Remote Affinity: Working together from a distance

Hang Li

Curatorial Writing Fellow
Chisenhale Gallery

I’m Hang Li, the inaugural Asymmetry Curatorial Writing Fellow at Chisenhale Gallery. My research project, Remote Affinity: Working together from a distance, explores how forms of community support and care can be integrated with cooperative, translocal approaches in art and technology. In this journal entry, I've grouped some themes and activities I have recently undertaken and explored within my Fellowship so far.


In preparation for the project, I drew upon some literature for imagining the relationship between the topics of community, science and technology, and translocality. Here is a list of books I’d like to share with you:

1. Ahmed, S. 2000. Strange Encounters: embodied others in post-coloniality. London ; New York: Routledge.

2. Reiter, B. (ed.). 2018. Constructing the Pluriverse: The geopolitics of knowledge. Durham: Duke University Press.

3. Raqs Media Collective 2009. Seepage. Berlin: Sternberg Press.

4. Lindtner, S.M. 2020. Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

5. Costanza-Chock, S. 2020. Design Justice: community-led practices to build the worlds we need. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Lindtner, S.M. 2020. Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. New Jersey: Princeton University Press


I’ve been drawing diagrams to explore my understanding of working *well* together across localities, and to imagine the role of curating accordingly. Here is one of many diagrams to help visualise my thinking:

Image courtesy: Hang Li

Here are also some visual and literal references I collated for reimagining commoning and working together across localities. The visual references are inspired by Donna Haraway’s Staying with the trouble: making kin in the Chthulucene (2016) and Lauren Berlant’s The Commons: Infrastructures for troubling times (2016).

Image courtesy: Hang Li

PROJECT EVENT 1: 21.08.2021

So far, I have programmed two panel discussions and an invitation-based roundtable discussion. In the first event, ‘Curating Online: Sustaining Technological Optimism or Approximating Alternatives?’, Jeebesh Bagchi from Raqs Media Collective shared a problem of the current mode of online gathering and co-working: "The interesting thing is to know that somebody is waking up; somebody is going to sleep; somebody’s day’s report has gone; somebody is looking forwards. It changes the nature of how you congregate, but not in the nature of why you are congregating. That is what we are trying to bring through in our thinking as artists and curatorial practice –– What does it mean? What does congregation mean now? We return back to the questions of what is gathering, back to that basic political question. [...] It is the question of chatter – the chatter of the mutuality, the peer chatter, the mutual chatter – that keeps us all run while working. Otherwise, we're dried leaves. If you work through the production of the system, we dry out very soon."

Jeebesh Bagchi introducing Afterglow, image courtesy: Hang Li

PROJECT EVENT 2: 18.09.2021

In the second panel discussion, ‘Local/Translocal: The Reproduction of Technological Promise’, curator and academic Joni Zhu introduced her understanding of translocality, highlighting its decentralised pattern: "In my work, what I tried to dismantle is the idea of the centre and periphery – the idea of the centre and rural populations. So a part of what I've been looking at for the past couple of years is the emergence of new subaltern space. The new subaltern space is no longer just in the rural spaces; it also emerges in the city centre, where really intensive labour processes are happening. In regards to border, capital itself is borderless. But it has to keep borders alive in order for the kind of cross border or transnational trade to happen. The borderlessness of capital transcends political borderlines, while I think, at the same time, perpetuating the geographic and economic frontiers that separate the periphery and the centre, the global north and global south."

Panel discussion, Local/Translocal: The Reproduction of Technological Promise, hosted by Chisenhale Gallery, image courtesy: Hang Li


Due to the pandemic, I’ve been meeting artists and researchers mainly on Zoom throughout the Fellowship. Although this mode of encounter is not ideal, I have developed deeper understandings and real connections with and to some practitioners from different places by having concentrated, responsive conversations. During this process, I realised the importance of cultivating affinity, trust, and security for online micro-gatherings.

Here is the screenshot of a small roundtable discussion I organised, following the panel discussion ‘Local/Translocal: The Reproduction of Technological Promise’. The micro-gathering invited Shuyi Cao, Iris Long, Lawrence Lek, Canhui Liu, Xiaoyi Nie, Yue Ren, Xin Shen, Su Wei, Jing Zeng, Yukun Zeng, Harriet Min Zhang, Zoe Zhao (Xi An), and Joni Zhu to share their questions and thoughts about technology and translocality.

Online roundtable discussion, hosted by Chisenhale Gallery, image courtesy: Hang Li


Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)’s long-term project ‘The New Alphabet’ has inspired my curatorial approach to develop Remote Affinity as a research programming. ‘The New Alphabet’ offers various modes of gathering and co-working centred around not only art-making but also literature, discourse, and alternative (self-)education. It encourages me to focus on exploring the conditions of thinking and working with others, instead of overemphasising publishing or exhibiting.

Screenshot of the website of 'The New Alphabet', image courtesy: Haus der Kulturen der Welt

The image in the screenshot shows Giulia Bruno and Armin Linke, Court of Justice of the European Union, Interpretation Booth during the "Day of Europe", 2018, image courtesy: Giulia Bruno and Armin Linke, 2018.


I like listening to music when I write essays. Here are a few pieces I always come back to during work:

- Miles Davis’s So What (Live at Kurhaus, Den Haag, Holland - April 1960)

- Astor Piazzolla’s Prologue (Tango Apasionado)

- Alcest’s Circe Poisoning The Sea

- Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s I Pity the Country

- Jingfei Chen’s 晚风

It's been twenty-one months since I last saw my family in Beijing. When I miss my homeland, I sometimes listen to these tunes:

- Beyond’s 情人

- Teresa Teng’s 在水一方

Image courtesy: Hang Li