2014 is my fifth year as a faculty at SCM, but my connection with the school goes much further back in time. Two of my earliest artistic collaborators – and perhaps the most important artistic influences of my formative years – were both proud graduates of SCM. The first artist collective that I was a part of, the now-defunct Emergencylab, consisted of poet and writer Ron Lam (BACM 2002), video artist and interactive designer Christopher Lau (MFACM 2003), and myself. The three of us shared a studio at the Footak Building in Wanchai. At the time I was what you might call a “straight-down-the-center” composer. It took me some effort to undo the narrow worldview that my specialist training had bestowed upon me. While back then I defined myself mostly as a “composer” and operated within its accepted social limits, Ron and Chris had considerable trouble defining themselves as specific types of artists and moved between artistic roles. They blew my mind open with wild ideas that knew no disciplinary boundaries: bits of cut-up tabloid magazines that doubled as notations for sound poetry; a “digital banquet” that involved the “feasting” of short films that featured various Chinese delicacies; virtual altars that accepted prayers in the form of SMS messages, which were then rendered into animations. I was deeply envious of their lack of inhibitions, and I wondered what sort of training could have granted them the liberty to swim between multiple modes of self-expression with such ease. I recently came to the realization that fluidity and openness of the mind had little to do with one’s training, upbringing, or any other external circumstances. It stems from a deep conviction from within that one always has a choice. The moment you succumb to pessimistic determinism and cease to see the world around you as genuinely open to change, that is when you stop crossing boundaries, and begin to only operate within the limits of what is considered to be acceptable by the system. This pessimism is also the beginning of all forms of cynicism and inertia. The people of Hong Kong are living in a time of unprecedented political turmoil. Today, the conviction that we as individuals have genuine choices is constantly under assault. These assaults come from systems and institutions, corporations, bureaucracies, suppressive regimes, conservative politicians, to name just a few sources. As such, we must constantly reaffirm and reinvigorate our belief in the possibility of genuine change for the better – and I believe this is precisely where artists have a fundamentally important role to play. You might have entered our program envisioning yourself in one specific societal role, but if the education at SCM had achieved what it is supposed to, you should have the confidence that at this critical juncture all options are still genuinely available to you. This freedom of the mind is indeed a privilege, and you must sense its arbitrary aspect, but the choice remains yours. Political activist, urban farmer, theatre director, entrepreneur, inventor and patent owner, exhibiting artist, award-winning director and animator – these are just a few of the adventures that some from the graduating class have already embarked upon. The evening before our legislative council brutally sealed the fate of the North East New Territories Development Areas, I saw a few of you preparing colorful banners and beautiful signs of protest at the butcher's table. Indeed, SCM students have a long and distinguished tradition of participation in political activism, direct action, and other forms of social engagement. Ron, Chris, and the open mindedness of many past and current SCM students continue to reinvigorate and inspire me. Even if you have chosen to stay away from the picketing line, when time is tough, I hope that you will be relentless. Even when battles are lost, I hope that you will continue to choose the life of a builder, and never one of a cynic.