While the world is still facing a pandemic, we are continuing our series of cloud conversations with artist residencies and art practitioners in China. This time, we talked to HB Station 黄边站. The HB Station Contemporary Art Research Center is a leading force in Guangzhou's art scene, focussing on building mutual assistance structures in the city and beyond. 

China Residencies: Hello. Thank you so much for your time. To start off, can you explain to our readers the process and reasons behind initiating HB Station?

HB STATION: HB Station was founded in 2012, after the artist Huang Xiaopeng was fired by the art school where he worked. The Guangdong Times Museum proposed that the museum set up a long-term independent project to continue his teaching work, as he had taught contemporary art education practice for eight years at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. Xu Tan, an artist who had taught at there, also joined. This project was named "黄边站当代艺术研究中心 Huangbianzhan Contemporary Art Research Center" and the name is still in use today. In 2017, the Times Museum ended its funding for HB Station. Since then, we have independently raised operating funds with the assistance of the “廣州五行非營利藝術機構聯合會 Five Guangzhou Non-profit Art Institutions Association” {a coalition formed alongside Times Museum, HB Station, CANTONBON, Video Bureau, and Observation Society}

CR: Who is currently part of HB Station? Can you give an introduction with your backgrounds?

HB STATION: The current work team was formed in 2016 and includes Liang Jianhua, Li Xiaotian, Feng Junhua, and Zhu Jianlin. Liang Jianhua is a curator and works in the exhibition department of Guangdong Times Museum. He is mainly responsible for curating and exhibition production. He is the director of HB Station. Li Xiaotian is a writer and a curator. She is currently the curator of HB Station. Feng Junhua is an independent publisher and writer, currently serving as the research and publishing coordinator. Zhu Jianlin is an artist. He joined the HB Station team in 2014 and is currently coordinating the art projects. Liang Jianhua participated in the preparation of HB Station in 2012. Li Xiaotian, Feng Junhua, and Zhu Jianlin were also among the first members recruited by HB Station in 2012. Xu Tan has been a mentor and consultant since HB Station was founded. He is an artist and a member of the Big Tail Elephant Art Group.

Although the team all have their own lives in the outside world too, the titles are mainly to explain the scope and division of labor. In the operation and decision-making of the organization, we work in a horizontal and consensus-based manner without a hierarchical structure.

Chen Jialu "Seemingly Harmless" Exhibition view, 2018

CR: In a dialogue with the AAA (the Art Asia Archive) in 2014HB Station was introduced as an art education platform. How have visions and practices changed since then? What practices and mindsets continue to this day?

HB STATION: Education is still the fundamental thinking and working goal at HB Station. Outside the education system, we can only constantly explore and adjust in practice to build our own understanding of education. When HB Station was founded, we tried to continue offering the contemporary art education methods under the academy system, as a supplement to the current system. In practice, we gradually discovered that perpetuating these ideas with our limited resources was not a realistic choice for a micro-scale non-profit organization. After lots of setbacks, the team found that if we re-created that specific academic context to reflect on education, we would run up against the same structural problems. It's not enough to build awareness of the problem that the existing institutions are insufficient. We needed to start to think through some of the most basic elements in teaching: the contractual relationship between teachers and students, how to define learning, and so forth. When those who are willing to learn or practice find themselves outside the academy, the relationship between teaching and learning would become dynamic. Practitioners learn to acquire knowledge and self-improvement without relying on a teacher-student certification system. Through this process, self-education became clearer and clearer in our team's vision. This includes the need to regain our initiative to learn or act, and to build an awareness of problems on our own; it also echoes the structure of micro-nonprofits.

This awareness of our own power and the practical experience of each individual on team brings are so stimulating.  It has made 'unity and mutual assistance' as an educational and practical method a clear part of our vision; we are also inspired by Japanese scholar Kojin Karatani’s theory of New Associationist Movement (NAM). The resulting institutional consensus is to work closely with people accross different fields, such as artists, writers, curators, to encourage self-organization and de-centralization through the interaction of practice-research-creation, and to construct a platform for collective work to exchange learning for contemporary scenarios.

So after 2016, the work of HB Station can be better understood as self-education and unity and mutual assistance. We also use this as a practice to respond to social happenings.

Doreen Chen, "Hard Cream" Exhibition view, 2019 

CR: When I came to visit last summer, Doreen Chan's exhibition "Hard Cream" was on display at HB Station. What fascinated me most, besides the tender way of using the space, was the collaborative element in your space. This project was produced in collaboration with Para Site, and you have a long history of working with them and other art spaces. How did the collaboration process begin? Which part of the collaboration you value most?

HB STATION: The collaboration with Para Site is related to HB Station’s regular open call for research, creation and production proposals. The exhibition Hard Cream was a proposal submitted by artist Doreen Chan and curator Qu Chang, and was selected as our 2019-2020 annual project after interview. Usually, after confirming the selection, we will help the collaborators realize their ideas through joint work, hangouts, discussions and so on. In the process, HB Station will put in people power and other resources as agreed, and also help to coordinate and match resources according to specific project needs.

Earlier, we spoke of 'unity and mutual assistance'. That doesn't just describe the cooperation between HB Station and individuals from different regions and backgrounds, it is also applicable to institutions. In 2016 and 2019, HB Station participated twice in the work of the Travel Agency project. The first one was in 2016, led by artists Li Zhiyong, Shi Zhenhao, and Zhu Jianlin, funded by the “Banyan Commune” project space of Guangdong Times Museum and co-organized by HB Station. The project recruited friends from different backgrounds and visited self-organized spaces and practitioners in cities such as Shanghai, Wuhan, Shenyang, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shunde. This is a process of networking and learning, and is combined with the new space plan of HB Station. When these friends returned to Guangzhou, they directly prompted the establishment of 上阳台 Soeng Joeng Toi, which is a decentralized, jointly-governed platform.

The second time was in 2019, curated by Li Xiaotian, funded by He Foundation and co-organized by the 'Travel Agency Office'. The cities visited this time include Hanoi, Bangkok, Yogyakarta, Jakarta, and Chongqing. In Guangzhou, two walks in the locations of the 'Big Tail Elephant' group exhibitions were included, led by the artists and researchers. HB Station will try to develop a sensory-based experience transfer method from revisits to the art scene. We also believe that the main partners of future collaboration will be in the networks reached by these travels.

CR: This sounds fascinating. Another project at HB Station is the Reading Room, which is located at a second location in Guangzhou. This space was just newly established when I visited past fall. You had a selection of books on contemporary and local art circles, and enough space for people to sit and read or work collectively or individually. How did the idea for reading room come about? What books or projects do you want to talk about?

HB STATION: The Reading Room is related to how to practice the imagination about education with limited resources. Publications are one of the channels that can transfer experience and value at a lower cost. HB Station has also benefited from the practice of using publications as a space or method around us, such as the World Bookstore in Yangjiang, the Libreria Borges Bookstore in Guangzhou, the Vitamin Art Space, Observation Society, the Para Site Art Space in Hong Kong, and Display Distribute. While in Bangkok, we visited a space of the same name called "Reading Room", which is small in size but has a well-organized collection of books that are not limited to contemporary art. Its arrangement makes visitors willing to stay for a long time, read or carry out other sharing activities. This is a great inspiration. For a long time, the AAA (Art Asia Archive) literature has provided us with great help to understand and study art practices in Asia. The reading room of the Department of Chinese Paintings and the Reading Room project initiated by curator Biljana Ciric in the past two years have also made us understand and value the work of collating and researching literature and publications.

We plan to sort out and display art practice publications related to education and unity in the network established since the establishment of HB Station. We also conduct research and introduce similar publications that can be studied within our vision, as well as co-learning workshops, exhibitions, etc. to promote more practices and form a good research-practice cycle with existing practice sites.

CR: Thank you so much for providing the backgrounds to such an important practice in Southeast Asia. 

Reading Room of HB Station. Photography: Zhu Jianlin

中国艺术交流:你们好,非常感谢你们抽出时间向我们介绍黄边站。 首先,你们能介绍一下黄边站开始的过程和原因吗?





中国艺术交流:在2014年与AAA进行的翻译对话中,HB Station被介绍为教育艺术平台。 从那时起,愿景和实践发生了怎样的变化?哪些实践和思维模式一直持续到今天?




中国艺术交流:去年夏天当我来参观时,Doreen Chan的展览在黄边站。 Hard Cream,展览的名字,与艺术家分手后的剩余空间有关。这个项目是与Para Site合作制作的。 你们之前曾与Para Site和其他艺术空间进行过其他合作。 协作过程是如何开始的?你们最重视协作的哪些部分?

黄边站:和Para Site的合作与黄边站定期招募研究、创作、实践计划的制度有关。展览Hard Cream是艺术家陈泳因和策展人瞿畅一起提交的方案,面试后入选为我们的2019-2020年度计划。通常在确认入选后,我们会以共同工作、相处讨论等方式协助合作者完成TA们的设想,过程中黄边站按约定投入人力和资源,也根据具体的项目需要帮助联络、匹配资源。



Xin Wei, "See you later alligator" Exhibition view, 2018

中国艺术交流:黄边站还有一个项目是“reading room”,位于广州的第二个位置。reading room的想法是如何产生的?当我上次访问时,这个空间刚刚建立。里面有关于当代和当地艺术界的书籍,还有可供人们坐下来阅读或工作的地方。你们想谈论或者什么书或项目吗?

黄边站:“阅读间”(Reading Room)与如何在资源有限的条件下践行对“教育”的想象相关。出版物是能以较低成本传递经验和价值的渠道之一,黄边站也一直受益于我们身边以出版物为空间或方法的实践,比如有阳江的世界书店、广州的博尔赫斯书店艺术机构、维他命艺术空间观察社、香港的Para Site艺术空间、展销场等空间或组织的出版物......

在曼谷时,我们拜访过一个叫“Reading Room”的同名空间,它体量不大,却拥有条理颇为丰富且不止于当代艺术类型的藏书,它的布置也让人愿意待上很长时间,进行阅读或做分享活动,这是很大的启发;而长期以来,AAA的文献资料对我们了解、研究亚洲范围内的艺术实践提供了很大的帮助,录像局、陈侗老师创办和支持的广美国画系阅览室,以及近两年策展人比利安娜∙思瑞克发起的Reading Room项目,也使我们更理解和重视整理、研究文献及出版物的工作。



This interview was conducted in Chinese & translated into English by Xiaoyao Pippa Xu for China Residencies in March & April 2020.

With the current coronavirus situation and the ongoing lockdown in many cities in China and worldwide, people have been finding ways to keep in touch with artists and friends online, since they can't meet up in person. In lieu of our annual research trip, we are revisiting spaces we've met in the past seven years through in depth interviews over WeChat until we can meet again.