Identity ‧ Commission

Ducky Tse – From [Place] to [Space] and Back Again: A Forum on the Politics of Border and Hong Kong’s Identity, April 15, 2018 – A Reflection.



Ducky Tse probably did not know the impact of what he might have created, as he started out at age 24 by shooting photos about Hong Kong people and on what he felt was important, moving away from stereotypes portrayed by western photographers. Admittedly, it originated with one simple reason – if the photos were not taken, the images would be gone, and there would not be opportunities to reflect.  A lot of changes were taking place in Hong Kong. It turned out that capturing and leaving the 90’s behind was a good thing, as it is important to know the past before we move to the future. We need to know anchors in the past – for example, 1997, Western Kowloon Reclamation Area and Queen’s Pier.  And Ducky relied on photography as a medium to tell the story of a good writer. It took 20 years before Ducky had his first exhibition.


Images taken at certain points in time are important not only because they are historical anchors, they also tell us where we are from so we understand how we get to where we are, and hence establish our individual identities.  This allows projectiles for the future, as well as creates meaning on what we might believe in and strive for. When events are captured at different points in time based on what are happening to Hong Kong people, collective memory and group behavior that reflect social change to the society come into play.   It is no longer a bunch of individuals making haphazard noises, but movements driven from group opinions in writing the stories of Hong Kong. Yet, these movements, being political, economic and social in nature, are based on contradictions and emotions elicited as a result of awareness of identities, their borders and changes. Over time, the theme of “transition” emerged, espousing liminality, continuous changes and renewal.  Life influences lives.  Ducky elegantly captured images of events from the eyes of an artist and photographer, reflecting the constant change and renewal of himself in the creation of his art.  From “All That Matters” to “All That Doesn’t”; from 2D photographs of Hong Kong history to putting a yacht in a grass field to infer Hong Kong’s situation is a miracle, and overlapping three chief executives images to illustrate the paradox of integration and differences at the same time, to the recent 3D installations with one of the five installations that has flashing lights with imprinted Basic Law texts that embody continuation; and another installation with CCTVs that project infrared images representing utopia. Empathy and insights can best be amplified by experts in their relevant fields, because they see what others do not see and can help “connect the dots” and create meaning, which lends itself to appreciation.


Based on her sociology background, Dr. Agnes Ku extends Ducky’s work in capturing faces and images from events such as Western Kowloon and Queen’s Pier as an emancipation to achieve identity by space and place making, which unified different actors, artists, architects and communities for preservation of the original space, with themes such as protecting the harbor and the original clock tower. The concept of peoples’ space created new meaning to place, resulting in more possibilities and laid the foundation for subsequent demonstrations. There is a cultural and spatial turn ignited by art and creativity works, which was not heard of in the pre-1997 colonial days. 


For Paul Chan, whose main focus is in the art and travel, his tours are all about walking the street to counteract the limitations of indoor exhibition. Walking the street in Hong Kong is the best way to provide a localized Hong Kong experience, as the street is the best theater and museum to tell the Hong Kong story. A building is a living textbook. To showcase the place is like peeling an onion, and going into the deeper layers as an ambassador to reveal the positive and negative sides of Hong Kong. Like Ducky’s work, it is about showing the good and the bad, the old being succeeded by the new, and the sensitivity and courage to acknowledge conflicts and talking about demonstrations and movements to weave the authentic Hong Kong story. Together, everyone participates in the creation of travel experience in Hong Kong.


As one ponders about Ducky’s art, what count are the resonance and reflection that result. It is like a wake-up call to many. The historical images of Hong Kong provide an anchor of where we come from as well as the changes over time. The place and space making reaffirms elements of Hong Kong identity that gives reason for being and preservation. Yet, physical borders seem to be superseded by psychological ones; with fear being drawn amidst the uncertainty as a result of changing roles and blurred meaning to our existence. Therefore, new questions are essential in opening up new possibilities and thinking. These elicit emotions, debates, frustrations and contradictions. After all, we are creatures of habits and are primed to resist change. But as long as there is patience and flexibility, there is possibility of reflection and renewals. Fruits will bear and one shall find the right direction. What happens to us as individuals are microcosms to the bigger society at large.


Dr. David C. W. Chin

Dr. David C. W. Chin is a seasoned professional in marketing, market research & analytics.  Educated in Canada and Hong Kong, he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, counselling, and tourism and hospitality management. At the time of writing, he was a business consultant and trainer, and lectured at various academic institutions. In addition to his commercial role, he enjoys writing and coaching. He can be reached at [email protected]