Elaine W. Ho

Elaine W. Ho discusses HomeShop

Left: Cover of  the second edition of WEAR (2010). Right: A view of HomeShop.

As the initiator of HomeShop, a tiny storefront collaborative art space in central Beijing, Elaine W. Ho has recently designed and published the second edition of WEAR, a journal stemming from the activities of the local community. HomeShop is an evolving open platform for community-based art practice, and it is located within one of Beijing’s unique urban alleyways, the hutongs, whose compact, ancient design often naturally blurs the boundaries between public and private. The second and latest edition of the journal examines the broad question, what is cultural exchange?

HOMESHOP IS AN ALTERNATIVE SPACE, and most of the things we are doing here are event- or time-based. Although I initiated HomeShop, the work is collaborative. It is small-scale, and even though not many people are able to take part, it requires participation and is based upon the varying publics in the area: neighbors, passersby, and other artists.

I’ve been living in this space for three years, but HomeShop’s activities only started two years ago. I was looking for a storefront space in a hutong, but beyond that, I wasn’t sure how to approach the project. The first year was spent just being here, residing here, seeing what the space could offer, and learning about the community. Everything is built upon relationships––how I relate to the neighbors, how they relate to me––so that year was a gestation period.

Of course, the Olympics in 2008 seemed like a perfect opportunity to begin our sort of participation in the public sphere. After that, it was a natural progression to want to document the events we were doing. But we also wanted to carry the conversation forward and see what others had to say, so we started WEAR as a platform to invite other kinds of input and contributions. A very important question for us is, How are daily routines manifested on a social or even political level?

Even though I live there, HomeShop was never intended to be an autobiographical project. Of course it’s coming from me, and the effort and the time and the intentions in the journal are my personal reactions to things that are happening here. I didn’t want it to be about my life, though, and that’s why WEAR is not a personal narrative but a collaborative effort. Yet the things you see on the HomeShop blog are actually quite subjective, perhaps more about the day-to-day. The journal is meant to bring that day-to-day aspect into another range of reflection and dialogue with the contributors and our readers.

On some level, the things we’re doing here are not that special, and certainly not new. Working on event- or time-based projects and thinking about community—these are issues that are already out there. If anything is unique about this, it’s the juxtaposition of all of these elements, and how they happen to come together at this moment in time, in China, within the art scene, or within the hutong.