Para Site is pleased to present Afterwork, a major group exhibition exploring issues of class, race, labor, and migration in Hong Kong, its surrounding region, and beyond. It is part of Para Site’s ongoing Hong Kong’s Migrant Domestic Workers Project, a long-term initiative aimed at engaging the domestic worker community through collaboratively organised public programmes and commissioned artist research. As an exhibition, Afterwork is nevertheless an autonomous proposition, including the often ambivalent and polychromatic aspects of the social and cultural mosaic of Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, as well as of other contexts.
Domestic workers are Hong Kong’s largest minority group and one of the most visible components of the city’s society, and their legal and symbolic status are matters of constant negotiation, reflecting the shifting position of Hong Kong citizenship. The group’s invisibility in the various narratives of what constitutes Hong Kong society is countered by the hypervisible weekly occupation of Hong Kong’s public spaces for the Sunday picnic gathering of the community. It was the social spaces and cultural structures constituted around this regular gathering that facilitated the beginnings of our project.
The stories of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong are crucial narratives that need to be told alongside the city’s growing affluence in the past decades, together with the stories of the struggles of what is considered the “local” working class, and on the backdrop of the different historical waves of labour migration in Hong Kong and the world. Afterwork does not, however, mean to patronizingly give a voice to or be the vindicator of the struggles of migrant workers. It does however take into consideration the representation of migrant domestic workers, from various perspectives, while putting under question, throughout the show, the very notion of representation. Afterwork is also looking at historical ways in which class has been constructed in Hong Kong, but also in the highly polarized societies of South East Asia. It is also interested in the idea of race, on how the South East Asian “other” has been approached in Hong Kong and more broadly in Chinese culture, but also on how race remains an issue within many South East Asian countries. Anchors to other contexts and historical moments are present throughout the exhibition.
Afterwork includes the work of artists of different practices, contexts, and generations dealing with the issues, aesthetics, and histories of migrant labor. Several artists venture into the personal implications of the presence of domestic workers in households, the public sphere, and the artists’ lives. Other artists create abstract landscapes that bring a different and necessary vocabulary in an exhibition that tries to address such a wide and contradictory array of topics and perspectives, from personal desires and dreams to historical processes. And by this exercise of imagination, we hope to reimagine just what it means to be a Hong Konger and who is entitled to speak for Hong Kong.
In addition to the exhibition, Para Site is publishing Afterwork Readings/Babasahin Matapos ang Trabaho/Bacaan Selepas Kerja/工餘, an anthology of migrant and domestic worker literature conceived in collaboration with KUNCI Cultural Studies Centre in Jogyakarta, Indonesia. This major volume about and by migrant workers contains short stories, poems, and excerpts from novels and plays, written by classical literary figures of the region, established contemporary authors, as well as domestic workers. It is printed in four different languages (Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese, English, and Tagalog), with the hope to create a platform facilitating the encounter and exchange through literature between the different migrant worker communities. It is also aiming to bring together the most relevant texts on this issue of great importance, written in our region over the past century, as well as to promote the work of the most promising writers from among the domestic workers community.
Afterwork is curated by.
Collaborator: Acción Cultural Española, AC/E
Media Partner: My Art Guides