Wake Up & Smell the Tear Gas!


Participating artists:
Post Carbon Lab, Mirei Yazawa, Peter Barnard, Gareth Hopkins, Ghost & John, Bettina Fung, Isabella Leung, Colleen Bartley, Tashi Iwaoka, Gabor Hartyani, Sami Maalas, Lightbrush, Valerie Ebuwa, Iris Chan, Yun Cheng

A project by Young Blood Initiative curated by Candy Choi, researched with Jimena Mendizábal del Moral, the visual concepts was created by Gareth Hopkins.

An on and offline public programme with art residencies, exhibitions, workshops, performances, talks, discussions, and more.

The project overview is as follows.
Please click to reach: the agenda, press release, resources folder and the dedicated site to Bettina Fung's WORKBOOK


Wake Up & Smell the Tear Gas! is a public art programme exploring, reflecting what art could do in this moment of turmoil and unrests, the relationship between art and activism, with the main programme beginning on 10 Sept.

Exhibitions, open studios, workshops, conversations, discussions, performances. Online, offline, London, Berlin, Hong Kong and more!

The Concept

Once again people from all over the world are pouring into the streets to demand better and more dignified ways of living. As we stand at the crossroads once more, we have to ask about the role of art and its power to help social causes and bring about change.

The question is broad and more complicated than it seems to be. It is not only about questioning the power of art, but about exploring how art can change things on a social level. Or in short, it is an exploration of the relationship between art and activism, from its more open and clamorous forms to its more subtle and indistinctive ways.

Art as activism is not a new idea, artists and cultural workers have for long taken upon themselves to use artistic expression as a way to bring awareness and effect change. There have been great works of art addressing important issues: social & racial inequality, domestic and international injustice, discrimination, economic imbalance, etc. The level of success varies widely, while many artists have given shape and visibility to previously hidden problems and their underlying structures, some have had success that is usually confined to the art circle, where their work is admired and respected but without a lasting impact in the world as large.

For this project, we are exploring what the role of art is in changing social attitudes and structures, and what you can add to this moment as an artist. Our title ‘Wake Up and Smell the Tear Gas’ refers to a necessary moment of reflection where we can be honest about our previous attempts to change things and the ways in which we can try again. We are asking for honesty and compassion, an awareness of what is happening around the world right now and our responsibility as artists to keep on trying to alleviate the struggles of other human beings. Thus we are not asking for grand plans to change society but rather for new propositions and experimental ideas and how an artist can be an agent in the real world, or simply questioning, exploring and challenging the notion and general perception of art and activism, what they mean.

Programme Overview

Inspired, rather than restricted, by the Covid-19 situation around the world, “Wake Up & Smell the Tear Gas” will take a different direction and shape to our previous projects. While there are uncertainties around the looming of second waves, YBI reflects on our role as a cultural organisation and our social responsibility. We believe it is not ideal to create occasions for big crowds regardless of when the second wave would arrive. We see this as an opportunity to turn inwards and focus on artist development, foster a stronger artist community despite the physical distances among us.

Besides, many of us have started developing a habit of connecting with each other digitally since the lockdown. Rather than creating a communication barrier with those close to us, we are using this opportunity and new habit to shorten the distances among artists in different countries and continents. Creating occasions for exchanges, discussions, collaborations with those who are usually too far away for us to work with. This inspires a new format that is open, flexible that allows broad participation in different corners of the world.

Please visit the agenda and the resources page to join our conversation!

Young Blood Initiative, 2019, All Rights Reserved