Hong Kong – Archiving adventures

It’s amazing how sunshine on your skin and soul can make you feel so much better, but then going into an air-conditioned library and archive can make you feel so, so much worse. I’m ill, and it’s all coming out of my face and chest now. I feel like I’m inhaling daggers today whilst sneezing literally everywhere. I think I’d better keep an eye on it. I don’t think the staff here at the Asia Art Archive are impressed, one of whom is ill too and currently sporting a face mask. Maybe I should do the same? But one of my followers on Twitter said I would either look like a) a thief, b) a doctor, or c) an idiot. All three? I’d certainly feel pretty stupid that’s for sure. Does it keep the germs away? I thought it was a myth. Here is the archive and my den that I’ve created each day…

Today, on the thirty-minute walk to the Asia Art Archive, I saw a bird of prey with a huge wing span circling one of the financial buildings. Ri Ri has informed me that they are a certain type of falcon…I can’t remember specifically which ones, but I was intrigued by the fact they liked to play within such a concrete jungle…just going round and round one high-rise building. I stared at it for quite some time and people were giving me funny looks. It intrigued me that’s all. What was it doing?

Also on this walk to “work” I pass many fruit stalls. One fact for you that I don’t think I’ve mentioned before is Asia, or perhaps just East Asia consider tomatoes as real fruits, not like us Brits who know they are fruits but put them in the vegetables section at the supermarket. Here, they are sold alongside melons, apples, pears and oranges…settling in with the rest of the brightly coloured fruit skins. It makes sense, but I think when you are so used to something being a certain way, your head can’t let it be…you question it.

I never told you about what happened at the weekend. On Saturday, Ri Ri invited RJW and I for a 5-hour hike to port-side place called Stanley on the south-side of Hong Kong Island.This is the view they got of the Island…

I felt too shattered to join this adventure, so I slept in until 12pm (this never happens usually by the way, my brain usually kicks in around 7am), RJW still went though and had a great day, coming back with tired legs and a nice lobster sunburn tinge on his face and chest. He then went out until 4am drinking in the Hong Kong soho streets with an old university friend Louise. Instead, I spent the afternoon wandering round the Zoological and Botanical Gardens and then went to the cinema to see the new blockbuster Narnia film in 3D, as I read all the C.S. Lewis books as a child. The cinema is expensive here, but maybe that was because I went to the one at Times Square…full of creative festive flare as you can see.

Do all big cities have a Times Square? Or is it just New York and Hong Kong? Hong Kong’s isn’t a “real” one though right? Hmmmm…

Sunday was a real treat. RJW’s university friend Ben took us out in his soft top 1995 Mercedes for a drive round Hong Kong.

He collected us at about 12.30pm…I sat in the back with my hair tied up and sunglasses on, ready for the rush of air round my head from driving fast on the roads.

We went up to ‘The Peak’ and saw magnificent 360 degree views of the whole of the Island…

…then to Stanley for (of all places) Pizza Express lunch…

…then onto a beach at Shek O (though we didn’t stop as there was nowhere to park)…then onto Kowloon for some evening antics at a place called ‘McLovins Tavern’ and then onto see the 8pm Harbour Light Show from a bar called ‘Wooloomooloo Prime’ in ‘The One’.

We got the last Star Ferry back to Wan Chai at 10.50pm and I was definitely ready for sleeps. I can’t keep up at the moment.

On Monday evening, after another day at the Asia Art Archive, I met up with Kate Cary Evans, Founder and Executive Editor of Art Radar Asia who I write, research and contribute to. We met at the ‘Foreign Correspondents’ Club’ in Hong Kong, a members only place, so I could only gain access because of Kate. Special.

Full of Brits in there and a strange familiarity from the decor and interior setting. We had a good chat for a couple of hours about my PhD research, all things contemporary Asian art, and its future. It was so good to finally put a face and persona to a name, making the process of writing for them now a little more personal. I think we are going to try to have an intern/writers meet next week again at the ‘Foreign Correspondents’ Club’ which will be even better…it’ll be good to get to know the Art Radar Asia team…just a shame Kate Nicholson, the Editor can’t be there. Whilst I’m talking about Art Radar Asia, another article I have written has gone live and online on the website regarding the ‘8th Shanghai Biennale’ called ‘Can’t get to the Shanghai Biennale? First day in 10 pictures’ I’m definitely hoping to write more for these guys in 2011…more reviews and “picture feast” based posts and articles. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday was a right off. Inevitably time to be ill, and I still am. So I stayed in bed all day, paid for overpriced internet access for one day from the hotel, and didn’t move from the room AT ALL. RJW went out and got me food periodically throughout the day (wholemeal raisin and carrot muffin, an egg tart, milk, vegetable noodles – my tummy hates me now) , whilst I watched an array of terrible American TV like ‘America’s Next Top Model 14’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ oh and a horrific show called ‘The Batchelor’ with a British man on there. Such bad viewing but it kept me occupied. It was evening and sleep time before I knew it.

On Wednesday night, RJW and I went for dinner with Ri Ri and Icy to a sushi place, where the restaurant’s logo had an angry face. Rhyme time. It worked a little like YO! Sushi in there, but far nicer, more authentic and fresher…obviously.We had so many different things as you can see…

One of my favourites was the bean curd wrapped rice, and tuna…I simply love fresh tuna. I wanted cheesecake for pudding and saw it go round on the food belt so grabbed it, a tiny piece of Japanese cheesecake, only to realise it was nothing like what I wanted, more like a light mousse on a sponge base. Eugh. That’s not cheesecake! Ri Ri immediately saw my dismay and finished it off for me, and said we could go to Starbucks or somewhere else afterwards to get a real piece. It funny when you eat something thinking that it is going to taste or feel like something else…you get so disappointed so quickly! We did get proper what I’d say American cheesecake afterwards.

After another day at the Asia Art Archive on Thursday, I went to see Para/Site Art Space literally just round the corner from the Hollywood Centre. I had spoken to the Director, Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, in Shanghai at the OV Gallery when they were launching the publication ‘Who Cares? 16 Essays on Curating in Asia’ and said I would definitely come and see his gallery when I was in Hong Kong. On display was ‘Jompet – Third Realm’, a new project by Indonesian artist Jompet Kuswidananto and theatre Director Yudi Ahmad Tajudin, looking at the notion of “in-between” (much like I am in my research), thus the “third space” of the cultural history of Indonesia, origin and identity.

The exhibition revolves around a physical roof that transforms the gallery space into an installation that includes video, sculpture and performance. The collaborators say “the space” under the roof is constantly changing…a platform for ideas, events, performances and meanings to happen. There was a real attention to craftsmanship and detail in this piece that you could see came from traditional training and cultural roots.

I also came across the exhibition ‘The READ Showcase’ by the Taiwanese artists Shen Bo Cheng at a new exhibition space in Hong Kong again just off Hollywood Road, I/O (Input/Output). I really loved this exhibition as it looked at a unique process of translation. The artist was inspired by the concept of AURA in the book of Kleine Geschichte der Photographie (1931) by Walter Benjamin. The installation consists of two important translational parts – the text from the book into Braille, and the Braille into holes on music cards.

Through this process, the music cards with punched “Braille” holes were played through wind-up music boxes, all of which could be turned and played though viewer interaction by turning the small handles on the works. It created a powerful transformation of the text into a musical narrative, extending beyond the confines of the written or spoken word. Another transformation also takes place, that of the Braille (touch) into music (sound) offering a layers of sensory meaning, with the possibility of infinite creative interpretive outcomes. This artist I have noted down for inclusion in a possible future show. One to watch perhaps? It reminded me very much of the work ‘Brilliance of Shanghai: Braille-Sound Installation’ (2010) by another Taiwanese artist called Tu Weicheng that was on display at part of ‘By Day, By Night’ at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai.

Very comparable in terms of notion and concept right? Very interesting. I wonder if they are aware of each other and the artworks? Perhaps it is a Taiwanese trend right now.

A few other last thoughts…a recent article has been published online ‘Are Curators Unprofessional?: Group Practices’, the title of a curatorial symposium hosted by the Banff International Curatorial Institute from 12 to 14 November 2010.  It presented  many ideas including notions of ‘curating as prostitution’ to show the instability of the term, the increasing professionalization  and the institutionalization of curatorial practice, ‘curator-as-outsider’, the curator in relation to the words “resist,” “refuse” and “subvert”, exhibition-as-entertainment, the proliferation of careerist curators, raising questions such as “Can we imagine the curator as an outsider making purposeful misuse of institutional space?”, ultimately, are “we seeking a new kind equilibrium in a practice that is inherently and necessarily unstable?”. Thank you to Robin Peckham for posting this on Twitter. I’m actually interviewing him next week.

I came across this insert and quote by Wang Gungwu which sums up a lot of what my research focuses on…I’ve just realised I never wrote down where it was from…bad move Marsden…always note down your sources!

I found out, at the last-minute, that my previous tutors from my MA course at the University of Leicester, and now professional colleagues in the realm of museums, Richard Sandell and Suzanne MacLeod from the Department of Museum Studies, were in Hong Kong…by the time I contacted them via Twitter, I was told they had to be at the airport in three hours. I missed out on a fantastic chance encounter there. Whilst I’ve been delving deep into the shelves and drawers of the Asia Art Archive, RJW has been on adventures…island adventures, hikes, drinking and dinners, and concrete jungle walks…I’ll do a post next time purely of his iPhone and SLR camera images soon so you can see his view of this place we call Hong Kong. He really has captured its essence and reality.

Happy Holidays and Christmas greetings from Hong Kong…I pass this display everyday when I walk West on Hong Kong Island. You can just see the poinsettias outside the front of the building. They are literally everywhere across Hong Kong for the festive season and make everything look so colourful. As I sit eating my organic, wholemeal dinner, I realise that apparently, my work, teaching and PhD fieldwork research, here in China and Hong Kong is nearly done…apart from a handful of interviews next week, well two, so I am…ummmm, on holiday? Errrrr…what’s that again? Can somebody remind me please? As I’m not sure if I remember…I have to turn my laptop off right? (*shivers*)



  1. I love Shen Bo Cheng, too. I saw the work at Art Taipei this year and fell in love! In fact, I posted an image of the work on Art Radar. Thanks for mentioning us, by the way. I was very sad that I couldn’t be there, too. Come to Taiwan on your way home!

    1. One day for sure I’ll stop by : ) I simply have to! We missed you at the Art Radar get together this week, you were thought of, and we kept on mentioning your great hard work and dedication. Speak soon.

  2. Rachel, these photos and your blog posts are fascinating! Love the work being done there, especially the music box piece (in the category of Wish I Had Thought of It)
    How lucky you are to be there having these adventures.

    1. Thank you Donna, and for reading. I know I waffle whimsically sometimes! I do definitely feel lucky about having had such a long adventure out here…where to next I ask? : )

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