below is an English translation of the interview transcript
click here or on the image to access the original interview in Chinese on Marie Claire
“2084” Woodblocks created in the Arctic | interview with Hong Kong artist, Michelle Fung, in the Arctic Circle Residency Program
The Arctic Circle Residency Program is all about environmental issues. It calls for artists from all over the world to experience the arctic habitat; and travel around the Arctic circle on a boat for 17 days to carry out their art creative process. Late last year, Michelle Fung traveled from Hong Kong to participate in the program. The group traveled around the Svalbard Islands in the Arctic circle; they went ashore to observe the glaciers, hike in the snow and research on their projects.
What made you participate in this programme?
My works are centred around a futuristic world in 2084. One of the countries is Northlandia, an artic country. Residing in the subtropic, it is difficult for me to construct a frozen world of snow and glaciers. Thus I searched for residency programs in the Arctic; I was fortunate to be admitted into the Arctic Circle program.
How would you describe this journey? What was the most memorable experience?
In the Arctic, I directly sketched on woodblocks on site in front of the mountains and glaciers. Then I carved the woodblocks on the boat. In big cities, the uninhabited wilderness is unimaginable. Mother Nature is almighty! One day, our boat was slowly moving to-and-fro in front of an icefield for hours. Our group of 30 strong was speechless, we only heard camera shutters click and the occasional roaring tumbles of glacier calving. Nature touched our emotions beyond words, and those emotions directly translate into the artworks.
How is the creative process different this time, as compared to before?
Northlandia is an imaginary arctic country in year 2084 influenced by climate change, part of my ongoing “2084” project.
I created 24 Northlandia Arctic Woodcuts during my monthlong journey. The works depict various absurd, interesting but sad “solutions” in response to the climate change problem. For example, the Ice Queen (a polarbear ice sculpture) attempts to slow down melting of glaciers by employing the arctic fox engineer and a team of arctic hare construction workers to build igloos to shelter the glaciers. Ironically igloos are constructed with ice and technically will melt with the glaciers. How could igloos protect the glaciers? Such surreal and illogical “logics” are my continual methodology to encourage reflection and discussions.
Can you give a summary of “2084”?
How does the journey affect the creation of “2084”?
“The World of 2084” is my ongoing project since 2015, hopefully continuing until 2084! There are five imaginary countries: Northlandia, Contradictoria, Dreamland, the Aristocratic Union and the Republic of Strata. The narrative of each country is presented through different media such as paintings, wood prints, animations, etc. The overall theme is centred around climate change and related environmental issues. The Northlandia Arctic Woodcuts is the first body of works on Northlandia.
I used to be overly cautious in my artistic creative process. This time I set a strict timeline, leaving no room for second thoughts. The resulting effects are raw images and strong emotions. The composition is simpler. Collectors and fellow artists saw my changes and struggles behind the work, and my message went through to them immediately. The intricacy might not be there, but the emotions are definitely stronger.
How does the journey affect your thoughts on sustainability or creating artwork?
My future works will be more complex and intricate than the Northlandia Arctic Woodcuts. Nevertheless I shall remind myself to hold onto the strong emotions to inspire my viewers.
After this trip, I hope to visit other arctic lands such as Greenland, northern Alaska, Canadian Nunavut.
Why did you collaborate with Canada Goose for the trip?
What values do you share with Canada Goose?
Canada Goose’s concerns for climate change and their commitment to keeping the planet cold and the people warm are a perfect match with my own creative ideology. I admire their sustainability commitments, in perfect harmony with my own works themed around climate change and other environmental issues. I hope our collaboration will raise the general public awareness. With my own Canadian background, the cultural and ideological match is a perfect one.
I also respect Canada Goose’s support of Inuit indigenous art. The brand prominently feature Inuit artworks in their shops all over the world, introducing their culture to the global populace. Incidentally, the starting point of Northlandia came from Inuit mythology.
What is your best eco habit?
I would say that my everyday habits are driven by environmental consciousness; over time they are taken for granted. I always buy zero-package food and household items, bring my own cutlery, meal boxes and shopping bags. I have long kissed goodbye to chemical-ladden personal/household items like toothpaste, shower gel and detergent, and opt for natural alternatives whenever feasible to save my water and carbon footprint.
My home is filled with secondhand or free furniture My husband now also loves second-handed furniture! A few years ago, I installed a worm compost at home. Every week, we only produce a small bag of household garbage.