What Can Arts do when Freedom is at Stake? Cultural Resistance in Authoritarian Times

Panel Discussion

Upper Hall

May 23, 2024 12:00
What Can Arts do when Freedom is at Stake? Cultural Resistance in Authoritarian Times

“There’s No Art without Freedom” – this slogan by anonymous guerrilla artists appeared at Art Basel Hong Kong in May 2021. It aimed to remind attendees that such an international art fair was happening in a city that has essentially lost its freedom of expression. Such irrepressible spirit of resistance through arts and humanities is the subject of this panel. This panel brings together members from diverse disciplinary backgrounds who wear different hats as artist, activist and scholar, to focus attention on the praxis of cultural resistance in the Hong Kong context since 2019, and what we can learn from international movements both historically and in the present time, including from Ukraine, Ireland, and the former Communist bloc in Eastern Europe. We define arts and humanities in the broadest terms, from visual arts and literature to protest songs and cinema. We are interested in having a conversation that would shed light on how myriad cultural forms can present opposition and defiance to political repression, both in the Hong Kong context and beyond. Historian Dr. Balazs Apor would talk about the role of culture in shaping forms of opposition, both from a historical perspective, focusing on the late-socialist period, and from the perspective of the contemporary cultural sphere in Hungary. The main emphasis will be on the role of popular music in expressing discontent and shaping cultures of opposition. Human rights activist Dr. Brian Dooley would speak about art and iconography in war and revolutionary contexts from diverse regions, with a special focus on the cultural politics of Ireland and of cultural resistance in Ukraine. He would discuss how activists draw upon other movements both internationally and historically. Scholar Isha Ting would discuss how post-2019 Hong Kong cinema strives to represent the social reality underlying the political turmoil of the past two decades, and articulates a collective structure of feeling and an ethics of care profoundly connected with the experience of the city's incessant social movements. Artist and researcher Sam Tam would talk about the role of art in activism, in particular, how art could contribute towards the development of nationhood in the Hong Kong context based on the expression of a cultural identity and a common imaginary of democracy. This panel will be moderated by Mandy Lee, a member of the Trinity Centre for Resistance Studies at Trinity College Dublin, who had co-curated a Hong Kong protest art exhibition in Trinity in 2022 along with Dr. Balazs Apor.





Dr. Balazs Apor Dr. Balazs Apor
Associate Professor in European Studies at the Centre for European Studies. Founder and Director of the Trinity Centre for Resistance Studies at Trinity College Dublin.
Dr. Brian Dooley Dr. Brian Dooley
An Irish Human Rights Activist and Author.
Mr. Sam Tam Mr. Sam Tam
PhD Researcher in Fine Art, based in the UK.
Dr. Isha Ting Dr. Isha Ting
Research Fellow at International Institute for Asian Studies at Leiden University.


Ms. Mandy Lee Ms. Mandy Lee
Assistant Professor at the Centre for Health Policy and Management, Trinity College Dublin. Also a member of the Trinity Centre for Resistance Studies and a PhD candidate at the TCD Department of Sociology.