Vvzela Kook is a rare breed. A mainland artist who studied at City University of Hong Kong and has chosen to make the metropolis her creative home. And in some style too. For the past two years she’s been mentored by composer and performance artist Samson Young, the Hong Kong representative at this year’s Venice Biennale. We meet Kook during her participation in the non-profit arts and cultural Mill 6 Foundation’s Techstyle Series 1.0 – Ariadne’s Thread exhibition, the brainchild of director Angelika Li and overseen by Japanese curator Mizuki Takahashi, which features a select group of female artists including American Dara Birnbaum, China’s Cao Fei, South Korea’s Ji Hye Yeom and Japan’s Sputniko!
Kook is preparing to show a new work, a sort of mini-concert, in Norway in March, although she couldn’t share too much information about it when #legend spoke with her.
But what better place to start our conversation than home and Kook’s status as the city’s leading female sound and performance artist of note. “You know some people, let me explain. Its been three-and-a-half years, and the people have all been super nice, I have no feeling of alienation in this city, despite being a mainland Chinese, of course,” says Kook. “And one person reminded me half-a-year ago that I was in the process of immigration, like a kind of identity crisis. It’s also a thing from an age point of view; I’m the only mainland artist to come from China and to live in Hong Kong so young. Sometimes, it sounds very difficult, but actually it is not. I’m very comfortable in this city.”
Now aged 26, Kook is a new media artist working mostly in audiovisual media, including performance, theatre, drawing and installation. Drawing has increasingly become an important approach in her work in observing and researching the city of Hong Kong.
Simultaneously, she’s fascinated by the cosmos, the notion of parallel universes – her business card takes the form of a spacecraft – and she’s created a vision of the future, a dystopian universe that involves espionage robots and super-soldiers duking it out under the auspices of the Third Polar Cosmo-Corporation’s Supreme Headquarters.
She’s keen to share another idea she’s working on. “I imagine an army which consists of artificial intelligence and meanwhile build up another army that consists of pure blood humans, cyborgs, and scientists to fight against the artificial intelligence.” Is she for or against humanity on the whole? “So, I don’t think that’s utopian, it’s more dystopian.”
Mizuki has come to view Kook’s work on different levels. “I was intrigued by the visual aesthetic and complexity in her work. Her detailed computer graphics make me associate with female weavers who realise complicated patterns in textiles. Then I was impressed by her interest and knowledge of sci-fi novels, films and theoretical physics, such as her parallel universe theory. I like her challenge in these fields which are regarded more typically as a ‘male domain’. For me, her challenge rather than her voice and view is unique.”
To the outsider, Kook is to art what Prada is to fashion. Counter-cultural, asymmetrically referenced and not always easy to understand. And where Prada does “ugly”, Kook does androgny. A voracious reader of detective fiction as a child, and still today, she grew up watching Extreme Dinosaurs, an animation about reptiles scrapping it out across the universe, and digesting Japanese cartoons about boys racing cars or playing football, rather than more traditional female-oriented fare such as Sailor Moon, which was an influence acknowledged by Sputniko! Kook’s favourite artist is Dalí, which might explain why she’s struggling through Spanish lessons. For a woman who takes her silhouette as seriously as her art, or perhaps because it sometimes forms part of her art, where does Kook’s fashion sensibility lie. More Prada or Margiela? “Alice in Wonderland,” she says, sashaying along the Yellow Brick Road, rummaging in a rabbit hole of possibility.
Mizuki thinks a rapidly evolving Hong Kong – just look at the nine-woman exhibition she’s curated – has provided a context in which Kook’s art practice has developed and matured since the early work she chose for the Mill6 exhibition.
“I believe that every female artist has different entity and her uniqueness is not defined by her nationality,” says Mizuki. “However, if you look at Vvzela’s Confidential Record: Dual Metropolitans (2016) and ongoing project Fragrant Little Heaven, it is quite obvious that the urban landscape and architecture in Hong Kong and its history have given strong inspirations to Vvzela.”
Mizuki explains that contrasts between old and new on the streets and skyscrapers in Hong Kong have attracted many creators before Kook, such as Syd Mead, visual designer for Bladerunner and Rupert Sanders, Hollywood film director of Ghost in the Shell.
“Hong Kong is my muse,” Kook says. That may be so but she’s got a galactic battle for creativity to fight first. For VV, the future’s illimited.