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Proximity without Reciprocity (March 2010)

The Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) unveiled curtain this week, and I, as an avid supporter for the HKIFF for over a decade, has not make any plan to see any of the movies. Why? Precisely because my work requires me to work with HKIFF! I might still have the chance to go into the theatre, but even when I am inside the theatre I still have to worry about a lot of issues, and none which are of an artistic nature. I did try to see more than those screenings I am required to attend, but I just failed to squeeze the residual energy out of myself to go through the booking brochure in the past few weeks.

The above is just the tip of an iceberg. My close connection with the arts is, paradoxically, keeping me from enjoying it. Either I am too busy for arts activities, or when I attend them as required by my job or even when I organise them, I just could not immerse myself into it because I am too occupied by what I am asked to "manage" (what a marvellous word!) at these occasions.

This paradox immediately reminds me of the phrase "proximity without reciprocity" which I learnt when I did my masters degree in cultural studies. Whenever I complain to my friends about my long working hours, which sometimes go up to 12 hours a day (I know, it's nothing compared many other occupations), or about my salary (which should be 40k a month had I stayed in the civil service), my friends often say, "But at least you are doing something you like!" I am more and more confused upon hearing this in the past few months or even in the past year, because I find myself spending more and more time and energy on tasks that I do not envisage as something an arts administrator or a cultural manager should do.

In the peak season of March, my life after work is a complete mess because of all these tasks that I don't see as arts administration or cultural management. And I do not even have time to make myself a meal, so milk in the fridge turned sour, veggie went rotten, and onions sprouted - these were what literally happened in my kitchen! Yet I do not know why I am doing the things that I am doing at work, and why I have to relunctantly give up many other things in life, including, most ironically, appreciating arts and culture!

To this I still have no answer. But I am feeling much better now than a couple of weeks ago after a sudden epiphany: if proximity with arts and culture is hindering my passion for it, reciprocity with it perhaps requires a critical distance from it. For this I am prepared.

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