Beyond Purity

Learning Experiences in Transcultural Collaboration

In 2015 ZHdK and six partner universities launched a new transcultural and cross-disciplinary graduate semester programme in the arts and design. Its general focus is on transcultural topics and its main working method is cross-disciplinary collaboration. The second edition of Transcultural Collaboration is running from August to December 2016, and this years’ thematic focus is entitled “Beyond Purity”. The programme enables 27 selected students from all art and design disciplines to spend one semester in Hong Kong and includes stays in Zurich and Taipei. DANIEL SPÄTI and SIMON DIETERSDORFER put some questions to five participants.

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Daniel Späti und Simon Dietersdorfer: What was your motivation to apply for this programme?
Regina Ho (Hong Kong Baptist University): The notions of “transcultural” and “collaboration” attracted me. I like to explore different cultures and this programme offers me the opportunity to meet multi-disciplinary artists participating. Through this programme, I’m able to connect with an artist community from Switzerland, Germany, France, Australia, China, Taiwan and other parts of the world.

“In this programme we start to uncover the mysteries and questions we have about each other.”
Hsin Pei Tseng

Daniel Späti und Simon Dietersdorfer: Do you see any differences from your regular studies?
Hsin Pei Tseng (Taipei National University of the Arts): When everyone closed their eyes and listened to the saxophone playing near and far away, like a sound version of hide and seek; when there was a performance about the difficulties immigrants face when coming to a foreign country; and when there was a blindfolded tattoo artist, who did a live tattoo on one’s leg. These are some examples of the self-presentations that were given by my colleagues and this was also how I got to know them in Transcultural Collaboration 2016 during the opening weeks in Zurich. Being with around 30 people from different disciplines, such as dance, theatre, visual art, music, movie and curatorial training is quite a different working situation compared to what I’ve experienced in my school. At the Taipei University of Arts, because of lecture constructions and school buildings, we rarely have the opportunity to socialise or collaborate with people from different departments or institutes. In this programme we start to uncover the mysteries and questions we have about each other, and learn more and think differently from the unfamiliar discipline.

“I learn from other group members, not only in terms of the artistic approach, but also a way to see the world.”
Jade Park

Daniel Späti und Simon Dietersdorfer: What has been your greatest challenge in the programme so far?
Jade Park (City University of Hong Kong): To deal with “transculture” is the greatest challenge for me. It’s my first time to work with people from abroad. What’s more, all of us come from different artistic or design backgrounds. Everyone has their own point of view, discipline, etc. So even when we talk about the same topic, it’s never the same perspective in the end. It’s really interesting to see how people interpret one topic based on their special point of view. However, we were able to merge and follow the same direction during the process. With all different languages, we still need to discuss, talk, argue a lot, but somehow manage to work together. It’s real “transculture” and “collaboration”.
I learn from other group members, not only in terms of the artistic approach, but also a way to see the world. The transculture experience helps me to think of “culture” in other ways. To be honest, dealing with transculture is not always easy and moderate. It’s definitely a challenge. But it provokes me to think and act harder. I really enjoy this challenge a lot.

“It was imperative to shovel myself out of the comfort zone and learn new forms of arts from colleagues who obviously had different tastes and approaches.”
Mbene Mbunga Mwambene

Daniel Späti und Simon Dietersdorfer: What have you learnt about yourself during the programme so far?
Mbene Mbunga Mwambene (Bern University of the Arts): To begin with, the few weeks gave me an opportunity to look into the depth, the objectives and the initiation of transcultural collaboration. As I learnt, my basic role was more than contributing my specific artistic impressions based on my encounters and education. It was imperative to shovel myself out of the comfort zone and learn new forms of arts from colleagues who obviously had different tastes and approaches. That’s why it was important for me to listen, observe and learn before striking a balance between or among a cobweb of opinions. It has been more than arts, but rather practical life dealings. It’s been more than sounds and images, but personal character. It’s been more than speaking to each other, but discovering a communicative competence with people I don’t know too well and yet we have a clear objective to come up with final presentations. It’s been talking to both a language and yet listening to a subtext by somehow finding a way we all understand each other even though that’s not easy.

“Hong Kong? Air conditioner. Bus vibration. Taxi speeding. Truck brakes. Ringing sirens.”
Kay Zhang

Daniel Späti und Simon Dietersdorfer: How would you describe Hong Kong to someone who has never been there?
Kay Zhang (ZHdK): Air conditioner. Bus vibration. Taxi speeding. Truck brakes. Ringing sirens. These sounds resonate every morning when I wake up, but also throughout the whole day. Hong Kong, a city of 7 million people with a land size smaller than Switzerland. Millions going through the metro stations trying to get to work. Tsim Sha Tsui is mall galore where all the essential goods can be bought at anyone’s disposal. Central, features the harbour lights at your feet, standing in the heart of Hong Kong with secret alleyways of small galleries, local cafés, alternative shops and the mix of the “old” and “new”. At night, there is the electronic market of Sham Shui Po or the Hung Hom market delivering fresh goods for the public. Not to mention the underground music scene with local artists and DJs pumping out beats upstairs of a sleeping area. Everywhere you walk, there are restaurants buzzing with exotic aromas, saleswomen trying to lure customers to experience the tastes of Hong Kong. Every corner there are 7-eleven stores, where you can buy bottled water on days when temperatures hit 30 degrees. I could go on.

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Transcultural Collaboration is supported by Mercator Foundation Switzerland and part of Connecting Spaces Hong Kong – Zurich.

Please visit our blog for more information on “Transcultural Collaboration”: www.transculturalcollaboration.com/about
Daniel Späti, Head of Transcultural Collaboration, daniel.spaeti@zhdk.ch
Regina Ho, Studio Art, Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University
Hsin Pei Tseng, Graduate Institute of Trans-Disciplinary Arts, Taipei National University of the Arts
Jade Park, Cinematic Art & New Media, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
Mbene Mbunga Mwambene, Master Theatre/Performance, Bern University of the Arts
Kay Zhang, Master Music Performance (Saxophone), Zurich University of the Arts
Daniel Späti (daniel.spaeti@zhdk.ch) has developed this new educational format over the past years in collaboration with the experts and faculty of ZHdK and the partner institutions involved. Simon Dietersdorfer participated in Transcultural Collaboration 2015 and is assisting the programme for one month this year.