New Vision Arts Festival 18.10.2002 - 17.11.2002
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It all began in the summer of 2001. The idea of a new arts festival was on the drawing board. After rounds of discussion, a decision was finally taken to set the theme on the fusion of East-West cultures and Asian arts expressed in contemporary style. Once the theme was decided, planning of the programme ensued. For the following half of the year, our festival colleagues read, watched and discussed close to a hundred documents, programmes and concepts, weighing every possibility against the festival theme. Work staggered, now stuck, now fluid. A new arts festival emerged like an infant taking its first steps, toddling and shuffling along.

Summer returned. All the festival programmes and events had to be finalised and all the loose ends be tied up. Only when we looked back on our planning did we realise that we had stepped into a proposition, swinging between the tangible and the intangible. Culture itself is a concept of concrete-abstract duality. Cultures may mix at multi-dimensions and multi-levels and the fusion may sublimate to bring about essential changes. A proposition, so defined, is profound and broad. Moreover, do Asian arts refer to the ethnic and traditional arts of Asia, or contemporary artistic creations on the Asian art scene, or even works of art of an Asian style on a wider, international stage? And is modernism a Western form of artistic expression or an approach whereby the works of earlier artists are interpreted with the mind of a modern man? All these questions had to be carefully considered and thoughtfully answered by our colleagues involved in the project and our performing arts advisers.

Since the magnitude and depth projected by the festival theme could be perceived and interpreted differently by each individual, the room for discussion was immense. One of the interesting discussions was about "Programme appeal." But the reflections triggered by the discussion were even more thought-provoking. What exactly is "Appeal"? For whom? Where? How? With more questions raised, greater care was called for in planning every detail of the festival programme. Another interesting discussion was on the name of the festival, which was indeed crucial for this newborn baby. "New Vision Arts Festival" was no doubt an impressive name, but "how new" and "at what level or dimension should the vision be" were not so easy to pin down.

In asking questions and answering them, we kept on reminding ourselves of the original intention behind the festival, that is, to highlight the diversity of Hong Kong, the City of Life. This threw light on even many questions. If a certain programme is too demanding on its audience, or if another seems to be too easily appreciated, they constitute the variety that is per se to an arts festival that advocates diversity, especially one taking place in a city as diverse as ours. Whether or not this arts festival has a new vision is open to debate. But do our audiences and festival participants have, or have gained, new visions of their own? This is a more meaningful concern.

From "diversity" to "fusion", from "metropolis" to "individual," what exactly does this arts festival pursue? Human experience tells that "fusion" is often the prelude to "seeing the light" and it is when one "sees the light" that one reaches freedom. Over the years, buzzwords like "knowledge-based" economy, "technological transfers" have come into play. However, with knowledge and technology but without introspection and re-creation, does Hong Kong have her uniqueness and will her development be sustained? In this sense, aren't "seeing the light" and "reaching freedom" the very things that Hong Kong as well as its people need? It is our hope that our festival artists, programme producers and the general public, will together soar in the realm of art, enlightened and unfettered, each with his own light ahead in a free land.

Winsome Chow
Senior Manager, Festivals Office
Leisure and Cultural Services Department