Interview with Tang Fu Kuen

Tang Fu Kuen is an independent Bangkok-based dramaturg, curator and producer of contemporary performance and visual fields, working in Asia and Europe. He was the sole curator of the Singapore pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Read on to learn more about Asia’s performing arts scene and its future through the eyes of Tang Fu Kuen.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Fu Kuen, my family name is Tang. I’m an independent producer, curator and dramaturg for theater and also a visual arts. I’m originally from Singapore but I’m based in Bangkok. I often travel between Asia and Europe and also within Asia. A lot of my work is independent with individual artists in different contexts and also making artistic work, producing and advising other artists.

You have been working a lot with different performing arts festivals. What kind of intercultural collaboration have you done in that field?

As a curator for festivals, I’m mostly responsible for identifying current practices and productions in Asia that are interesting and could be transferred for festival audiences in Europe.

What kinds of trends can you see in the cultural sector in Thailand?

In Thailand, as in many other developing countries, globalization is rising. It’s very hard to identify what the audince is looking for. but there is a general trend towards entertainment and lifestyle genres. Also musicals are in rise, and films – the Thai people are really into Blockbusters.

[quote text=” The young people in Asia are very open-minded and connected via social media these days.”]

You talked about new circus at EARS on Helsinki. What kind of market is there for circus in Thailand?

Thailand doesn’t have a very big tradition in circus compared to the neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia where there are many circus troops. I think that European new circus as a genre has a lot to give to Asia. There’s also a lot of potential for collaboration – how it would look like is hard to say. Young people in Asia are very open-minded and connected via social media and all sorts of virtual experimentations these days. So it could well be an online circus for example! We’re talking about a very vibrant, dynamic young audience and creators. They are game to try many things.

What do you think about China as a market for contemporary arts?

I think that China as a case is quite specific. Since the country opened its doors for globalization, the huge population of China is exposed in a way like never before. China is a huge potential market from a cultural industry point of view. The consumers are very curious and the demographic is very broad. Even if you are a niche kind of practice, you can find your audience there because it’s such a big market. I would like to think that the Chinese market is not always mass-based. There are individuals and sectors that want something else but can’t find it.

What kinds of differences in performing artists’ training methods have you noticed between Europe and Asia?

In Asia it’s always been that the body and mind cannot be separated. So when they do their training, they do a lot of meditation and holistic exercises. It’s not just about building muscles, strength and body but also making sure that mind and body are working in a holistic way. For example yoga as a kind of maintenance and internal strength exercise, is a part of a scheme for training process. I see that this kind of body practicing is increasing in Europe as well.

Interview with Rossana Hu

Rossana Hu is a Shanghai-based architect who has received many recognitions for her work and expertise, including the Wallpaper* Designer of the Year 2014 Award. Read on to learn more about Rossana’s upcoming projects and thoughts on re-branding and reusing spaces.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Rossana Hu and I am an architect by training and I now work as an architect and a designer in Shanghai.

You have a recent project where you re-branded an old police office. What were the biggest difficulties in the project?

Number one was to convince the client, who actually hired us to do a new building. They wanted to demolish the old building but we saw value in preserving parts of it. So that was the biggest challenge as he is putting in all the money and was expecting a brand new building.

What kinds of spaces inspire you the most?

Generally speaking? It’s hard to pin point exactly but I would say that places that bring out memories inspire me. It’s about the mood and experience or a memory of an experience. I think spaces are not neutral, they always include feelings. The feelings are deep, whether they are good or bad, happy or sad. If they are deep, I like it.

[quote text=”Designers are a lot like performers; judged by the latest piece.”]

Recently you won the Wallpaper* Designer of the Year 2014 Award. What are your next goals or projects you are working on?

We have a lot of projects that we work on and never see awards as goals. Those things just kind of come. Designers are a lot like performers. They say that a musician is as good as their last performance. If you are a pianist and you fail at a concert, no one will ever want to see you again. I think that’s same with us designers. If you do one bad project, people will forget about all the previous good projects and only remember the very last one. So what I think we try to do is that the next project has to always be better than the previous one.  So always thinking of fresh ideas, always challenging yourself, never taking convictions or traditions as the only way, finding new possibilities and doing things differently.

Here in EARS you talked a lot about re-branding and reusing spaces. What is the value of reusing old buildings?

I think people talk a lot about sustainability. Often that kind of talk has to do with technology, finding new technology, new materials in order to recycle and reuse. But I think one of the easiest ways to sustainability are; number one, make thinks that last. If for example a building is built to be long lasting, you don’t need to rebuild. The second thing is to reuse. It’s very sensible and common sense way of making your environment sustainable. For example if a shopping center ceases to exist as a viable commercial center, then you can see a theater taking over or a church or a school as the building is already there and the structures are already there.  I see that reusing something is a good example of sustainability.