critical role in depiction of Hong Kong activism for international audiences.

Thursday, October 01 – 7pm

Imaginary Identity: The Fake Formosan George Psalmanaazaar

Lecturer: Lin Hongjohn, Curator and Professor, Taipei National University of the Arts, Taiwan
Venue: Connecting Space Hong Kong

In 1703 the high society of London there appeared George Psalmanaazaar who claimed himself a Formosan to be abducted by a Christian missionary. In his book, An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa(1704) , described Formosa to be a country of abundant resources, governed by a Japanese ruler.  In this fictive book, Formosan people was almost half-naked, only wearing silver plates over their private parts. Horses, camels, and elephants were domesticated for transportation. One of the high peaks of the book was that every year Formosans sacrificed the eldest sons to their gods, and even in the second edition (1705), Formosan were exaggerated as cannibals, who ate those were sacrificed and executed. Being a celebrity of his exotic oriental identity and feted by all the literary and philosophical lions of London, Psalmanaazaar were even invited to teach Formosan in Oxford University. Psalmanaazaar was the beau monde in the celebrities of London.

Psalmanaazaar’s real identity is still unknown today, as much as in his will he still signed with the fictional Taiwanese name. In order to portray as a Formosan, he ate raw meat with various heavy spices. He even lighted candle when he slept to pass for the other that he was actually reading, for Formosans, according to his book, learned knowledge through their sleeps. For 18th century occidental world Ilha Formosa, Taiwan, represents one of the most distant country they can imagine not just geographically but symbolically as well.

Since 2008, I have been working on this fake Taiwanese under the title The Museum of George Psalmanazzare, MOGP exhibiting in Rotterdam, Manchester, Shanghai and Taipei. In the 2012 Taipei Biennial as participated artist, the project was presented in a manner much similar to that of museum. I link the secrete path between identity and the politics of fantasy, and the other, the real of the local, much as a missing part that is intrinsic to the real Taiwanese. In combining the seemingly impossible fragments of sights and sounds, to link the web of identity politics that linger between the ancient and the contemporary, the truth and falsity to capture the fleeting moment of the perverse, the primitive, the empowered to glance the phantom of history.

Thursday, October 08 – 7pm

Non-essentialist hybridization – Now you see me, now you don’t.

Lecturer: Frank Vigneron, Director of MA program in Fine Art, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Venue: Connecting Space Hong Kong

After a recapitulation of the notions of ‘‘East’’ and ‘‘West’’ in the work of Edward Said and the kind of problems they have generated in the evaluation of art in Hong Kong (illustrated with some examples of two kinds of artwork using concepts and visuals from Euro-America and China), the process of hybridization is then presented as the way in which a culture will transform into something new. The question is therefore to establish what can be called a hybrid. To put it simply, one calls ‘‘hybrid’’ in the cultural realm something that does not yet look ‘‘native.’’ For instance, in present-day China what was still considered to be a hybrid in the arts not so long ago is often identified as more Chinese than ‘‘Western’’ today. A cultural element only stays a hybrid as long as it is seen as such, but its visibility is subject to change. This begs another question: what are the conditions of the visibility of hybridity and through what process does it go before being identified as something ‘‘native’’? Hybridity is in reality a very unstable characteristic, and its presence depends very much on who is looking and how; it is a question of cultural representation and, as a result, cannot be inherent in the object itself. This non-essentialist view of hybridization in the visual arts, presenting itself in the shape of the Deleuzian rhizome, may shed a different light on questions related to differences and similarities between cultures.

Thursday, October 15 – 7pm

Tracing Hong Kong Urban Space in the 1950s through the Cinema

Lecturer: Kenneth Ip Shu Kei, Chair School of Film and Television HKAPA
Venue: Connecting Space Hong Kong

There were two kinds of cinema in Hong Kong in the 1950s, the Cantonese cinema which catered more to the grass-root population, and the Mandarin cinema which found its audience mostly among the middle class. Both cinemas serve as a mirror to the many social problems facing the colony after WWII. The lecture attempts to look at the division of urban space, particularly the housing problem, in that decade via a few outstanding and representative cinematic works.

Thursday, October 29 – 7pm

Grass Stage’s Route to Social Theatre

Lecturer: Zhao Chuan, writer, art critic, curator and theatre director
Venue: Connecting Space Hong Kong

“The stage is a small world, and the world is a big stage”- how does reality unveil drama every day and make it impossible for us to stay out of social theatre?  Grass Stage is a theatre collective founded in spring 2005. Under the direction of Zhao Chuan—writer, curator and theater director, it has put on a number of programs and performances which steadily grew in influence and acclaim.  The members of Grass Stage encourage ordinary persons to enter the theater to create a social theater with a rich social conscience.  Grass Stage’s pieces, within a framework of the most basic “poor theater”, use a diverse set of techniques including physical theater, texts, documentary footage, oral story-telling, clown performance and performance art, engendering powerful spaces for intellectual exchange.  Over the years it has deployed various venues to stage not-for-profit performances and discussions in China. Their theatre has thus become a gathering spots for all kinds of people, continually creating fluid public spaces. Their post-performance talks have often become the scene of theatre unexpectedly.

Thursday, November 05 – 7pm

Cultural Identity in the World Today

Lecturer: Gordon Mathews, professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Venue: Connecting Space Hong Kong

Who are we?  Today two contradictory discourses shape our cultural identities, those of the state and of the market. The state tells us that we should love our country, while the market tells us that we should love money and choice.  Both of these forces are based on lies, but because we are immersed in these discourses, we cannot easily see this.  Hong Kong is unusual in the world, in that it has long been based not on the discourse of the state, but only on that of the market.

This accounts for some of the political turmoil in Hong Kong in recent years.  Are Hong Kong people, in their inability or refusal to follow the discourse of the state, blind as the rest of the world is not, or are they seers in a world that is blind?

Thursday, November 12 – 7pm

Creative Migration: ‘to emigrate inwardly’

Lecturer: Ouyang-Yu, Author, Melbourne/Shanghai
Venue: Connecting Space Hong Kong

‘Migration for Good, for an Eternal Étranger’, a topic Ouyang Yu will be talking about in which he’ll describe his experience as an Australian citizen living and teaching in China where he was born, how his writings are censored in both China and Australia, for the similar reasons of unmarketability, and how he lives as a poet and novelist writing in two languages in two countries, with English unpublishable in China and Chinese unpublishable in Australia, or only to a very limited degree.


Jörg Scheller is an art historian, journalist, and musician. He has been tenured lecturer in art history and head of photography at the Zurich University of the Arts since 2012. In 2013, he was the curator of the Salon Suisse at the 55th Venice Art Biennale. From 2009–2012, he was the coordinator of an international research project on the Venice Biennale (focus Eastern/Central Europe) at the Swiss Institute for Art Research, Zurich. In parallel, he was assistant professor at the University of Siegen, Germany (until 2013). Besides, he had teaching assignments at the University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe, at the Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart, at the University of Strasbourg, and at the University of Arts in Poznan, Poland (ongoing). In 2011, he was awarded his PhD for a dissertation on the myth of Arnold Schwarzenegger (supported by a scholarship from the German Research Foundation, 2007–209). His research is focused on bodybuilding, exhibition history, and popular culture. Latest book publications:  Anything Grows. 15 Essays zur Geschichte, Ästhetik und Bedeutung des Bartes (2014, ed. with Alexander Schwinghammer); Arnold Schwarzenegger oder Die Kunst, ein Leben zu stemmen (2012); No Sports! Zur Ästhetik des Bodybuildings (2010). He is a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines such as Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Schweizer Monat, frieze d/e. www.joergscheller.de

Gina Marchetti teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature, University of Hong Kong.   Her books include Romance and the “Yellow Peril”: Race, Sex and Discursive Strategies in Hollywood Fiction (1993), Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s INFERNAL AFFAIRS The Trilogy (2007), From Tian’anmen to Times Square: Transnational China and the Chinese Diaspora on Global Screens (2006), and The Chinese Diaspora on American Screens: Race, Sex, and Cinema (2012). Information on her project on Hong Kong women filmmakers can be found at https://hkwomenfilmmakers.wordpress.com/.

Hongjohn Lin is an artist, writer and curator. He has participated in exhibitions including the Manchester Asian Triennial 2008, the Rotterdam Film Festival 2008, and the 2012 Taipei Biennial. Lin was curator of the Taiwan Pavilion Atopia, Venice Biennial 2007 and co-curator of 2010 Taipei Biennial (with Tirdad Zolghadr). Lin is serving as Professor and Chairperson of the Fine Arts Department at Taipei National University of the Arts.

Frank Vigneron received a Ph.D. in Chinese Art History from the Paris VII University, a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the Paris IV Sorbonne University and a Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He joined the Department of Fine Arts, CUHK in 2004, teaching courses on the History of Western Art, the theories of Modernism and Postmodernism in art, and Chinese and Western comparative aesthetics. His research focus is on the history of Chinese painting from the 18th century onwards and on different aspects of contemporary Chinese art seen in a global context. He is also the program director of Master of Arts (Fine Arts). In 2010, he became Chair of the Hong Kong Art School Academic Committee as well as a member of the Hong Kong Art School Council. He is also a member of the International Association of Art Critics Hong Kong. Professor Vigneron is also a practicing artist. He has held several solo exhibitions in Hong Kong and has taken part in local and international exhibitions.

Shu Kei began writing scripts for television when he was still studying in the University of Hong Kong. Among the directors he worked with during this period were Ann HUI, Partrick TAM, YIM Ho , Allen FONG and TSUI Hark. He entered Golden Harvest Film Company after graduation as scriptwriter and assistant director. In 1980, he wrote the script for John WOO’s TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL. In 1981, he made his directorial debut, SEALED WITH A KISS. Since then, he has directed six drama features, including HU-DU-MEN (1996) and A QUEER STORY (1997) and a documentary, SUNLESS DAYS which won a Jury Award at the Rimini Film Festival and a Special Award at the Berlin Film Festival. He’s also a distributor specialising in art-house films. Up to date, the library of his distribution company has over 200 titles. Besides these, he is responsible for the world marketing and distribution of such important Chinese films as TIAN Zhuangzhuang’s THE BLUE KITE, CHEN Kaige’s FAREWELL TO MY CONCUBINE, WONG Kar-wai’s ASHES OF TIME and CHUNGKING EXPRESS. He is the producer of ZHANG Yuan’s BEIJING BASTARDS and Fruit CHAN’s MADE IN HONG KONG, among others.

He has edited and published several anthologies of yearly film reviews for the Hong Kong Film Critics Society, two books on the Hong Kong Cinema in the Fifties and Sixties for the Hong Kong International Film Festival and is the author of two novels.

Zhao Chuan is a writer, art critic, curator and theatre director who creates alternative, political theatre in Shanghai. He is the founding member and mastermind of the very important Chinese theatre collective Grass Stage since 2005. His work devoted to the promotion of new social theatre movement and the creation of non-profit public space. The collective has focused on deepening the connection between theatre and society, and has made use of a wide range of venues and situations for performances and discussions. Grass Stage events are not only spaces for bringing together diverse elements of society, but also provide, in a country relatively lacking in opportunities for public participation, a fluid and varied range of public social spaces. His theatre works have been performed in many Chinese cities, as well as in outside of China. Zhao Chuan has been awarded several literature awards, including the Unita Prize for New Novelists (Taiwan 2001). His curatorial projects including 2014 Performance Project at OCAT Shenzhen; “Action Asia” at Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum from 2013 to 2014. He was artistic director for Mecooon Fringe Festival in Shanghai in 2009 and 2010.

Gordon Mathews is a professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has written and edited various books, including What Makes Life Worth Living: How Japanese and Americans Make Sense of Their Worlds (1996), Global Culture/Individual Identity: Searching for Home in the Cultural Supermarket (2001), Hong Kong, China: Learning to Belong to a Nation (with Eric Ma and Tai-lok Lui, 2008), and Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong (2011).

Ouyang Yu, born in Huangzhou, Hubei, in the People’s Republic of China, completed an MA in English and Australian Literature in Shanghai and worked as an interpreter, translator and lecturer in China. He came to Australia in 1991 to complete a PhD at La Trobe University, Melbourne, on the representation of the Chinese in Australian fiction (awarded 1995). He writes in both English and Chinese. Best known for his poetry, he has also written fiction and criticism in both languages, and has translated over a dozen major Australian literary texts into Chinese.

Ouyang’s best-known works in English are his poetry collections Moon Over Melbourne and Other Poems (1995, 2nd revised edn 2005), Songs of the Last Chinese Poet (1997, short-listed for the 1999 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards) and Two Hearts, Two Tongues and Rain-Coloured Eyes (2002). His first novel, The Eastern Slope Chronicle, was published in 2002. He is the founding editor of Otherland, the first (and only) bilingual journal of Chinese-Australian writing. He has won a number of major grants for fiction, non-fiction, poetry and translation.