feature image: Ms. Cheng, her home and remnants of Keung Gor’s home with window frames (left),
Wing Ning Village, Wang Chau, 4 March 2021. Photograph by Michael Leung.

Publishing (to Find Each Other)
OPEN DOOR | EVENT SCHEDULE

On the penultimate day* of the exhibition I’m writing on my mobile phone, this time on the way to Wang Chau at 7:10am with a backpack full of gadgets. The Land School was right, we’ve become ‘backpack activists’ (Villager Pedagogies and Backpack Organisers in Hong Kong, 2021).

A few days ago at the exhibition a Lingnan University visual art student asked me if the majority of the exhibits were about Wang Chau. I thought about this for a moment and said, “Not really, but you’re right, there is a big Wang Chau presence in this exhibition.” I paraphrased something that I recently read by Claire Fontaine: ‘The only way of assisting creation is to protect those who create nothing and are not even interested in art [only survival]. If every social relation extracted from capitalist misery is not necessarily a work of art in itself, it is definitely the only possible condition for the occurrence of the artwork.’ [1]

In Wang Chau 橫洲 survival happens through “non-indigenous” wisdom, cultivating gardens, sharing produce freely and living an urban/rural coexistence (living harmoniously within a greenbelt zone across generations). These acts in themselves can delink villagers and those affected from capitalist systems and needn’t be fragments of an alternative way of living. These acts can be responsibly extracted to other contexts, and in Wang Chau be extrapolated, like the jackfruit has been these past several years—becoming something more (To Become Something More: Decolonial and Pedagogical Village Encounters, 2021). I recall the now-concretised New World Development land in Wing Ning Village oddly turned into expensive commercial farming plots (HKD $1,300 per month for around 50 square feet) and how that is only a stone’s throw from two very inviting and generous gardens cultivated by three Wang Chau villagers.

 

Ms. Cheng collecting parts of her home (parts of a mural painted on 18 December 2020),Wing Ning Village, Wang Chau. Photograph by Nanxi Liu, 26 March 2021.

Beside those two gardens were village homes that have been demolished in the past month (in parallel to this exhibition). On 4 March 2021 supporters and I and Ms. Cheng, a villager, walked around those homes, some reduced to piles waiting to be collected by a dump truck. We found an iron window frame from Keung Gor’s two-floor home. The window frame was probably older than me, originating from the 70s. All the glass was shattered save for one panel. With consent from Ms. Cheng, I bought it to Floating Projects in preparation for the Cantonese and English public sharings organised for 6 March and 7 March respectively. I planned to talk about Wang Chau through some of the works in the exhibition such as the furoshiki cloth silkscreen printed during the 2018 Wang Chau Jackfruit Festival, have something physical and tangible to talk with—the window frame, an object that generations have looked through when it was in its original home. Today the rest of that home has probably gone to landfill.

To problematise, although now leaning against a white exhibition wall, the window frame isn’t a “Gordon Matta-Clark-ification” of village life and a village home. It is an object that invites its viewers and myself to think further about what is lost and who is dispossessed when villages like Wang Chau and the other 18 are currently proposed for “development” by the government. [2] A draft text entitled Wormholes Between Territories Near and Far: Contamination Through Conviviality in front of the window frame refers to recent lost villages:

Choi Yuen Village (菜園村), a rural village with around 500 people who were displaced by the Express Rail Link (廣深港高速鐵路) for the ‘higher ends of diplomatic policy (an official reunion with the motherland) and financial betterment (increased business and tourism)’ in 2011 [3]; Nga Tsin Wai Village (衙前圍村), a 650-year old village that was acquired and demolished by the ‘ruthless Urban Renewal Authority’ in 2016 [4]; Harcourt Village, ‘a leaderless but orderly community [in Admiralty] with its voluntary cleaning activities, spotless restrooms, self-study corner, and countless activities and artworks’ that was established during the Umbrella Movement in 2014 [5]; and a farm in Ma Shi Po Village (馬屎埔村) where 7000 square feet were ‘boarded up and territorialised as part of the government’s North East New Territories Development Plan’ in conjunction with Henderson Property Development Limited. [6]

Fragments of villagers’ and Ms. Cheng’s homes, Wing Ning Village 永寧村, Wang Chau 橫洲, 26 March 2021.Photograph by Nanxi Liu.

I cannot imagine what it is like to see a home that you have lived in for 60-plus years dismantled by a machine that is so cold, strong and part of a system that allegedly represents public interests. Instead I can only bear witness to this destruction whilst standing next to the villagers and put myself, behind the camera lens—my phone, digital camera and drone. Instead of being water, we are now all stationary rocks, hardened and standing together—sharing what was lost but what still exists.

| 30th March 2021, Hong Kong

 

* Shortly after writing, Floating Projects kindly offered to extend the exhibition to 14 April 2021. This afternoon I will work on a video to accompany this text and the window frame. Please stay tuned.

 

 

NOTES

[1] Claire Fontaine, Human Strike and the Art of Creating Freedom (California: Semiotext(e): 38.

[2]  www.facebook.com/landjusticehk/photos/4980593285345000

[3] Winnie L. M. Yee, “The post-urban gaze and Hong Kong independent cinema: An ecofeminist perspective,” Asian Cinema vol. 30 no. 2 (2019): 222. Doi: 10.1386/ac_00005_1. 

[4] www.tinyurl.com/wansik and https://ngatsinwaitsuen.wordpress.com (both accessed 29 October 2020)

[5] Cho-kiu Li and Kin-long Tong, ““We Are Safer without the Police: Hong Kong Protesters Building a Community for Safety,” Radical History Review no. 137 (2020): 222. Doi: 10.1215/01636545-8092870.

[6] U., 《守田》Protect Our Farmland (Hong Kong: Self-published zine): 51.

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