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Case Study

Follow the Trail of The Empty Chairs at Liberty UK Festival in Corby

Celebrating freedom and democracy, Liberty UK Festival brought an intriguing programme to Corby on 19 February 2022, exploring how we can work together to make a difference to things that matter most.

As part of the free festival programme, The Empty Chairs by Edwina Kung could be discovered around Willow Place Shopping Centre, providing opportunities for conversation and storytelling, bringing communities together to talk and share in a unique chair. The series of chairs now found a new home in Corby’s library for readers to explore!

We asked artist Edwina Kung before the festival to tell us more about her series of decorated chairs:

What is the inspiration behind the installation?

The installation work I’m creating for Liberty UK is titled The Empty Chairs.  How one defines the words “Empty Chairs” is often based on their upbringing, stories and experiences. It is about resistance, rebellion, control and absence, but also about hope and opportunity, about taking part, inviting someone to be involved, sharing your stories and listening to others. The list goes on and on and I’m constantly learning and being inspired by what these words mean to people from different backgrounds.
For me, when I see the words “Empty Chairs”, it reminds me of Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, but he was serving a prison sentence for subversion in China, therefore he was represented by an empty chair at the award ceremony.

Tell us more about the group you have met to learn more about Corby: 

I met with members of a group called the S.W.A.G (Stevie Way Art Group). It is a self-supporting group of people living in the Corby area that has been running for about 14 years. It was lovely to meet a local group and to be inspired by their stories and experiences.

Why is community involvement important to this project?

For the artwork I’m creating, it is about creating a platform to start conversations and inviting others to join. Therefore, it is important that conversations also take place in the process. Not only because the artwork is inspired and led by conversations, but also because I want to be involved in conversations as well.

How will The Empty Chairs provide a platform for conversations? 

I hope these chairs will be a bridge to start conversations, to provide a space and opportunity for an exchange in stories about Corby, about daily lives and the inspirations that have been drawn onto these chairs!

Has this project inspired you to develop new ideas as an artist?

Being involved in this project inspired me to think more about community engagement in my work. I would love to create more work that is led by stories and conversations in the near future.

What other projects are you working on?

Currently, I’m participating in an ongoing exhibition tour called “Where we are now, and then…”. The exhibition is about the shifting and evolving ideas surrounding care, identity and compassion, shared by people with Parkinson’s through the process of dancing with Danielle Teale’s Collective Identity (CID Project). I was commissioned to create artworks through attending dance sessions in response to the movements, conversations and offerings by the lovely collective of dancers. More information can be found on https://www.explorationsincollectivity.com/