All posts filed under: City

Atlas 4013

By Gerhard Bruyns / Cities are constructions. They consist of streets, lanes and alleys. Walls, windows, ceilings and a succession of doorways. Buildings, loose structures, canopies and streets. Trees, shrubs, bushes and garden pockets. In a variety of combinations and orders, the binding together of any of these elements crystallise other formations: spatial complexes and neighbourhoods, articulating cultural burrows and areas of affluence. In its totality it represents a body of material that formulates an urban environment, living and non-living, operating through natural and human processes.  However, for most of us who live in the city, we form an association through our ways of existence, in how we engage with the material world, with the buildings, structures and gardens. We build memories, link important moments to places we have seen, and savour the places we knew while becoming adults. From anthropologist Gregory Bateson’s (1904-80) perspective, this in itself represents specific Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972), a way of thinking about the world we know and experience. Irrespective of what the actual artefact is or how that object is woven into our existence, our …

Celebrating the Inclusive Power of the Arts

By Samson Wong Kei Shun The policy report Celebrating the Inclusive Power of the Arts, released by the Our Hong Kong Foundation (OHKF) this March, is hamstrung by its own reductive view of inclusion and the power of art. Its failure to accurately define its own terms of engagement means that it is condemned to reach over-restrictive, unhelpful conclusions. OHKF is a high-profile, outspoken supporter of government policies. Its recent report Re-imagining Hong Kong with a Game-Changer: Enhanced East Lantau Metropolis was released at an event officiated by its chairperson, Hong Kong’s first chief executive and now a vice-chairman of mainland China’s CPPCC, Tung Chee-hwa. Similarly, media coverage of the launch of Celebrating the Inclusive Power of the Arts was bolstered by prominent speakers including Bernard Chan, convenor of Hong Kong government’s Executive Council; Gwen Kao, chairman of the Charles K Kao Foundation for Alzheimer’s Disease; Adeline Ooi, director Asia of Art Basel; Gavin Glayton of New York’s Arts & Minds; and Richard Ings of Arts Council England. With such influential backing, the report deserves closer scrutiny before its version of arts inclusion takes root …

GayBird

By Sarah Karacs Electronic composer turned multimedia artist Leung Kei-Chuek, aka GayBird, is in possession of two racks of vintage synthesisers, each as curious and complex as the next, and each containing its own unique functionality, its own language and a poetry of its own. His favourite is the EMS Synthi AKS, a vintage machine with colourful dials that was made in the UK in 1971, before he was born. “Because the technology is old, the electronics are not very stable,” says GayBird, describing how a sound he makes one day cannot be replicated the next. “The machine is already changed. Even if it’s on the same setting, has the same diameter and everything is the same, the sound is always changing.” GayBird’s workspace in his studio overlooking Chai Wan harbour is one of order, without frills or fuss. Barring a dark sphere placed near the opening of the apartment, the synthesisers are what draw the visitor’s eye in their vibrant, boxy strangeness, like the remnants of an old Star Trek set. He likes to …

Gordon Cheung

By Remo Notarianni It is hard to think of Gordon Cheung’s worlds as homes. But his landscapes, often mountainous, vast and empty, yet shimmering and abundant with flowers, might begin to look eerily familiar as technology blurs our reality and modernity transforms or even erases our living spaces. Home at Galerie Huit is a body of mixed-media paintings and sculptures that raises questions about the meaning of a domicile: a place of birth, a residence, a source of heritage or identity, or a land that is conquered by an empire. Cheung reflects on his personal story as a Brit born to Chinese immigrants who left Hong Kong, a place that many fondly consider home despite its political turmoil. He sees this as part of a volatile global situation that has created complex individuals who live in an in-between space, caught between rapidly changing layers of history that define, at least temporarily, as they confuse identities. His work asks what we are becoming as our societies change, and what we could become if they disappeared. “This …

Bedroom

By Elliat Albrecht Conceived by American psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the mainstays of popular psychology. The pyramid-shaped chart arranges human needs in order of necessity: at the bottom of the pyramid sit basic physical needs such as shelter, food and water, and stacked above are less tangible entities such as safety, belonging and love, esteem and, at the pinnacle, self-actualisation. For Maslow, each tier must be satisfied before the next can be achieved. A similar system could be sketched for the development of a healthy art ecosystem. Needs such as funding, physical space, community support, and political and creative freedom must be met to build a robust art scene that gives artists meaningful opportunities. Such a scene requires a diversity of exhibition spaces, including commercial galleries, museums and non-profit, alternative galleries. But in Hong Kong, where space is at a premium and government funding is lacking, the most visible institutions are often the most commercially viable. Take for example the recent influx of hyper-professionalised, international, blue-chip galleries that tend to deal in canonical luxury objects …

Backstage

By Ernest Wan All eyes in Hong Kong’s performing-arts world are currently on the Xiqu Centre in the West Kowloon Cultural District, which is slated to open at the end of this year. The building is officially described as “a centre for the production, education and research” of xiqu, the Putonghua word for what has conventionally and conveniently been known as “Chinese opera”. Accordingly, since last year West Kowloon has been presenting a number of talks that seek to increase people’s understanding of this art form. However, every year since 2014 a local performing group has been educating the public on Cantonese opera — the genre of xiqu found in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China’s Guangdong and Guangxi provinces — in a much more adventurous fashion: in the form of contemporary drama, in English, and mostly in other parts of the world. According to Barbara Tang, executive director of Spring Glory Cantonese Opera Workshop, the idea of the theatrical work came from the inadequacy of talks on the subject. “For many years I have …

Tai Kwun

By Elliat Albrecht Hong Kong has a soft spot for crime and police stories. Films about gangs, double agents and bloody conflicts have long been a mainstay of local cinema. There is an underlying psychological reason: a surge of public interest in the genre occurred in the 1980s, coinciding with the UK and China’s negotiations over the 1997 handover. Amid anxiety about the political future, the movies often depicted the goings-on of crime syndicates and their clashes with authority to explore themes of loyalty, heroism and chaos. This blue-coat fascination laid the foundation for some of the most significant pop culture of the 1980s – and continues to provide inspiration today, in the form of the city’s newest cultural institution. While Hong Kong awaits the opening of M+, its much-anticipated major museum of visual culture, the recently opened Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts is poised to tick the mid-size museum box. Built on a historical site, the 19th-century Central Police Station compound on Hollywood Road, Tai Kwun has an unusual cross-disciplinary remit. The …

Sculpture Parks and Street Art: Curating Hong Kong’s Public Art Agenda

By Aaina Bhargava Hong Kong, renowned for its booming art market, is widely regarded as Asia’s art hub. While commercial success has unquestionably been essential in validating this rising status, so has been the provision of proper education and exposure of the public to a diverse range of artistic practices. To fulfil its potential as an art capital, Hong Kong needs more of the latter. There are still sectors of the art community that are severely under-represented, from local art initiatives to experimental art spaces and, in particular, public-art projects. Public-art programmes are vital to cultural development in cities, due to the easy accessibility to art they provide. Hong Kong has suffered from a lack of quality programmes, but two recent initiatives seek to change this. One is Hong Kong’s first sculpture park, and the other is the formation of HKwalls, a non-profit organisation facilitating street-art projects citywide. Harbour Arts Sculpture Park opened in late February, altering an iconic space on the harbour front between Central and Wan Chai. Co-curators Tim Marlow and Fumio Nanjo have emphasised the significance of the park in …

After the Deluge

A site-specific project by Kingsley Ng and Stephanie Cheung. By Tessa Moldan. Standing in the dark belly of Hong Kong’s oldest floodwater storage tank is without doubt one of the more powerful ways in which to contemplate the impact of rapid development on the city. Such was the experience granted by Kingsley Ng’s site-specific project after the deluge (January 1–31, 2018) in Sham Shui Po, which provided viewers with an all-encompassing experience consisting of undulating fabrics weaved through the tank’s pillars, illuminated against the dark with UV light and set to a minimal soundscape created by Angus Lee. The multi-disciplinary performance called attention to the monumental nature of the tank, which was inaugurated in 2004 as a means of coping with severe flooding in the area as a result of land reclamation. Although it bears Ng’s name, this was a collaborative project, curated by Stephanie Cheung, involving disparate elements coming together as a vast, layered experience that reminds viewers of their scale against the great forces of nature and the passage of time. Wearing headsets …

Crossing Hong Kong’s Harbour

By John Batten The very first art objects mass-exported from China to buyers in Europe, Asia and the Ottoman Empire were designed-to-order, ceramic and porcelain chinoiserie items, often purely utilitarian: crockery dinner sets, jars and storage urns. In the 18th century worldwide trade expanded due to growing demand, sturdier ships and established trading routes. Canton, as Guangzhou was then known, was China’s only port open for foreign trade, and encouraged by the success of the porcelain trade the earliest China Trade paintings were created there. This established the practice for visiting European traders and military personnel to buy or commission a painting as a souvenir of their visit or an export product. Executed by Chinese artisan painters, China Trade paintings were completed in a western landscape painting style, often naive and using rudimentary perspective. The paintings focused on depicting Canton life, including factories, trading houses, foreign diplomatic quarters, landscape scenes and visiting ships – subjects that appealed to Europeans. The monopoly on British trade with India and China held by the British East India Company for more than two centuries ended …