“I love Hong Kong,” says Ali Batten. “I love the locally run hardware stores filled to the brim … I love the microfactories that occupy the same amount of space as a 7/11 and yet all of our metal bending happens in them. I love the local creative scene. The work coming out of young Hong Kong artists at the moment is crazy.”
Ali and partner Dan Kamp, both originally from New Zealand, started Batten and Kamp in Hong Kong in 2019. These days home is also work—their studio is in a big, open space in a factory building at the end of Hong Kong Island between the harbor and a mountain. “We painted a section of the floor by the window white and that delineated home,” Ali says. “Our parents think we are crazy, but Dan and I absolutely love living like this. We find it really inspiring letting it all blur together. We don’t have a kitchen and currently only have a cold shower but honestly, it’s the dream.”
Ali says their shift to more experimental work was accidental. “We both come from design backgrounds so before ‘Elsewhere’ our work always had a functionality to it. Last year in particular we started to flirt with pure sculpture, which really opened us up creatively,” she says. “It was fun to play without restriction but scary, too; when work has utility it tends to be thought of as design, but when it doesn’t it’s seen as art, and we were a bit intimidated to call ourselves artists. I had quite a traditional idea of who was ‘allowed’ to be an artist.”
Their works “Origin” and “Elsewhere” are two counterpart lounge chairs. “Origin” features a minimal and earthy jet black plywood seat mounted to a raw granite boulder while “Elsewhere” employs a similar heavy stone to suspend a moulded sheet of hand-scuffed clear acrylic. “We always imagined ‘Origin’ sitting on a windswept coastline of New Zealand staring out into space and ‘Elsewhere’ on the rocky surface of another planet looking longingly back at the earth,” Ali says.
Ali says she and Dan define the notion of “elsewhere” differently. Dan was 3D-modeling a light sculpture made from a 3D scan of a T-Rex spine (“Don’t ask,” she laughs), when she asked him to briefly describe his feeling of the word again. “For me it’s an excuse to look at the here and now as an ‘elsewhere,’” he says. “Like to think about how weirdly specific everything is. Like, why are branches made of wood? And why is wood shaped as branches? Our world is super weird, but we can’t see it that way unless we try to take an alien-eye view.”