From Mass Movement to Art Processes: Telling the lived experiences of struggles in public arenas
John Chan

A look into how personal experiences within mass movements during social activisms across the globe contribute to inter-disciplinary artistic processes. John Chan examines how this concept may be used as a strategy to foster intercultural solidarity through the making of art.

“From Mass Movement to Art Processes: Telling the lived experiences of struggles in public arenas” is a project built on Chans MA thesis, “The Space Between: An Investigation into the reception and societal efficacy of art at times of social crisis”. This project explores the writings of Stuart Hall (1980) and Randy Martin (1998) regarding the reception of art with an emphasis on audience participation in the made works. With additional references to Douglas Crimp’s (1987) and Susan Leigh Foster’s (2003) writings on cultural activism, John studies the social efficacy of these works originating from the historical context and the interweaving of past and present through the action of the performing and spectating bodies.
Johns’ research is greatly motivated by his personal activist and migrant identity as a queer person of East Asian heritage. He is interested in drawing new ways for us to collectivise, not only questioning how society progresses, but also acknowledging who is left behind. He sees a necessity to imagine new possibilities to prepare us for our common future, observing which structures and infrastructure we might need for everyone to play on an even field. He questions how Grassroots Organisations, corporates and governments can join hands in building these structures. Through his work, John aims to activate public places with decolonised gestures to open up safe and brave spaces for everyone's voices to be heard, especially those from marginalised communities.This research, hence, takes multiple perspectives and approaches in understanding how performances, art events, and dance spaces, can be places where people’s lived experiences and struggles are heard and known. The project will take shape in the form of workshops, conversations, readings, reviewings and more.

One of the key processes to which John Chan will devote his time is a focused investigation into the employment of tear gas in cival environments. Through studying the legacy of the British Empire in contemporary society he shall evaluate the use of tear gas in military environments and civil spaces. Whilst visiting archives such as National Archive and Wellcome Collection in London, John will take a look at documents relevant to the colonial history of the country, from government memorandums to newspaper clippings. His process and findings will be presented in form of creative productions that aim at surfacing global post-colonial trauma. John sets out to to devise tools to construct an immersive public event that reveals how tear gas has become a materialised symbol of imperialism/ colonialism legacy. The universality of tear gas is of key significance in the potentiality of cross-cultural conversation through in-depth investigation. Through intimate conversations with political performance artists from different cultural backgrounds, he is able to gain a new understanding of how their personal participation in protests contribute to their current art making methodologies. Holding safe and brave spaces for fellow art makers to boldly experiment and explore new means of presentation inspired by their personal experiences, is paramount in Johns work.

Simultaneously, he shall assess previous personal productions while continuing to create archives of the workflow within his socially-pertinent works. As a result he wishes to devise strategies to generate collectivity through the common physical and psychological understanding of being part of a mass movement. Social injustice, including political suppression, racism and homophobia; and fragmented memories of traumatic experiences related to the displacement of home, relationships, activism and technological interactions are critical recurring  themes in the work of migrant and queer artists. John’s work both current and prior, are profound examples.

Bio: John Chan is an artist, activist, researcher and social entrepreneur working in the art and cultural sector. His focus lies in developing strategies for decolonising mainstream narratives through delivering cultural programmes. Ghost and John are a multidisciplinary art duo from Hon Kong.They are best known for their innovative integration of performance and contemporary technologies; a collaborative approach to making socio-politically pertinent artworks. Drawing from their experience of working in biology and computer science, they have developed a dynamic artistic practice that examines the intricacies of the body and nature, technological advances and folklore that accompany history.By embracing digital technology they are able to generate extended choreographic experiences beyond the theatre, reaching wider audiences through video, installation and performance. They create unique spectator encounters from scientific to spiritual from historical to mythical. Through complex investigations of social, archival, and cultural differences across the globe, Ghost and John continually explore post-colonial trauma of Hong Kong, the use of technology in democratic societies and new forms of art presentation.
"Thousand Papers" at CCA Goldsmiths, photo by Jeffrey Choy

"Air Mattress Sequence" at Chisenhale Dance Space, photo by Jane Lam

"Meniscus" at The Place London, photo by Dominic Farlam

Moving Margins Chapter II
moving arti|facts from the margins of dance archives
into accessible scores and formats

- STEPPING OUT, funded by the Federal Government
Commissioner for Culture and Media with
in the
framework of the initiative NEUSTART KULTUR.
Assistance Program for Dance.