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.
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.
Hong Kong was promised “50 years of changelessness”—a transformative and unique indicator for its transition. Every day since the handover, society has been infiltrated with minute changes that cannot expressed, ranging from the development of hardware, to the rise and fall of ideologies. Instead of outlining history, this work aims to document transitions in different facets of society, from singing “God Save the Queen” (the national anthem of British Hong Kong) to humming “people are slaves no more” (lyrics from the Chinese national anthem); from being old migrants to becoming new Hongkongers; and from making money as property agents to gaining power as rural landlords. This body of work is created to portray a wandering status of Hong Kong—referencing Beijing, and the ghosts of uncertainty that haunt the journey ahead.
Billy H.C. KWOK (b. 1989, Hong Kong) is an independent photographer. With a BA degree in Media and Communication from City University of Hong Kong, Kwok began his career as a newspaper journalist before pursuing his photographic career. In his journey, images became a more intuitive and engaging medium for him to tell stories beyond syntax. His works focus on human rights in modern-day migration, and contemporary conditions deeply-rooted in power structures among Asian countries.
His work has been published on The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, Libération, The Globe and Mail, USA Today, National Post among others.
Kwok is highly observant and adaptable to cultural and environmental diversity. Apart from generating still images, he works both individually and collaboratively for multimedia storytelling.
The idea of the “Wish” series is to try to present in a plain way the various perceptions and desires of Hong Kong from the perspective of common mainland Chinese people. The series has been edited such that an 86-year-old farmer marks its beginning and a 7-year-old girl marks the end. Such a sequence depicts the passage from past to future, as well as the transition of time.
Forty-eight-year-old GONG He graduated from the Zhejiang Sci-Tech University (formerly the Zhejiang Silk Industrial College – Fashion Design). He is a freelance photographer and a dealer of a furniture brand. He is also the chairman of the Youth Photography Art Society of Suining, Sichuan Province (a non-government organisation).
Once upon a time, a cat that wants to obtain wisdom and knowledge puts her head into a History bookshelf. She got stuck and died.
Medium: Digital flat copies of laser printouts
Phil SHEK is a photographic artist who focuses on the documentary attribute. He enjoys exploring photography as a medium from traditional aesthetics to digital immersive technology. He believes that the highest form of a photographic moment is an evidence, which marks the second that a person awakens from the illusion of reality. He is now an instructor of photography and visual communication in School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. He has received the Photography Award at the Contemporary Hong Kong Art Biennial Exhibition and his work was collected by Hong Kong Heritage Museum.
Build. Renovate. Demolish. These are common themes within this bustling and ever mutating city. As occupants, we rarely dwell on the incomplete and put aside thoughts of what lies beneath the shroud of construction. Occasionally, along the monotonous borders of metal fencing and tarpaulin, one is exposed to moments that catch the attention. The bizarre. The poignant. The humorous. Something familiar and yet undecipherable. ‘Tales from the Common Space’ is part of a larger ongoing anthropological project that explores the urban landscape for signs of creation, decay, life and death while unveiling the effects of mankind on the landscape.
Berton Chang is a Hong Kong native and freelance photographer. He studied Photography at the San Francisco Art Institute where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). His work has been published in domestic and international publications. Although his primary image making tool is photography, Chang has been experimenting with video and destructive techniques to blur the lines between the real and the artificial.
My hands were stained with ink when I read the newspaper. The ink would seep into my fingerprints, like traces of culture. Reading the news is a way to understand the world. I read the newspaper every day during the period of March 2017, during which the headlines were all about the Chief Executive election in Hong Kong. John Tsang, Carrie Lam, Woo Kwok-hing were highlighted daily in headlines. Politics is inseparable from our lives. The role of the media, the relationships between politicians and the media, how is the image of a candidate shaped by the media? One must rely on their own wisdom to judge.
I chose some news articles, cut them into shapes of petals and rearranged them into flowers to record parts of Hong Kong’s history as an art form. My photography work “Ink Dips on Petals” is an attempt to break the usual reading habit of people and urge them to treasure-hunt through the “petals”. Fragmented articles and images are reconstructed to encourage people to think more about the news. The blooming flowers also represent the hope a new Chief Executive may bring to Hong Kong. But is such “hope” presented through public opinion and media real? Is there a discrepancy between the election platforms and policy implementation?
Chan Suk On graduated from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University with a Bachelor degree in Photographic Design. She gained her Masters of Arts in Fine Arts degree from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. On is an editor, photographer and artist. Inspired by social issues, she likes to create images, videos, installations and write. Her practice is developing from documentary photography to conceptual art.
In traditional Hong Kong, there is a belief in the existence of life after death, where the dead await the approval of a new life by an institution in the afterworld. The deceased continue to exist in the afterworld in temporary lodging as they wait in transit.
Descendants of the dead buy and burn their late ancestors’ favourite necessities and paper-made offerings, such as clothes, shoes, food, cars, houses, currency, and so on. It is believed that these offerings, after being set on fire, can be transferred to afterworld as real clothes, shoes, food, cars, houses, currency etc. People are convinced that the deceased will then possess sufficient necessities for daily life, living well and wealthily. This work is about the transition from birth to death, from death to the afterlife, and the transferring of all kinds of offerings to the deceased, while abstract things of ancestors enter their descendants’ minds.
I tried to capture the flow of smoke in each scene, then combined three photos into the whole picture, where the smoke vanishes into things. Smoke is intangible, which is like the phenomena with the human mind in which abstract things emerge. Is seeing is believing? Or is believing is seeing?
Frankie CHAN Kwok-chung started to engage in graphic design and photo imaging while studying for a Design Certificate at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education in 2004. He specialised in book design, pattern design, 3D lenticular and 3D circle lens picture production.
In 2013, he founded the design company, KISSIGN, in Hong Kong, and started working as a freelancer to explore his personal project, “Six sensations notebook”. In 2014, he was awarded The Award Scheme for Learning Experiences approved by Industry Training Advisory Committees (Printing and Publishing Industry), and was invited to participate in a visual communication exhibition in Germany to learn the latest graphic and photographic skills.
In recent years, he attempted to combine photography in his work to explore social issues and social culture.
In early 2016, his “Comfort Food” series won the Excellent Award (Series Category) in the “Photoeat” Photo Competition held by the Hong Kong International Photo Festival and he was invited to participate in the festival’s “1,000 Families” Exhibition, where he exhibited a series of “Pets’ Human Families” photographs.
From September 2014 onwards, I could no longer see clearly. I could no longer see clearly what was in front of me; as if I am in the middle of a grey storm; blown against by a rapid wave of wind. My vision is confused with anxiety and fear. Through this series of works, I wish to depict the underlying emotions and agitation in Hong Kong through photographic representations, while meditating on this society’s transition, and social and political instability.
The series captures small, yet radical gestures of the flag of Hong Kong. While waving in wind, the flag was documented using photography and presented as visual abstractions. In its sculptural shapes and forms, the flag metaphorically resembles human gestures that are indicative of complex and intense emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, and weariness. The visual purpose of a flag is to connote the existence of a group; similarly, the gestures of the flag in these images also physically and symbolically depict the underlying emotions of such a group: the emotions of Hong Kong citizens when facing the instability and transition of society.
Through constructing an alternate visual reality in photography, this series questions how reality is represented in photography, as well as points towards how a constructed reality reflects the actual state of Hong Kong and its people. By condensing a wave of wind into ten frozen moments in time, the series allows the audience to contemplate with each discrete gesture of the flag. Through photography, the once-dynamic flag is decisively frozen and divided into individual forms and figures. Despite the individuality of each frozen moment in the series, the body of work also functions as a sequence when being viewed as a unit: while every image presents a unique gestural form, they all share a sequential relationship when viewed together. As a sequence, the images poetically reconstruct the movement of the wind blowing through, reenacting the flow of the wind. While one can never truly see the wind, its presence is evoked through the movement of the flag, vividly manifesting the flow in transition.
Overall, The Flag of Hong Kong, Waving in the Wind explores an alternate photographic reality while simultaneously reflecting the actuality of Hong Kong and the perplexing emotions of its people. Underneath the physical instability of the flag lies a convoluted stream of emotions and agitation of the people in Hong Kong, one that originates from insecurity, anxiety, and fear regarding the uncertain transition into future. As a part of Hong Kong, I share the same deep emotions and agitation when I see the current turmoil in society, and feel disturbed when thinking of the future. I do not know the answers to my queries towards the future, nor the way out of the chaos, yet it is in this special moment in time when we are truly honest towards our own emotions, exposed and laid bare before the unknown future.
b. 1995, Hong Kong
Joseph LEUNG Mong-sum is a Hong Kong-based artist who graduated from the School of Creative Media at City University of Hong Kong with first class honours, and went on an exchange programme at the College of Visual and Performing Arts at the Syracuse University in New York.
LEUNG is interested in exploring the relationship between daily sentiments and the environment. He is currently producing research in the form of photo poetry and conceptual photography for the Master of Fine Arts programme at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was recently awarded the “Julian Lee Asia One Photographic Awards 2016/17” and chosen as a finalist in the “First Smash 4 Art Project”. His works had previously been shown in the United States, India, Switzerland and Hong Kong.
These photographs (2012 to present) are made in Hong Kong as an investigation of place, subject-hood, and community. My photographs address a desire to negotiate multiple and diasporic identities, to reconcile public and private moments, and establish a sense of agency in the context of a contingent, post-colonial, pre-2047 Hong Kong that is in constant flux and transition. The project combines interviews, collaborative portraits of members of the LGBTQ community and of my family, and images of the landscape — employing construction, subtraction, density, compression and liminal spaces as metaphors. The portraits centre those who are often marginalised and invisibilised, taking care of Hong Kong, each other and their own communities which they have built. Occupying and queering space, time, and gesture: clear or coded, holds possibility. In the spaces of contingency, building and renewal, subtraction and redevelopment, a city is in transition; a body and one’s identity are in transition. This reflects the need to be fluid, agile, plural. Port city and hub, it is a site of migration and dislocation, for many families including my own. Who can claim ownership; who can love or belong; who retains a memory; what does a future look like and who does it include? Is an interregnum possible?
Ka-Man TSE is a photographer and educator. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University in 2009, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bard College in 2003. She has exhibited her work at the Lianzhou Foto Festival in Guangdong, China, Para Site and Lumenvisum in Hong Kong, the 2016 Hong Kong Contemporary Film Festival in Hong Kong and New York, and Videotage’s Both Sides Now III – Final Frontiers in Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, and the United Kingdom. Shows in the United States include the Museum of Chinese in America in New York, the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York, the Palm Springs Art Museum in California, the New York Public Library, Cornell University, Capricious Gallery in New York, the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Gallery 339 in Philadelphia, the Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh, PA, and Eighth Veil in Los Angeles. She was a SPARC Artist-in-Residence through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and completed the Artist in the Marketplace Program through the Bronx Museum of Arts. She is the recipient of the 2014-2015 Robert Giard Fellowship. Her work has been featured in Papersafe Magazine and GR-09022017 published by Skreid in Oslo, Norway. She teaches at Yale University and at the Parsons School of Design. Recently, her photographs are featured in Queering Space at Alfred University. She is co-curating a show alongside Matthew Jensen entitled Daybreak: New Affirmations in Queer Photography at the Leslie-Lohman Museum, opening in June 2018.