Clara Cheung

PhD student, History of Art

Clara Cheung has practised as an artist, independent curator and art educator for the past 20 years in Hong Kong.  Her works have strong emphasis on performance art in public spaces and community-based projects.  She is currently a 1st year PhD student in the History of Art Department at University of York. Her research interest is the art exhibition history of Hong Kong and South-East Asia.

Our 60 seconds interview with Clara:

What do you do in the field of mental health?

In the past year, I have studied a body of paintings created in a project titled, Art in Action for Political Actors, in 2020, toward the end of the Anti-Extradition Law Democratic Movement in Hong Kong.  Through interviews, text and visual analysis, I try to reveal how art-making helped political actors deal with traumatic experiences from protests and confrontations with the authorities.

What do you find most rewarding and inspiring in this work?

Besides the healing process, I found that this art project also bears a special quality of connectivity because of its “dialogic features” and “emphatic visions.” The art in turn not only helps Hongkongers preserve their sense memory and collective memory, which is truly important during the development of the collective identity amid the decolonisation process, but also helps connect the Hong Kong community with other political actors from a different time and space.

What is the most challenging or complicated aspect of this work?

The artworks are shared anonymously, due to the ongoing political suppression imposed by the authorities of the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong.  I had to be extremely careful with the data collection process.

What impact do you hope your work is having- or can potentially have?

I hope my study can help reveal how art-making can help political actors, amid an intensive social movement with many physical and bodily confrontations.  Only if the people can also take good care of their mental health, can the long fight for liberation then be sustained. 

Could you share with us one piece of advice that you follow for your own mental health?

For me, the process of art-making (e.g. painting and doing durational performance art pieces) helps. It allows me to focus on a kind of “emptiness” (yet also full of potential).