Daydreaming with… James Lavelle has seen great success since its 2010 inception in London, and now sees its latest foray into the Eastern world with an inaugural Hong Kong Edition, curated with the collaborative vision of storied artist and Hong Kong resident, Simon Birch. Taking place at ArtisTree within the Quarry Bay district of Hong Kong, the large-scale exhibition continues to advance its core ethos of blending the synergy of the visuals arts with music to create an engaging and multi-sensory experience. To offer insight into the forthcoming Hong Kong Edition exhibition, both James Lavelle and Simon Birch opened up to Hong Kong based street culture site, Hypebeast, about the development of the Daydreaming with… concept, their thoughts on the creativity with the Asia Pacific region, their individual creative inspirations and the future of the exhibition.
Can you briefly describe your efforts with Daydreaming With… James Lavelle?
James: Well we worked together for a long time. We met through music because we are both DJs.
Simon: When I first came to Hong Kong I was DJ-ing and running parties so I booked James to come over and DJ. From that we went on to DJ in Singapore, Korea, and Tokyo… and all over the place. So we had a relationship that started in music, but of course James introduced me to A Bathing Ape, Maharishi, and stuff like that. It was a very organic relationship, similar interests, similar outlook on life; enthusiastic about film, art, and culture.
How important is an exhibition like this for a city that many (perhaps unfairly) deem to be uncreative?
James: I’ve never really seen it as uncreative because I am always coming to Asia to be inspired, so for me it is a great opportunity to come back and do something within a place that I’ve always found visually inspiring. I think when you are talking more about the fine art world or the established art world it’s different, but the imagery and the visual aspects, whether Hong Kong or Japan, I’ve always found to be what’s inspired me to do what I do. I love Asia for that reason and to be able to come back and do something unique here is great. I think what we are all doing is part of the journey where everybody starts at a certain point. Everybody is growing, experiencing and discovering new things, the fact that there is conscious change in the way people are trying to… like for example what Simon is trying to do here. It’s not that dissimilar to many places, everybody is trying to break down these barriers at the moment. People are trying to find the value in what they are doing; especially if you are a very creative person. Whether you are a musician or artist, the typical format and in the institutions and the way that they have always worked has kind of broken down in the last ten years. It’s an age thing, you start growing and discovering new things and so getting to this place seems natural. It is a definite consciousness that is going on with a lot of people around the world.
Was it difficult to put together a show of this magnitude in Hong Kong (given a lack of space makes large events difficult)?
Simon: The barriers are the same as any show you would want to do in Hong Kong: Time, space, and money, resources – human resources and physical resources. If you wanted to do a museum quality/scale show, we’re talking Tate Modern, MoMa, MOCA, these kind of places… the venue does not exist. You either have to be very innovative as an artist or you can get lucky like we did with Swire properties. They own this huge space that we are sitting in and it’s not a museum, it’s basically a warehouse. There are limitations because it is not an art functional space, it doesn’t have any human resources…it’s just an empty building. So then you need the money and the resources to install the artwork, advertise the show – keep in mind it’s a non profit show, there’s no income, it’s not a commercial enterprise. It’s pretty difficult, but we are so passionate about doing what we do that nothing stops us really.
What is the relationship between tangible (paintings/sculptures) and intangible (music) art?
Simon: Well for me personally as an artist, I have a strong passion for music. I listen to music while I paint, half my paintings are named after sentences in song titles. For me, a lot of my inspiration comes from music, I’ve got paintings named after James’ tracks.
James: It all goes hand in hand, that’s the thing about people trying to break this stuff up, essentially if you are a painter or sculptor …or whatever, your environment is consumed by music. Even vice versa, I get inspiration from seeing other people’s works or walking around Hong Kong/Tokyo. Where ever you are, sounds and visuals are part of the human senses. The whole dynamic of music and artwork is not a new concept really.
Where does this interest in multi-medium art stem from?
James: Well the first show I put on when I was 18 was with Eric Haze and I think it has kind of come from the idea of bringing all these elements together. Essentially, it was growing up with hip-hop, as I’ve grown, I have learned to take that sort of a culture and put it in other things. For me it’s sort of like making records, it’s about collaborations… but really it was hip hop records. Acts like Massive attack, Unkle – it’s how you create your universe and grow your adventures.
Where do you derive your personal inspirations?
James: Everything. From environment at the time to the people around you. It’s a very difficult question to answer because you can be inspired by the most simple thing. You can see a film and just have your mind blown or you could see someone walking down the street and get an idea. (Yoda voice) It’s like the force… the ship the rock… it’s in everything. It’s very hard to pinpoint.
What was the catalyst for creating Daydreaming With…?
James: The be honest, it was to give the music we were making and music in general a different value. Music has become so disposable the way people consume it. The idea of being able to create great videos and to work with great artists was fundamental to what I loved about making records. This is disappearing within the traditional music industry and I thought this was a good opportunity to give people a different perspective on how to listen and to feel what we are doing.
Do you have an ultimate goal for the platform?
James: To be able to do this all over the world. To be able to work with more great artist, the list is endless. With anything created there is always new things happening. The idea to be able to do a show in Berlin, New York, Tokyo, or Paris. For this to grow like that would be my dream. I would love for this to be put in different environments and places.
Simon: I would like this to be considered a positive and deliberate infection. James’ 20 year career has touched on Massive Attack, to me and artists in Beijing… we are so connected. He does a show in London and I happen to see him and suggest that we do a show in Hong Kong and we do a show in Hong Kong. From that it can be something else: smaller, bigger, it transforms all the time. Never a formal push, it just happens organically as it should.
Despite the shortcomings of Hong Kong on a creative level, what do you love about the city?
Simon: It’s the visual inspiration of the region. It was a shocker coming here, this vertical city that we live in is quite dynamic. Getting off the plane in the 90’s, I thought I was walking on the set of Blade Runner. The flashing neon lights, the cars, the noises – It was so engaging and I became a victim to Hong Kong very quickly. It was the smells, the food, the people…visual aesthetics, the rush of the place. Now long term it is more balance, still a rush, but it’s the efficiency and that practical nature of Hong Kong. You can do anything here. There is nothing to stop you in Hong Kong, things are challenging, but there are no rules that say you cannot express yourself. That is an amazingly liberating thing that people take for granted here and just across the border it’s a very different story. Also, now that I am getting older I am getting more into fitness. I surf here and I go hiking here, there are these massive country parks that are stunningly beautiful. You can be in the city, in a bank boardroom talking to billionaires and then 20 minutes later, you can be on a beach.
The scale of your pieces are often a stark contrast to the small and diminutive art that is often associated with Hong Kong due to the restrictions in space. Is this a deliberate move or just a by-product of your vision?
Simon: Another thing that inspires me is film, that cinematic and theatrical quality is something I am really interested in exploring. When I was seven I saw Star Wars and the first scene is of a black night sky and an enormous space ship suddenly pouring into the cinema screen. That visual theatre has stayed with me and when I think of doing installation work, I think that spectacle and scale is still in my blood today. I see a lot of Hong Kong artists have a problem that to make big physical work takes money and a place to show it. I’ve had these ideas in the back of my mind for 20 years, but it wasn’t until Swire opened this place that I was able to get an opportunity to something in a large space. Then it’s just about getting the money to do it. I think artists can work on large scale projects but somebody has got to fund them, someone has to support them and buy their work. It is intensely creative here, but there is not platform for that creativity. There’s no press, audience, writers, curators, critics, venues – that platform doesn’t exist yet, but as you can see it’s getting there.
What does Hong Kong need to do in hopes of balancing the commercial side with a greater artistic and creative side?
Simon: Nothing, it will just happen organically. People will get sick of money, of property and greed. People will want beauty, love, and art. Hong Kong is only a 150 year old fishing village and needs time to develop. Paris has been there for a long time and they have a well established culture. It has to happen naturally, you cannot force it.
How important is Hong Kong as a cultural driver in the region versus other regional entities such as Singapore or more traditional places such as Japan?
Simon: It’s not a cultural driver now, but is becoming one. I see this as becoming the arts hub of Asia. The gateway into China, you can see it, the art fair setting up here and they are going to build a modern art museum here. This is going to be a real conduit for the Asian art world, I am a strong believer. I am very comfortable in being an artist in Hong Kong rather than New York or London right now. I think this is the right time and the right place.
Any last words?
Simon: Rest in Piece.