Visual artists are not unlike content marketers. They are always looking for ways to increase brand awareness and engagement. Except in place of a brand, Hoo Fan Chon’s focus has been on crafting an authentic story, one that relates to his mission and vision to provide an unexpected experience for his audience.
He is content with conviction – an incredible effort to make the audience think differently about something they think they know; or help them discover a viewpoint they never thought of.
His work has been thought- provoking in refreshing ways, through honest and deeply personalised content that resonates with multiple private affiliations, goals and projections that we all have of ourselves and each other.
While his work might certainly divide opinions and ruffle feathers, he’s also bringing groups together as they react to his images and sounds in their own efforts to share an opinion.
What is clear, is the topic, tone and content of Fan Chon’s videos are transparent and authentic, focused and inspirational. He shares some thoughts and the horizons he’s heading towards.
Tell us about your background
I decided to quit my job as multimedia designer in 2006 to pursue BA Photography in London at the age of 24. In 2012, I co-founded Run Amok Gallery, an
alternative art space in George Town, which later on formalised as a collective. The space was active from 2012 to 2017.
Your work at Ilham Gallery is moving and yet spectacular. What are the most surprising reactions you’ve had to your documentary / photographs?
This is my first long-form video work. Video work can be a demanding medium for the audience in an exhibition context; since this is a narrative-based, linear form of work, unlike sculpture or painting in which the audience can choose the way they’d like to interact with the work. I’m both pleasantly surprised and pleased that some audiences find it engaging and are willing to sit through the whole 37min of the photo-video essay.
How do you generate new ideas; as you work within specific spheres?
To answer specifically about the photo-video essay piece for Ilham Art Show 2022, I used to have the habit of going through old photographs in vintage and antique stores around George Town. It was by chance that I discovered a box of 1950s-1960s photographs of two young boys who tried to explore their gender identity through studio photography in an antique store, and with a stroke of luck I was introduced to one of the subjects – Anita in this collection of found photographs. I don’t always plan my projects, sometimes it was led by accidental discovery or through random chats.
View this post on Instagram
Every artist needs a vision for where they want to be. What’s yours?
In an ideal world, I’d like to have a sustainable art career that allows me to focus on art-making while applying myself to play a role to fill the lack in our art ecosystem. Though there is increasing support from local and international cultural agencies in recent years for artists, it is common for artists to take on part-time jobs to make ends meet, before they can focus on cultural production.
Tell us about the art that has moved you in life changing ways.
I’m a bit sceptical that art has the ability to move anyone in a life-changing way, I haven’t experienced that myself, at least not yet. I am more inspired by people, initiative, and collective who are constantly trying to give society a nudge towards building a more critical yet inclusive cultural ecosystem.
What are the value / intangible attributes that your artwork embodies?
Perhaps not intentionally so at the beginning of my practice, but it is slowly becoming a conscious approach to incorporate the elements of irony, humour, and kitsch as ways to subvert and queer up subjects such as cultural authenticity, class aspiration, and social-political issues.
What does the future hold for you?
A few ideas are brewing at the moment… one about badminton and one about military parades. As an extension of the “I Enjoy Being A Girl” photo-video essay, which is being shown at the Ilham Art Show 2022 at the moment, two other collaborators and I will be working on a book based on the collection of photographs and the self-discovery journey of Anita & Ava, two female impersonators Anita & Ava from George Town.
IMAGE COURTESY OF SHEUNG YIU; ART DIRECTION BY JOYCE LIM; GROOMING BY ERANTHE LOO; LOCATION COURTESY OF ILHAM GALLERY