Gum Cheng and the “dead letter office’ (Curate No More)

Gum Cheng (Cheng Yee-Man) is one half of the curatorial/organizational staff of the C&G Artpartment in Mong Kok (Kowloon, Hong Kong), an exhibition space combined with a painting school. The gallery has a decidedly alternative bent, mounting socially and conceptually oriented exhibitions with the occasional collaborative project involving like-minded international organizations. The pragmatism of combining an “art business” with a non-commercial gallery encapsulates the ethos of C&G Artpartment, one of self-sufficiency and DIY initiative.

But Gum, like any human being who is categorized by assumed social and economic roles that are usually implied in the question, “what do you do?” (rather than, “what do you think?”) desires to step out of the role of “curator” and become an active exhibiting artist. For two years he left Artapartment’s curatorial duties to his partner (Clara Cheung) and embarked on a roster of ten artistic productions which he compiled under the title, “Curate No More”.

MOST OF THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN SHIFTED TO: Lickzine#2 . . . which comes free with any order OR can be purchased separately . . . we DO include Gum’s interview here which was not reprinted in Lickzine#2 . . .

Gum Cheng’s mail art installation at Kubrick in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon

Lik Ink: What was the original impetus for the “Mail Art” project?

Gum: The idea was simple: to directly express my opinion to the Chief Executive (CY Leung), with news clippings being an aid or a complementary tool and then to make a collection of the response letters.

Lik Ink: Were they always addressed to CY Leung?

Gum: Yes.

Lik Ink: How did you decide (what issues or topics) upon the content of your letters to CY Leung?

Gum: The contents would be the political or social matters of Hong Kong as I came upon them from day to day in different forms of media.

Lik Ink: Were the responses ever personal or simply form letters (rote responses as opposed to really addressing your concerns)?

Gum: Never personal. Besides writing to me saying that they’ve received the letter, there was another kind of response, which was that the Chief Executive office would forward my opinion to a particular government department for follow-up or for reference.

Lik Ink: You also did a performance at the Legco about “Mail Art”. What did you do at that performance?

Gum: I opened 75 of the response letters that I had received in the past two years, one by one, in front of the CE office on the morning of September 8, 2015. It took about 40 mins.  Here is an edited video of that performance.

Lik Ink: What kind of responses did you receive (on the spot, at that time) during that performance?

Gum: 15mins after the performance started, a policeman walked by, and asked about the purpose of the activity, and asked, in a polite manner, for my name for the ‘record’. A bit later, another group of policemen came by to ask about what ‘s going on, but they didn’t jot down any information about me before leaving.

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