Originally posted on Thursday, November 07, 2013
Hong Kong based Small Tune Press, owned and operated by Beatrix Pang, plies some of the same waters as Lick Ink, that is, an interest in fostering the “artist book” format in Hong Kong and beyond. Focusing on the production of diminutive books and editions, Small Tune has thus far produced four limited edition booklets that range from the photographic (I Need To Be Physically Healthy Because My Mind Is Weak) to the poetic (I Dream Because I Don’t) to the subversive (Vanishing Point: How To Disappear in China Without a Trace).
Lick Ink recently conducted an interview with Beatrix to discuss her plans and ambitions.
Lick Ink: Why did you start Small Tune Press?
Beatrix Pang: The birth of Small Tune Press developed due to my continuing interest in sub-cultural publications. I always loved reading comics, zines, artbooks, etc. Small books are charming, especially with the experimental style and handmade touch. Whether they are books or zines, because of the small size and the intimacy of holding, reading and concentrating on them, that is, in my personal experience, a private communication with oneself and the book.
The biggest push for starting Small Tunes was being encouraged by a good friend, Susanne Bürner, who is an artist who came from Germany to Hong Kong in 2011 to do research for her book. We met after her exhibition opening at Experimenta Gallery (in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong). The first book produced by Small Tune Press was for Susanne’s project – “Vanishing Point: How to Disappear in China without a Trace”.
The advice given in “Vanishing Point: How to Disappear in China without a Trace” is partially the result of numerous discussions about the different roles of people in contemporary Chinese society; it also partially presents an adaptation of the original American text, published in 2006, as applied to the situation in contemporary China. The information in the manual is not complete, but rather, is a collection of practical advice which can be expanded and which should be discussed further in order to solicit potential content from contributors on the web.
The book was designed so that it can be easily carried around. Apart from being a manual, the publication can be seen as a travelogue of someone on the run, illustrated with the photographs of the Chinese provinces that one may pass through. This person is physically part of the world but has administratively vanished. They are in a permanent state of limbo between visibility and invisibility.
Lick Ink: Why did you choose the name Small Tune Press?
Beatrix Pang: There is a movie called Caves of Forgotten Dreams by Werner Herzog. I was totally touched by this scene in that movie,
especially by the sound produced by the experimental archeologist Wulf Hein when he plays a little Paleolithic flute made out of the bone of a vulture. The sound is so delicate and seems to come from very far away yet it also will go very far – it travels in time and space. My wish when I am working on Small Tune Press, is not only to make the books but also to evoke the spirit of that small tune.
Lick Ink: How do you decide what to publish (which artists/types of art)?
Beatrix Pang: Since 2012, Small Tunes has developed its projects starting with artist friends. I did not intend to define a particular type of art or artists to collaborate with, but photography is the primary medium I work with, just because I have been pursuing photography for quite a long time. One of the advantages for me working with people I know well is we have a foundation of knowing each other personally and being familiar with each other’s artworks. So we take a shorter road to get to the destination.
Otherwise, so far in my experience, I have encountered some amazing and wonderful spirits and sparkling energies. I think developing Small Tune Press is a mind-connecting-with-mind project. The artist/author and I enjoy the whole process of working together and exchanging ideas. I believe new ideas and good results will be generated as long as there is openness and trust.
Additionally, my particular interests are in something subcultural, something unconventional, unspectacular, but something that genuinely represents Hong Kong culture and phenomenon. For instance, I have an as yet unpublished project called Incredibly Bad Taste HK 1.0. that I originally thought of starting as a collection of observational photos placed on Instagram. These images will be photographs of my own and other participants in which we find moments or phenomenon in our daily life that reflect the theme of Bad Taste in Hong Kong
Lick Ink: Is Hong Kong a good place/environment for your business?
Beatrix Pang: Hong Kong is a place where I have the opportunity to do enough trial and error so I can gain enough experience to make the right connections and to look for resources to develop Small Tunes. Especially since this is my birthplace where my people are from and I have a lot of personal memories and emotions, so all that generates inspiration and energy. All of that provides a good background to support Small Tune Press in order to grow and to expand, especially considering that independent art publications are a surprisingly new species here, so there is a lot of room to develop and to create fresh perspectives.
Lick Ink: What are your ambitions for Small Tune Press?
Beatrix Pang: Not speaking on personal ambition, I think we just need more people to participate in both working and reading in this field, to open up a bigger platform in order to initiate discussion and in order to make exchanges with both local people as well as people from other nations and cultures. In many ways, there are still a lot of stories from Hong Kong that need to be explored, told and documented. I think at this point, making books as an art form can express ideas on a personal as well as a social level.