Hong Kong Artist Residency
August & September 2018
Travel for me is a time of heightened observation. Without the burden of meetings, deadlines and day job commitments, one is able to enter the day in a posture of silent expectation. Serendipitous images, compositions and textures populate the day, waiting to be seen, admired and captured on one’s camera.
My artist-residency experience in Hong Kong plunged me into a hyper-frenetic metropolis full of street vendors and corporate slaves running around and hustling for the money. Yet amidst the never-ending rush-hour lay hidden pockets of stillness. Moments of gentleness and quite that refused to be consumed. The series of videos I documented from Hong Kong are a testament to these beautiful vignettes of silence.
The video Woman Outside the Apartment was taken as I was about to leave my apartment. Outside my door sat an elderly woman watching the rain. Never have I seen her before, and never will I see her again. I stood there, amazed, amused and enchanted all at once. There she sat, calmly and quietly watching the rain. No errands, deadlines or taxis to catch. No care for the dumbfounded stranger that stood there for what seemed like hours—a stranger, a brother, an artist—who watched her as she watched the rain.
Perhaps it is precisely because the act of looking is inextricably linked to the activity of drawing that I found myself transfixed on this old woman watching the rain. There she sat in solitude, watching the rain and letting it all pass by.
The island of HK is defined by towering skyscrapers of economic efficiency, yet what I found most fascinating lay below on the streets and alleyways, manual traditions that today seems inefficient. In a landscape marked by progress and advancement existed remnants of activities from an older world: the pushing of carts uphill, the sweeping of streets with bamboo brooms, the collecting of discarded cardboard in the markets. It was these sorts of daily, repetitive and manual activities that truly fascinated me. Not only because of their tactile and meditative qualities, but also because they remind me of drawing as a manual and menial craft, an analogue activity far removed from the shiny world of coding and robotics soon to overtake the developed world. It is against this backdrop of an imminent A.I. ascendency that these menial tasks suddenly feel like living artefacts, meditative pockets of stillness that refused to be swept away.
I am interested in the value of simple and menial forms of labour in the context of a developed society soon to be dominated by A.I and robotic technologies. As an artist who renders images using manual analogue modes of mark-making, I find a strong affinity between drawing as a repetitive “manual” and “menial” task with the sorts of activities taken by these street workers. Both activities are tactile, tedious and hand-performed actions contributing towards a larger meaning, whether it be for one’s livelihood or the production of an intentional cultural product such as art.