The world is no longer monotonous - An interview with Elaine Wong and Cindy Tang, the founders of Altermodernists
Text: Bitter Gould / A cultural and arts reporter who writes about arts, living and society.

"Art makes me realise that we do have choices in life," Elaine said.  In this tiny town we know as Hong Kong, people have been telling us how to live life since we were young: we should study hard, enter university, land a stable job, get promoted, and purchase a flat…  The singularity of standards and the absolutism of instructions give the impression that we cannot afford to derail in life, as if the world would turn topsy-turvy if we did.  Elaine Wong and Cindy Tang, the founders of the art website "Altermodernists", had been shackled to the narrow and dull life too.  It was until they joined the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) programme, co-organised by the Hong Kong Arts School and RMIT University, that they looked at life differently.  The world is no longer monotonous and, they believe, the power of art contributed to this sea change in perspective.

As a computer science graduate who had worked in marketing and advertisement, Elaine found herself craving for new possibilities one day, “I came into a deadlock at work and, out of the blue, I wondered what kind of life I wanted.”  It dawned on her that she’s been interested in the arts and so she decided to take short art courses at the Hong Kong Arts School.  “I liked the courses very much.  I then attended a talk about the Bachelor of Arts.  And I thought to myself: Wow, this is so amazing!"  Elaine’s partner Cindy, a design major, also attended that talk.  Her situation was similar to Elaine's in that four years of full-time job suffocated her.  Cindy wondered, “Would my life go on like that without change?”  They finally mustered the courage to enrol into the course, to look for an exit from their stagnant lives.

The duo graduated in 2012, and both of them were amazed by how art has transformed their lives.  “Previously my life was only about work.  I could not find any time to think when I was stuck in the hustle and bustle of life.  However, through this course, I realised that I had been too forgetful and petrified.”  Cindy explained, “There are numerous interesting elements in life and we should discover them."  To her, it was a profound inspiration.  “I could only scratch the surface of things in the past.  But now, I can at least understand the heart of things from different angles."

"Especially in Hong Kong, you are often told how life should be lived, but this is a falsehood."  Elaine’s realisation came from the knowledge that art is free and ever-changing.  “There is no absolute formula in creating art, so I thought there should not be a single way to live our lives either.  We should enjoy different scenery on different paths.”  Money and career are not the only things in life, “We could spend time on our interests.”  The content of the curriculum is not only about arts, but also philosophy, the mind-set to solve problems, and the way to achieve goals.  “Those are necessary for us to live good lives, and they remind us of our sensibilities and attitudes."  Elaine even received a scholarship offered by the programme to study art in New York one summer, which widened her horizons.

The greatest surprise brought by the programme was that it ignited the possibility inspired the duo to set up the website Altermodernists.  “We were asked to observe and understand the local art scenes in our studies.  Then we realised that many artists were creating very interesting artworks, though they were unknown to the public,” Elaine added.  “Why don’t we create a platform to introduce Hong Kong arts and artists?”  That was the origin of Altermodernists.

"Altermodernists" refers to those who make art and get in touch with the arts.  The website spotlights artists through interviews, to understand their thoughts and creative processes.  It also introduces routes for art lovers to explore art spaces in different districts.  The interview articles use plain language, instead of complicated academic jargons, to share the artists’ different stories.  “Our target audience is the public.  Therefore, we do not want to make them feel that art is a dense topic.”  Elaine and Cindy believe that art is the wisdom of life, and everyone has the right to explore it.  Through Altermodernists, the public can finally glimpse into the independent and varied paths Hong Kong’s artists have taken, and share the beautiful yet ever-changing views of life through the artists’ eyes.  Perhaps, we could then all see that the world is full of possibilities, just like a star-studded sky.

Altermodernists Website:


Photo: Philip Ho, Atlermodernists

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