**feature image: Protected trees surrounded by a yellow fence in Wing Ning Village, Wang Chau, Hong Kong, 31 December 2020. Photograph by Michael Leung.

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It is what the writer of fiction does when she asks herself what her protagonists are likely to do in the situation she has created. To characterize is to go back to the past starting from the present that poses the question, not so as to deduce this present from the past but so as to give the present its thickness: so as to question the protagonists of a situation from the point of view of what they may become capable of, the manner in which they are likely to respond to this situation. The “we” that this essay has intervened is [sic] the we who pose questions of this kind today, who know that the situation is critical but don’t know which protagonist’s cause to take up.

Isabelle Stengers, In Catastrophic Times Resisting the Coming Barbarism

 

Today I went through most of my zine collection which is stacked in an unused wooden beehive that is part of my bookshelf. I found two zines relating to bees, both quickly printed on office paper: Api Architettura (meaning ‘Bee Architecture’ in Italian) and the Chinese Beehive Maker’s Manual, from 2019 and 2012 respectively.

It seems like such a long time ago since I harvested honey — that exploitative intervention of taking another species’ food. I don’t call myself a beekeeper any more, but just somebody who put a beehive of Chinese bees (apis cerana) on a city rooftop and just let the bees… be. They’ve been pollinating neighbouring flowers since 2013 (except for the period in 2019 when I thought that the toxic tear gas caused them to leave the wooden beehive altogether).

Collaborating with Chinese bees in 2010 led me to meet farmers in the New Territories, a place that I now visit around three days a week. Such as today when friends, who have been active in Banana Path and Ma On Shan, visited Wang Chau for the first time to meet villagers who have been resisting the government’s development plan since October 2015 in multifarious ways.

On the other side of the northern slopes of Tai Mo Shan, farmer friends asked me today when I’ll graduate and what I’ll do afterwards. I thought of the Winter Money Vases 冬天的錢罌 now nestled in the corner of the exhibition at Floating Projects, and if I’m ready to start writing my thesis novel yet. The truth is, I’m not ready. I want to complete this exhibition: adding missing captions; missing zines; new artworks relating to PhD-related field notes and a 50-year old longan tree; responding to questions from the two sharing sessions from last week; and more. 

I’m reminded of philosopher Isabelle Stengers — to go back to the past in order to know how to go forward — and draw paths between once-beekeeping, The Emergence of the Jackfruit Woman, and multispecies solidarity with bats (see HS2), pangolins (see Collective Notes), and those three “lucky” trees that I have yet to identify that have been selected by the government to stay rooted, unlike the 1,057 trees that are presently being felled — an environmental crime shamelessly happening in a designated green belt zone and in this present climate emergency.

 

Michael Leung

12th March 2021

 

13 villages in Hong Kong proposed for development by the government, 14 November 2020.
Watercolour by Michael Leung.

 

 

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