By Elizabeth Jerabek and sponsored by the JOCKEY CLUB New Arts Power
In what language do you speak the truth?
The words leapt out at me from the video’s subtitles as I was exploring the Borrowed Scenery exhibition at Unit 12 of the Cattle Depot Artist Village in To Kwa Wan, near the former Kai Tak airport. As an expat, and an English-only speaking parent of a child born in Hong Kong who is learning to speak Cantonese and Putonghua in Hong Kong’s local school system, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the importance of language.
The video installation was created by the Hong Kong duo C&G Artpartment, comprised of Clara Cheung and Yee-man Cheng, whose artistic work reflects the social practices and cultural rituals in Hong Kong. Clara and Ye-man’s work, entitled “Our Next Generation and Us” shows that language loss happens when the next generation speaks a language that is not shared with their parents. While language plays an important role in communication and shaping our individual identities, it also plays a role in shaping our communities, the city and the urban environment around us.
The Borrowed Scenery exhibition as a whole is an examination of urban development issues in Hong Kong in the 21st century. The exhibition’s title is itself borrowed from a traditional garden design technique, where the scenery outside of the garden is deliberately framed by various architectural elements within the garden. The Borrowed Scenery curators André Chan and Jing Chin-yin Chong, utilised a colonial building over a hundred years old—the Cattle Depot Artist Village was formerly a quarantine base and slaughterhouse before it was renovated and converted into a local art community in 2001—as the venue to showcase contemporary artwork by local artists, who each tell their own life stories in unique ways.
Once André and Jing had chosen the Cattle Depot Artist Village as the exhibition venue they then selected the artists that they wanted to showcase. “When we asked the artists to create works for the exhibition, the art that resulted included elements that the artists borrowed from the city around them,” said André and Jing.
“The artists in the exhibition grew up at a time when the metropolis has already formed. To those who were brought up in Hong Kong at the end of the 20th century, their lives and the city itself are inseparable. Given their shared interest in this city, and what has happened during the past few months, the artists created works to dissect their experience of the city. Through their own observation and research, their work is a microcosm that shows the universal values of their city.”
The Borrowed Scenery exhibition also includes a collaboration with the choreographer Sarah Xiao, who created the 30-minute outdoor performance Flâneur for the busy downtown neighborhood of Tsim Sha Tsui (TST). The neighborhood is a good fit for the exhibition’s theme as the name of “Tsim Sha Tsui” was documented in literature as early as in the Ming dynasty, and is an early historical record of Hong Kong. TST was also one of the flash points during the Opium War. Subsequently, along with the land reclamation in the 19th and 20th centuries, TST has developed into a hotspot of commerce, tourism and shopping that draws abundant tourists. Locals, however, can often feel both familiar and unfamiliar with this evolving area.
The dancers in Flâneur lead the audience to different locations near the promenade area, where the audience can examine the urban landscape of TST and reflect on the causes fueling the neighborhood’s continuing development.
Running through January 12, 2020, you can visit the Borrowed Scenery exhibition at the Cattle Depot Artist Village in To Kwa Wan.
Flâneur will be performed on three dates in January: January 5 at 5.30pm, January 11 at 2pm, and January 12 at 5.30pm.
ABOUT THE CURATORS
André Chan is an independent curator, writer and a co-founder of the Arts Collective. André has held positions at various international galleries and has a background in East Asian studies and curatorial studies. As a curator, his focus in on cities and their related cultural issues and he collaborates frequently with Asian young artists.
Jing Chin-yin Chong is an arts administrator, exhibition curator and producer, and is also a co-founder of the Arts Collective. Before joining the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Jing worked for arts institutions and international galleries including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei. In addition to overseeing the visual art exhibitions and related programmes for the Hong Kong Arts Centre, she also curates and produces cross-disciplinary design and performing arts projects.