Hong Kong in March (A-side)

| Michelle Wun Ting Wong
 + Cuentos Patrióticos (Patriotic Tales)  Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Rafael Ortega, 1997. Installation view of Le Contre-Ciel, Empty Gallery, curated by Olivia Shao, March 24 - May 26, 2024. Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner. Photo: Michael Yu.

Hong Kong in March (A-side)

Hong Kong In March (A-side) | Michelle Wun Ting Wong


One way to recount and remember one’s experiences of art spaces in Hong Kong during March, and in other months of the year, is through the respective elevators one has to ride to get to them. A strange capsule of intimacy, shared space in transitional time as we move from one point to another, all in the name of art (maybe?). Imagine filling out a form that describes each elevator one rides in order to get to a place to see art: elements to consider can include luminosity within and outside of elevator, elevator speed, texture of elevator interior, style of elevator buttons, ceiling height of elevator, ceiling heights of spaces outside of elevator, level of fear once entering elevator, duration of idleness before elevator movement, level of confusion upon exiting elevator, etc.

I try not to ride the elevator to Empty Gallery alone because I can never find the door fast enough, or I fumble and fail to turn on my phone’s torch before the elevator door closes and inevitably shuts out the only light source of an otherwise totally black lobby. But this time around as I described the situation to prepare art-adjacent friends and art-visitors from abroad for what’s to come, the elevator opened to a gallery door that was already ajar. A sigh of relief, a breathing-out that was perhaps mixed with a little bit of disappointment. Apart from the performances that evening, we spent the majority of our time in Le Contre-Ciel, the counter heaven curator Olivia Shao spent five years to conjure. We counted sheep, discussing in earnest whether the strangely mesmerising video was shot in real time or was AI generated. The sheep in the video broke into a little canter in a strangely similar rhythm, and the shadow cast by the pillar that the shepherd and herd circle was entirely static (or was it?). Of course, we soon found out that the video was a Francis Alÿs work, Cuentos Patrioticos, made in 1997, long before we started questioning whether the images in front of our seeing retinas are traces of real life experience or not. Before hopping back into the elevator with warm yellow lights and a brown textured faux leather interior, we had to check on the status of the sheep, of course.

Think of elevators as containers of affect, intimacy, and strange love.


 + WAI TV Lau Wai, 2024. Courtesy of Lau Wai.


Elevator Profile: Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre
Size: large, cargo lift
Feature: strewn with posters made by tenants, mostly in Chinese, fluorescent lighting
Elevator speed: kind of slow
Destination: Level 7, room 23

A motion-tracking actor is not supposed to exist in the virtual world. And yet the protagonist in Lau Wai’s project WAI TV at New Park, an independent space I run with artists South Ho Siu Nam and Billy H C Kwok, is a motion-tracking actor within a virtual world. This is a world Lau Wai built by teaching themselves Unreal, a 3D animation creation tool that makes much of the gaming world as we know it possible. I call this protagonist the Alpha Omega of the virtual world, the beginning and the end of it. And then sometimes I wonder if that is leaning too much into the mythical and if it is out of place with the environment Lau Wai continues to build, where modes of transport, buildings, and characters from different times, continents, and even universes, are meshed up to comfortably fit with each other, just fine. In the second episode of WAI TV, the protagonist undertakes this fabulous walk on a pavement that floats on a baby blue pixel void. At one point she waved at her colleagues, one of them a donut, another a mushroom.

Elevator Profile: WMA’s building
Size: small-ish, passenger lift
Feature: mirrored services, well-lit with warm yellow lights
Elevator: not slow
Destination: Level 8


 + Home in Transit: Desktop Lecture Performance at Everything is Projection Sheung Yiu, 2024. WMA Space, courtesy of WMA.

Sheung Yiu got up from his desk, where his laptop and camera setup rested, to spray the room with a perfume scented like mouldy books. The top notes I picked up were definitely of sandal wood. But as the scent dissipates, just at the bottom of the last whiff, is the unmistakable smell of soft, humid, just slightly damp books. Throughout the exhibition space at WMA, different forms of technology were used to create representations of other technology-related objects: hologram fans spinning whilst the image of an external hard disk appeared, the words 'EVERYTHING IS A PROJECTION' ran along continuous strips of LED displayed throughout the space. The camera setup on Sheung Yiu’s desk was a live feed, which was projected onto the large screen, in front of which the audience were asked to stand, or sit, or loiter. When realising some visitors were blocking his view of the screen itself, Sheung Yiu asked us to scoot over a bit, with a smile. He then went on to talk not just about mouldy books but the links we rely on to find our ways home, and salted fish. As I left with my visiting artist friend, Dr. Yeewan Koon, who curated the show, Chloe Chow, who programmes WMA, and Elaine Lin, who directs WMA, were still enthusiastically talking to Sheung Yiu and other visitors. I imagine them discussing various types of salted fish. 


One day in March 2024, I rode the elevator leading up to Asia Art Archive’s space to read. This reading was different from the usual reading and writing I would do as a graduate student desperately trying to finish my dissertation, where I move chunks of text up and down around the document on my computer, where I flip through catalogues and pamphlets looking for information and the occasional picture. Instead, I rode the elevator to sit on a chair at the front row of a room that eventually became full and almost overflowing, to read, amongst other things, an excerpt of my own email from five years ago that was used as part of a Raqs Media Collective lecture.

 + Raqs Media Collective at Asia Art Archive’s 2024 Annual Artist’s Lecture Raqs Media Collective, 2024. Courtesy of Asia Art Archive.

The room’s attention took shape. An attentive listening, an active silent pondering on the visible and invisible within the archive, on the interventions into infrastructures of knowledge production, on disturbing the arrangement of hierarchies of ways of knowing, on gentle time-raids, on the sources and itineraries that we keep as a means of keeping track of how we get to where we are, and back, and to many elsewheres.

Time passed has a curious way of coming back and reminding us of its presence, as a fossilised biscuit from the Paris Commune, as reincarnation of whales that come and go in mystery, as a writer’s voice that had irrevocably transformed, as a gentle reminder that art, and the surrounding practices that interweave with it to make a life, are sites of distinctive knowledge. At which point one must wonder, was that time passed, or is it still time as present?

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