Wong Ping: Heart Digger at Camden Arts Centre, London

wong ping heart digger


One of my favourite art organisations in London is the Camden Arts Centre. The reason is quite simple: they are not mainstream, and they always take risks. While many famous art institutions like the Royal Academy of Art and the Tate rely heavily on big names and blockbuster shows, Camden Arts Centre is like a breath of fresh air. The artists that exhibit there are often overlooked by other institutions, but I have yet to encounter a disappointing exhibition there.

I came across Hong Kong artist Wong Ping‘s animations around a year ago in Hong Kong, and was captivated by the bold graphics and dark humour. It came as a surprise when I learned that he would be having a solo exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre, since he is hardly a conventional artist.

It turns out that Wong Ping is the inaugural recipient of Camden Art Centre’s new Emerging Artist Prize at Frieze (2018). The Prize was established in collaboration with Frieze Art Fair to nurture and celebrate the most innovative artists of the moment, who have yet to receive the recognition their work deserves. Hence, the exhibition was included as part of the prize awards.


camden arts centre

wong ping heart digger


After receiving his BA degree in multimedia design from Curtin University in Perth, Australia, in 2005, Wong Ping returned to Hong Kong and worked in TV post-production on cheesy dramas. Bored of his day job, he started making animations at home and posted them on his blog in 2010. The aesthetics of his technicolour and distinct animations recall the styles and colour palettes of the Memphis Group and 1980s video games. Yet this visual language is naive, eye-catching and unique. Interestingly, this childlike and gleeful aesthetic do not match the twisted, dark, and absurd contents. Sex, politics, family issues and social conflicts are the common themes featured in his animations. He is a keen observer and a fierce critic of our dystopian age.

The ‘Heart digger’ exhibition runs across two venues, with an off-site temporary space at Cork Street in Central London. At both sites, there are oversized inflatable animals (giraffe and rabbit) and screens showing his explicit and amusing animations.


wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger


This timely exhibition coincides with the Hong Kong protests that started in June (and still on going). At the Camden venue, a heart-shaped grave has been dug in the back garden from which emerge segments of a giant dismembered inflatable giraffe. In a statement at the exhibition, he mocked Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and officials saying that they have buried part of the giraffe’s neck in the backyard so that they could use the giraffe’s neck as a tunnel to escape from Hong Kong. Therefore he cut off the section of the giraffe’s neck in which the officials were hiding, and hid it in storage on Cork Street.


wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger


At the Cork Street space, two of his recent works – Fables 1 (2018) and Fables 2 (2019) – are shown. They are part of an ongoing ‘morality tale’ series that feature different animals such as a convicted capitalist cow, a nun elephant, and a three-headed homicidal rabbit (which is also an inflatable installation).

Perhaps Wong Ping‘s work is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he is an important voice during this political crisis in Hong Kong today. As a pro-democracy activist, he uses his art to raise awareness and spread political messages to an international audience. Nobody knows what the future may hold for Hong Kong, but it is often during these unsettling times that the finest art would emerge. My wish is that ultimately these art works would connect and help to heal the wounds of the people in Hong Kong.


wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger

wong ping heart digger



Wong Ping: Heart Digger exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre will end on 15th September.



Hyper Japan summer 2015




Although I have heard a lot about the biannual Hyper Japan festival, a celebration of the Japanese culture, music, food and entertainment, I have never visited this event before. This year, after spending one year learning Japanese, I made friends with a group of people who are interested in the Japanese culture. One of them plays the shamisen (a traditional Japanese three-stringed lute) and performs with the SOAS Min’yo (Japanese folk songs) group, and we were invited to see their performance at the festival. At £17, I thought the ticket was fairly pricey, but I was also curious to see what all the fuss was about.

The venue moved from Earls Court to the bigger O2 showcasing a line-up of musical performers from Japan, in addition to several zones dedicated to the popular gaming and anime titles, Japanese goods (including books, ‘kawaii’ stationery, traditional homeware and fashion accessories etc), as well as Japanese food and drinks.


hyper japan 2015


Upon arrival, I was surprised to find a long queue outside of the venue, it was lucky that we had bought the tickets online beforehand. As expected, the venue was packed esp. in the food court, so we simply picked the shortest queue as I was quite hungry by then (since it took us at least 20 minutes to get from the entrance to the food court).

Walking around, my friends and I were astounded by the prices of the goods at the festival, i.e. a bar of matcha Kit Kat was £5 and 10 onigiri (rice balls with seaweed) was £29! But at the same time, it dawned on me that the popularity of the festival is not so much to do with the food or shopping, it’s all about COSPLAY!

I never realised that the subculture of cosplay is so popular in the UK, and I was utterly dazzled by the idiosyncratic and creative costumes and props seen at the event. I only wished that I had taken more photographs of them. The festival was more like a showcase of cosplayers, it was such an eye-opening experience.


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Top & 2nd left: SOAS MinYo group


After seeing our friend’s folk music and dancing performance, a few of us went to see the finale of the festival, which was the stage performance of Dempagumi.inc, a cult Japanese female idol group from Akihabara, Tokyo. I have never heard of this group before, but my friend who is into Japanese anime informed me that they are a popular Japanese subculture group that is gaining fan base globally.

I fail to find apt words to describe how I felt during the 20 minutes of their performance. What astonished me most was the behaviour of those grown up men there. There were Japanese and Caucasian men (aged between 25-55) shoving, jumping, yelling and perhaps even crying around us. The sight was so surreal that I was left rather speechless, and I was more distracted by them than the performers on stage. The power of these six squeaky-voiced young women is not to be underestimated. If you want to understand the popularity of this J-Pop group, I have included their music video here, but I can assure you that it is not as entertaining and as wacky as seeing them live. Enjoy!




Sonic city: The art of sound

Recently I have been contemplating sounds and silence a lot.

My relationship with the sounds and silence changed when I started practising meditation; and as a consequence, my senses have been heightened significantly. Yet I had to go through a transitional period initially because I was overwhelmed by my increased sensory sensitivity. I couldn’t cope with being in a crowded and noisy room full of people because I felt like the noise had been amplified more than usual. At the same time, I was learning to ‘listen’ again and appreciating the sound of silence. But I soon realised that it is almost impossible to be in a completely silent environment because there is always background noise, even in nature. There are sounds of animals, insects, rain, wind and leaves rattling, but to be able to detect and differentiate these sounds require some kind of awareness. City dwellers would block out certain sounds in order to cope with the noise level in the city, and over time we become more immune to sounds in the city (and this applies especially to those who constantly have their headphones on).


phone map

Mobile phone conversations across London are highlighted in this map


When we listen to music, it has an ability to trigger our emotions, and we can be transported to a different state of mind, be it sentimental, joyful, irritable or calm etc. Yet sounds of nature or random noise contain no narrative, and so we rarely pay attention to the background noise that surrounds us all the time. In a recent interview, Sir John Hegarty, ( founding creative partner at Bartle Bogle Hegarty advertising agency and author of the book ‘Hegarty on Creativity‘) made this valid statement on how people nowadays choose to block out their surroundings rather than interact with it:


I get really, really pissed off when I see my creative people coming in with headphones in… and they put a little wall round themselves. They listen to their music – and yes music is wonderful, I made a career out of using great music. But if you walk around cutting yourself off you are eliminating influence, you are eliminating the possibility that you are going to pick up stories, ideas, thoughts that are happening all around you and as a creative person that is completely wrong.”


His statement reminds me of American avant-garde composer, writer, artist and sound lover John Cage‘s 1952 conceptual piece 4′33″. This Zen Buddhism-inspired piece is ‘performed’ by the musicians on stage without sound, which not only challenges the audience’s expectations but it also makes them listen and become aware of the surroundings. The clip below reveals his insightful views on sounds and silence, and I found it fascinating that he regarded sounds as ‘just sounds’ but nothing else…


John Cage on sounds and silence


Over the last few years, I noticed the term ‘sound artist’ popping up more frequently. Sound or sonic art, which is regarded as a form of conceptual art has been receiving more attention than ever. Last year, both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented a sound installation and an sound exhibition respectively. Yet this form of art has been around for about a century, and its roots can be traced back to Italian Futurist artist Luigi Russolo‘s L’Arte dei rumori (Art of noise) published in 1916. This manifesto revolutionalised the way people perceive noise and sound, and it has influenced many musicians (including John Cage), acousticians, artists and so forth.

Another pioneer who greatly influenced Cage and many others including contemporary sound artist Bill Fontana was the Dada artist Marcel Duchamp (Cage and Duchamp even collaborated on several occasions including a short sequence in the film by Hans RichterDream that Money can buy” made in 1947). Although not a musician, Duchamp composed two musical works and a conceptual piece around 1913. And his profound and thought-provoking view on sound as a sculptural medium was noted in The Green box (1934), “Musical Sculpture: sounds lasting and leaving from different places and forming a sound sculpture that lasts.

American experimental composer and sound artist (also a friend of Cage), Alvin Lucier has been exploring the physical properties of sound since the 1960s. His career’s turning point arrived when created “Music for solo performer” in 1965; in this piece, electrodes are attached to his head so that his alpha brainwaves are amplified in front of an audience (it sounds very bizarre even by today’s standard). Then in 1969, he created “I am sitting in a room”, in which Lucier records himself narrating a text, and then plays the recording back into the room, re-recording it over and over again. Both of his pieces are ground-breaking and like Cage‘s work, they challenge the listeners/audience to view sound as wavelengths rather than musical notes.


I am sitting in a room from Brodo on Vimeo.


Yet for decades, sound art has not been fully recognised by the public, probably because most people are not quite sure what category it falls into. Is it installation art with sound? Can sound be an art form? I think these are the most common questions that puzzle the general public. And when the prestigious Turner Prize was awarded to Scottish artist Susan Philipsz for her sound installationLowlandsin 2010 (the first time a sound installation had been nominated and won), it helped to change the public’s perception on sound art and made them more aware of this art form.


Susan Philipsz‘s Lowlands


This year, Thinking Digital Arts paired artist/designer Dominic Wilcox and creative technologist James Rutherford together to collaborate on a new commission in Newcastle. Taking tourist binoculars as inspiration, they created Binaudios, a device that enables the user to ‘listen’ to the sounds of the city. The Binaudios can be pointed at over 40 different locations, seen out of the Sage Gateshead window and different sounds can be heard associated to each specific location. Here is a video of the device and the sounds that can be heard:


Binaudios: Sounds of a city from Dominic Wilcox on Vimeo.


Last month, I attended a Late London event called Sonic City at The Museum of London Docklands, which explored sound and hidden noise in our city. Sound artist Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud) created a multi-channel sound work, an installation that featured an expansive collage of voices from all over the world. I was particularly intrigued by contemporary sonic explorer and collector, Ian Rawes of the London Sound Survey‘s sound talk, where he played a recording of the mechanical engine sounds inside Tower bridge. The website also contains a sound map of London, where you would find recordings of background atmospheres and incidental noises from all over London. Utterly fascinating.

I also took part in another event called The art of listening, created by sound artist Helen Frosi, of the SoundFjord lab. Participants were invited to respond to sound through the medium of drawing, creating something visual using your sonic perceptions. It was fun to draw by following the sound waves because it was spontaneous and quite liberating to go the flow of the sound rather than planning on what to draw.

The final event I took part in was a sound walk led by sound artist Maria Papadomanolaki from Points of Listening based at the University of Arts London. The walk took place on the quayside outside of the museum, we were divided into groups and each group was given a designated point and a card to write down our thoughts, feelings and ideas at each point. I have never been on a sound walk in the city before, and so the experience was quite an ‘ear-opener’ for me. It is quite astonishing how much extraneous noise our human auditory system can filter out without us even realising it!


Next time if you are out on a busy street, instead of putting your headphones on, try to detect and differentiate all the noise around you and ask yourself if you can hear a pattern? What is the frequency? Are you feeling irritated by the the noise? But why? Does the noise cause any vibration? Does your body feel the vibration internally? Like Hegarty said, don’t cut yourself off from the world around you, embrace and observe it, it is only by doing so that we can fully experience life as it is and appreciate the wonders the city has to offer us.


DesignrsBlock & Design Junction 2014

designersblock P1100467P1100469plumenDome by The Dub ModuleBeth Lewis Williams

Top left: DesignersBlock in Clerkenwell; 2nd row middle: Plumen’s tree installation; 2nd row right: Dome by The Dub Module; Bottom: Beth Lewis-Williams


To be honest, I didn’t think DesignersBlock‘s previous venue (South bank) was a suitable one because the show was too scattered and it just didn’t gel together as a whole. This year, the show moved to The Old sessions house in Clerkenwell, and it was a huge improvement (it just shows how much the venue affects the overall impression). In fact, this grade-II listed building (which used to be a courthouse). was my favourite show venues at the design festival. One of the hightlights was the cool Dome projection created by The Dub Module, and you can watch it below:


Designersblock Dome Projection – The Dub Module on Vimeo.


Another quirky installation was on the top floor of the building, and it was an oak tree in the middle of the room, laced with new lighting collection by Plumen. I loved the idea and the smell of oak!

In another room, some extra large clothing on the wall caught my eye… the project is created by London-based Japanese designer Tomomi Koseki. ‘The Body time machine’ explores the memory of bodies, and the designer made her parents’ clothing according to her current body size based on old family photographs. The project functions as a device to recall body memory, to journey through body transitions, whilst also becoming a device to renew the perception of it.

I also spoke to the designers behind Fanatic House, who have just launched their first collection at the show. I particularly like their Loop lamp, which is made of a single PVC sheet. The lamp is inspired by butterfly cocoon and is illuminated with an LED strip. It is simple, elegant and best of all, energy efficient.


P1100473Tomomi KosekiP1100483P1100484Los Enmascarados by Ana Jomenez Palomar

Top row: ‘The Rise of the Plasticsmith’ by Gangjian Cui; 2nd row left: ‘The Body time machine’ by Tomomi Koseki; 2nd row middle & right: Loop lamp & Voltage coat stand by by Design Fanatics;  Bottom: Los Enmascarados by Ana Jomenez Palomar


As I entered one of the rooms, I immediately recognised Gangjian Cui‘s ‘The Rise of the Plasticsmith’ from the RCA show a few months earlier. I have written about this previously but it was interesting to talk to the designer about his concept and to watch a video of the making process. I think this is a very thoughtful and intriguing project, not only does it highlight the issues that face China’s manufacturing future, but the use of plastic as a material for craft is very unusual.


THE RISE OF PLASTIC SMITH from gangjian cui on Vimeo.


Finally, I spoke to Ronnie Chan, a London-based Hong Kong jewellery designer behind the brand Rhapsody in forest. Ronnie’s new collection is inspired by the Baroque style, it is very delicate, sophisticated and modern at the same time.

I think this year was by far the most ‘satisfying’ DesignersBlock show for me. It was also wonderful to have also met and chatted to many aspiring designers there.


angela fungP1100444craft centralangela fungcraft central silo studio

Top left: Angela Fung demonstrating her origami skills at Craft Central; Top middle & right: Pia Wüstenberg; Main: Angel’s origami installation at Craft Central; Bottom right: Silo Studio


Coincidentally, I walked past Craft Central, which is situated opposite The Old Session House and I saw jewellery designer Angela Fung ( whom I met at the East London design show last year) sitting behind the glass window. I was quite surprised to see her there folding origami, so I greeted her and went in for a chat. Origami is Angela‘ main passion, which has had a strong influence on her jewellery designs. She has been creating origami installations for various organisations since 2008, and this time, she was selected to create a special installation for the Craft Central. She was also invited to demonstrate on site so that visitors can learn more about her working process. Angela uses Tyvek, a manmade water/tear proof fibre, which has the qualities of paper. The process is long and requires a lot of patience and focus, which is similar to meditation. However, the end result is stunning and again it shows that the art, craft and design is very interlinked in this day and age.


Dominic Wilcox's stained glass driverless carDaisy Ginsburg's Mini-synbio Lucy McRae's 'Prep your Body for Space'a child's dream

Top: Dominic Wilcox’s stained glass driverless car; 2nd row left: Daisy Ginsburg’s Mini-synbio; 2nd row right: Lucy McRae’s ‘Prep your Body for Space’; Bottom: ‘A Child’s Dream’ exhibition


My last trade show at the design festival was Design Junction in Holborn. This year, the show was bigger with more pop up shops on the ground floor and an additional lighting section was added in the basement.

On the ground floor, Dezeen and MINI’s collaborative project Frontiers showcased work by six young designers exploring how design and technology would shape our future. The most ‘bizarre’ project on display was Lucy McRae‘s ‘Prep your Body for Space’, which involved visitors getting their bodies vacuum-packed! You can read more about the project via the designer’s website above.

I am a fan of Dominic Wilcox‘s quirky and humourous designs. At the show, he presented his driverless glass car prototype with a bed inside, where the passenger can sleep while the car takes them to their destination. The car combines the hand made process of glass work with modern and future technologies to create a proposal of how transport could be in the middle of the 21st century. I hope I will live to see this design becomes a reality!


P1100574IMG_0844design by maiLightyears' Aeon Rocket pendantP1100640

Main: Charlie Whinney studio; 2nd row middle: Design by Mai; 2nd row right: Lightyears‘ Aeon Rocket pendant; Bottom: Love Neon


Lighting used to the main focus at Design Junction’s previous shows, but this year there were notably more craft-related stands including AfghanMade carpets curated by Wallpaper. Surprisingly, the project was set up in 2006 by the American Task Force for Business Stability Operations to help develop the country’s indigenous industries and bring the country up to speed with contemporary production techniques. This is a highly commendable project, and the final designs are high in quality, rich in colours, and contemporary.


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Top left, 2nd row left & middle: Afghan Made carpets; The rest: Ventura London – top right: Amma Studio; 2nd row right: Elements by Jomi Evers Solheim; 3rd row: Polychronic Bowls by Studio Viatopia; Bottom left: Slow living, slow tea by Tianman Song; Bottom right: Emergency Porcelain hammer by Qian Jiang & Ida Kristiansen & Karin Ekwall


One of the largest stands at the show was Ventura London, where they curated and presented a variety of work by 31 international designers, design studios, design labels and brands. The one product that brought a smile to my face the Emergency porcelain hammer by Qian Jiang from Lund University in Sweden. The fragile porcelain has been turned into a robust hammer, it is certainly an interesting contrast!

Another interesting display was Polychronic Bowls by British design studio Studio Viatopia. The studio focuses on speculative design and critical craft through material experimentation. Their colourful Polychronic Bowls are the results of a materials research project that investigates contemporary theories of time and alternative approaches to combining materials when making objects in a localised small batch environment.


Katherina Gross's Waxploration Katherina Gross's Waxplorationdaniel & emma P1100611 amanda tongdesign junction

Top left: Katherina Gross’s Waxploration; Top right: 2nd row: Daniel and Emma; 3rd row left: Over easy by Yard sale project; 3rd row right: Amanda Tong.


Last but not least, I was very intrigued by London-based design student Katherina Gross‘s Waxploration collection, in which she interprets the meaning of home and the relationships between furniture and emotional spaces. Katarina adapted the process of candle making and used wax as a raw material, capturing and freezing movements in time. The strong contrast between the fluidity of wax and the solidity of metal material works well together, creating pieces that are unique and aesthetically appealing. Great work.



Contemporary Chinese culture at The Floating Cinema

It’s not an exaggeration to say the ‘dilemma’ that faces many Londoners is not the lack of entertainment/consumption choices, but the overwhelming of choices available. And when it comes to cultural events, we are just spoiled for choice and it’s hard to keep up even if you are subscribed to hundreds of e-newsletters (because you still need to time to read them all)!

I have long wanted to attend events organised by The Floating Cinema, but somehow never got round to it. Finally, when I found out about the Contemporary Chinese culture events curated in partnership with the Manchester-based Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, I was eager to sign up for some events that took place on the canal boat.

The boat was parked by the Granary Square in Kings Cross for the weekend. The outdoor canalside steps are ideal for the outdoor screening of several Chinese films. Due to the boat’s limited seating, most events were full and I managed to book myself onto two events.


The floating cinemaThe floating cinema Yan wang preston

Main & bottom left: The Floating Cinema in Kings Cross; Bottom right: Yan Wang Preston


The first event was “Both Sides Now“, a collaboration between Jamie Wyld from Video Club (UK) and Isaac Leung from Videotage (HK). The screening included new and historical documentaries and animations created during the 1980s-2000s from China and Hong Kong exploring the impact of three decades of cultural and societal development. The screening was also followed by a discussion and Q & A session.

Some of the videos shown are quite political sensitive, hence they cannot be shown in China. The artists in the programme include: Ellen Pau, Linda Lai, Anson Mak, Kwan Sheung Chi, Lee Kit, Tse Ming Chong, Choi Sai Ho, and other 11 artists from Hong Kong.

For those who are aware of Hong Kong’s current political climate would know that it is far from rosy. The city’s largest pro-democracy rally in a decade took place on 1st July, with around 510,000 protesters participating and it made headline news across the globe. Whenever there is political and social unrest or even economical downturn in a state or region or country, it is also the time for creativity to emerge and blossom… this unsettling period may be a tough time for Hong Kong’s citizens, but it has enabled a new breed of talents to make their voices heard.

One of the most memorable video/animations at the screening was the last one by Hong Kong artist, Wong Ping. His “Under the lion’s crotch” is bizarre, grotesque, graphical and disturbing, but it is also dark and humourous. The animation is the artist’s interpretation of the current situation in Hong Kong and it won an award at the 2013 18th IFVA festival in Hong Kong. Here is an extract from the artist’s website about the work:

“Under the Lion Crotch”
Here comes the end
Our land is brutally torn apart by conglomerates
Redevelopment swept across the city
Their thriving business had left us homeless
Rotten city, rotten crowd
Luxury clothing won’t conceal the stench
Top yourself and throw a curse
Fill the streets with our merry hearses
Is the world going to end
as we’ve been longing for?
Destroy us all together with the chaos
Set us free like
the ashes in the wind

*Beware of the graphical material in this video!


No One Remains Virgin “Under the Lion Crotch” MV from Wong Ping on Vimeo.


The second event I attended was a talk by an award-winning Chinese photographer and visual artist, Yan Wang Preston. Her talk was on her long term artistic and research project, Mother River, which she has been working on since the end of 2010. Initially driven by a personal desire to reconnect with one’s Motherland, the project focuses on China’s most iconic waterway: the Yangtze River.

The artist also wanted to investigate the impact of the controversial hydroelectric dam that has had on the environment and the local people. The dam was built to prevent flooding and generate power in the local areas, yet the construction also flooded important archaeological and historical sites, displaced some 1.3 million people, and caused significant ecological damages to area.

The artist epic journey across China began from the source of the river (in Tibet) and photographed the 4,000 mile long Yangtze River with a precise interval of every 100 kilometres and 63 fixed points in total. Yan spoke about the difficulties she encountered during her journey, but despite all the mishaps and re-shoot, she finally completed the project earlier this year. Yan‘s photographs of China are fascinating, but what touched me most is her passion, courage and determination. Feeling disillusioned by the ‘new China’ and horrified by what she saw during her first research journey of the damage caused by the construction of the dam, the project became her personal quest to reconnect with her roots, heritage and culture. And the result is an admirable achievement that she should be very proud of.

Here is a video of a symposium given by Yan in 2012 about her work:


Yan Preston – Land / Water Symposium 2012 | Water Image from Land Water on Vimeo.


The coolest and quirkiest… Cibo Matto

I rarely write about music on this blog but in fact, music has always been essential in my life. I don’t buy many CDs now ( like everyone else, I have switched to downloading online) because I am running out of space for them; having bought over 700 ( a rough estimation) in the past ranging from pop to world, rock, electronics, jazz, instrumental, bossa nova, Cuban, tango, soundtrack and classical.

Recently, I found out that the New York-based band, Cibo Matto ( with two main Japanese members) has reunited and will be releasing a new album, I was quite excited and immediately searched for their first album, “Viva! La Woman” from my collection. It’s still refreshing to listen to this album again even though it was released in 1996. It’s almost hard to categorised their genre because it seems to be a fusion of trip hop, indie and Shibuya-kei, but the lyrics are often fun and slight bizarre.

Then I got even more excited when I found out that they will be playing at Meltdown festival curated by Yoko Ono at the Southbank Centre. Finally last night I went to see them play live which made me love them even more! The energy and vibe at the concert was superb, the audience stood up and danced to the music after some encouragement from the lead singer, Miho Hatori.

The big surprise of the evening was to see Sean Lennon ( who was also a band member) and Yoko Ono who came on stage for their last song of the evening, “Know your chicken”. By this time, the place was roaring with excitement, and it was hard to believe the legend dancing and singing on stage is already 80 because she seemed so much younger and so full of energy. Shocking.

Now I am really looking forward to their new album and will happily add it to my CD collection!


Live at Meltdown festival at Southbank Centre


Here are also two music videos from their first album, Viva! La Woman including the super cool “Sugar water” directed by the well-known French director Michel Gondry:


“Sugar Water” from Viva! La Woman directed by Michel Gondry


“Know your chicken” from Viva! La Woman


Beef 2012 by Seungho Lee

This blog post is long overdue… I told Seungho that I would write about his award-winning MA project after my Helsinki trip, but it has taken me all this time to get round to it!

I have been corresponding with Seungho from About:blank via emails since I started stocking their notebooks. Hence, it was wonderful when he suggested to meet for dinner when I was in Helsinki for the design week. Sometimes, it can be awkward having dinner with people who you have never met before ( even though my instinct was a positive one), and luckily, my instinct was right.

The evening went by almost too quickly, I spent an thoroughly enjoyable evening with Seungho and Hyunsun discussing design, Asian culture, Finland, vegetarianism, wastage and even politics ( we touched on many subjects that are usually ‘banned’ from dinner conversations)!


Seungho’s project was on display at the Helsinki design week


It is always exciting to meet like-minded people, but even more so with designers or creatives who share the same design philosophy and ideals. To our surprise, we quit meat around the same time, yet we would face situations that are hard to get out of because of pressure from our families. I can’t call myself a vegetarian because I still eat seafood, but for the last few years, I have chosen to stop purchasing or cooking meat at home.

An interesting part of our discussion was about the way people view “design”, since many misunderstand design as only something tangible rather than an attitude, vision, process, activity or philosophy. Seungho‘s “Beef 2012” project for his Creative Sustainability master’s programme at Aalto University demonstrates that design can be beyond aesthetics and functionality.


Beef Finland 2012 (Finnish sub) from Seungho Lee on Vimeo.


Traditionally, designers are viewed as problem solvers whose job is to improve or influence people’s lives through a means of communication. Yet as we have seen in the past two decades, the word “design” has been overused and now the market is full of “designer” products that are trend-driven and egocentric, of which many solve problems that are non-existent in the first place!

When we are faced with global crisis like climate change, shortage of natural resources, deforestation, over-consumption and wastage; we need more designers to think beyond pleasing themselves and take responsibility in their design attitude and thinking process.

As the economy in the West is shrinking, it is also a time for reflection and re-evaluation. Luckily, there are an increasing number of design firms, architects and designers ( like Ideo, Shigeru Ban and Seungho) who are trying to make a difference and create awareness to problems that need to be addressed immediately.



Tango moments


Tango al fresco at Regents Park


You don’t have to be a tango dancer to appreciate this sensual and elegant dance, and I am talking about Argentinian tango, not the dramatic ballroom or ‘Strictly come dancing’ style. A lot of people get confused with the two as they still have this idea of women dancing with roses in their mouths and find it hard to believe that we can dance in jeans, which is quite amusing!

I became interested in Argentinian tango and its music many years ago, but was too shy to take up group classes until a few years ago. As much as I love the dance and music, the journey hasn’t been easy esp. because it is an improvisational dance that requires two people, so it is not always within one’s control. Hence the term ‘it takes two to tango’ makes total sense to me now. What I find particularly interesting is the psychology and behaviour of the dancers, which can be turned into a book based on my own (and friends’) observation and experiences.

For me, the greatest joy of tango derives from being ‘in the moment’ or ‘in flow’. If you are familiar with Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi‘s ‘flow’, then you will understand that the state of flow is a liberating and ‘out of this world’ experience. However, like with everything else, this mental state is not something that you can maintain consistently, sometimes it happens unexpectedly, other times things just will not go your way esp. when you try too hard.

It never ceases to amaze me when a strong chemistry or connection is felt between two strangers dancing for the first time. For some dancers, they constantly seek that connection or the ecstatic state of mind, but from my personal experience, it is not something that happens regularly (for me anyway); though when does, you and your partner will not want to let go of each other’s hands and embrace for the rest of the evening…

Whether you like tango or not, these interesting tango videos will demonstrate how sensual, diverse and creative this dance can be:


Milonga, a short film by Marco Calvise



Perdizione – tango in the supermarket


One of the most popular tango videos on Youtube is this Los Hermanos Macana tango performance in New York Times Square. The legendary Argentinian brothers, Guillermo and Enrique De Fazio or ‘Los Hermanos Macana‘ as they are known, are not only technically brilliant but they like to add wit and playfulness into their dancing, pushing tango to a different level.