YIM Sui-fong - The Unlocked Space
Having graduated from the Fine Arts Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Fine Arts degree, Sui-fong YIM works with images, writing and performative actions that engage people in a constructed situation. Drifting between fiction and history, embodied and emotional memories etc., YIM’s work often explores discrepancies, interpretation and tension that occur in the process of interpersonal communication by retelling one’s memory in connection to everyday life. Recent exhibitions in which YIM’s work has been showcased include Time Attendant (Oil Street Art Space, 2018); the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2017 (Blindspot Gallery, 2017); the Talkover/Handover 2.0 (1 a Space, 2017); and Mountain Sites: Views of Laoshan (Sifang Art Museum, 2016); YIM is a co-founder of Rooftop Institute; a core member of the artist collective, L sub, which will be participating in the Echigo-Tsunami Art Triennial 2020 at the Hong Kong House.
Wong Ka Chong (which means “the factory of the British colonial government” in Cantonese) was a cottage house district in which my father lived for many years. I followed the old address and found that it is now a six-storey Civil Servants’ Cooperative Building which has been left abandoned after all the properties were sold to a Chinese Investment Company in 2016. A high-rise luxury apartment will be developed here in the future.
As the door unlocked, my curiosity quickly turned into agitation as the space exposes the grim reality of the times: housing issues in Hong Kong. From illegal cottage houses built by bare hands in the 50s, to the establishment of the system of Cooperative Buildings, there was once hope that civilians could build their homes in Hong Kong. However, housing now brings only stabbing pain to the majority—with ever-surging property prices, one cannot imagine to afford a space called “home”. What now lies in front of me is a large empty apartment, so I can investigate time in Hong Kong as captured by these objects, and to imagine the texture of life of homeowners and the life of a well-off Hong Kong family during the colonial days.
Newspaper clippings of 4th June 1989 and a yellow umbrella wall strap; documents of the Cooperative Building Society and pieces of personal information; five-digit, six-digit, seven-digit, and eight-digit telephone numbers; postcards from overseas and wedding slides; and goddess statues in the living room and copies of pornography in the bedroom fill the space with fantasy — as though one were entering the backstage of history. Collected objects were unearthed and placed, naked, under the sun. These are not artefacts of ancient history but modernity, an arbitrary time capsule that uncovers the interwoven experiences of an individual, a family and life as it is now.
What encouraged me to revisit the space for a photoshoot was the desire to remap the relationships between the objects and the people who once lived in there, but what I found were objects that had obviously been removed. The presence of randomly inverted boxes and loose items show that the objects had lost their owner, like a piece of history to which no one pays attention, a piece of history that can be freely manipulated, altered, deleted and defined. Does this not represent one nature of transition? Photography provides a rational lens to observe this unlocked space. It helps capture fleeting emotions in the present. I gave up restoring the truth of the found objects, using instead images to construct a subjective timeline to analyse the seemingly important and unimportant traces marked on the objects, and leave a footnote for the Cooperative Building and its history.