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Message from the Commissioner

The year 2001 saw Hong Kong making its debut in the international visual arts arena as "Hong Kong, China", when it took part in the Venice Biennale to showcase the achievements and strength of our local artists.

From "Magic at Street Level" (2001) and "Navigating the Dot" (2003), to this year's "investigation of a journey to the west by micro + polo", we have dedicated ourselves to the task of bringing Hong Kong art to the rest of the world. We are striving to enhance Hong Kong's profile in the international arts scene by increasing the number of local and overseas cultural exchanges and by integrating our art with that of the rest of the world.

The theme for this year's exhibition is "investigation of a journey to the west by micro + polo". Under the curatorial direction of veteran curator Sabrina M Y Fung, the works of two artists – anothermountainman's red-white-blue Hong Kong-style tea house and Chan Yuk-keung's inverted cityscape – reflect their insights into modern society.

The rapid progress of information technology has brought about the so-called "zero distance" phenomenon, where human-to-human communication is being gradually relegated to the virtual realm of the Internet. However, visual artist anothermountainman reminds us that this "zero distance" is but an illusion. The distance between people has actually widened because we no longer value face-to-face communication. Instead, we pour all our words and emotions onto lifeless electronic screens. To articulate his concern over this issue, anothermountainman constructed a Hong Kong-style tea house using red, white and blue plastic fabric, a material commonly used in everyday life by Hong Kong people. By offering them a cup of tea, he hopes to encourage viewers to sit down and reconsider the importance of direct human contact. Chan Yuk-keung's inverted cityscape encourages us to see things and explore the various façades of society from different perspectives.

Amid the hustle and bustle of modern city living, these two artists have issued a wake-up call for us to take a new look at people and things that have long been forgotten or neglected. Demonstrating the social function of the arts, their works make us aware that art can not only inject vitality into the urban landscape and enhance the quality of life, but at the same time bring about contact between one human being and another and stimulate personal contemplation and imagination. By directing us to think beyond the boundaries of our usual perceptive framework, art enables us to see the things around us from different angles. This continued contemplation helps to open the floodgates of our creativity, thus nurturing our society's talent and increasing our competitiveness.

This is in fact the social function of art that the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (ADC) has always advocated. We believe that social support and participation at all levels is essential to the development of the arts. By showing the community what art can do – in terms of stimulating creativity and business opportunities, inspiring new thinking and contributing to learning, we can solicit their support and involvement more effectively.

Since our establishment in 1995, the ADC has actively supported the development of local arts groups and artists. We have brought the arts into schools to improve the learning ability of students. To make it possible to tap into more social resources, the ADC collaborates with various sectors of society, seeking cooperative opportunities for promoting the arts among people from all social strata and enhancing the capacity for artistic appreciation among the general public. We also concentrate on promoting arts and cultural exchanges to help local artists broaden their horizons through closer ties with their overseas counterparts.

Our participation in the Venice Biennale is an important part of the exchange and communication between Hong Kong and the international arts community. The occasion provides Hong Kong with a chance to engage in genuine artistic exchanges with friends from over 50 countries and regions. This year's Venice Biennale will be even more exciting than before. Artists from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan will gather under one roof to show the world the artistic brilliance of the Chinese nation.

Ma Fung-kwok
Chairman, Hong Kong Arts Development Council