...the world is interpreted as a body of infinite folds and surfaces that twist and weave through compressed time and space.

— Simon O-Sullivan on Gilles Deleuze>

 

Drawing by Winnie Yan, based on Chapter 2 of Linda Lai’s Producing Heterotopia: Traces of the Cinema in the Thick Space of Governmentality, Localism and Citizenship in 1934 Hong Kong (2006)

Lost Textures is the work of artist cum historiographer, Linda Lai, in collaboration with experimental artists Winnie Yan and Michelle Lee from the Floating Projects Collective (FPC) presented at Exit Strategies curated by David H.Y. Chan at H-Queen’s during the Art Basel period, from 1 March to late March/ April 2019. To approximate Queen’s Road Central (QRC) in 1934 as “heterotopia,” we have adopted multiple research-artistic strategies, from map abstraction, photo and archival research, wall projection, object collection to sculpturing. Thick yet elliptical layers of time-space mark out our yearnings to recall and imagine in order to know the pasts we have not lived.

Fragments of QRC and its nearby thoroughfares in the 1930s defy wholesome accounts, asserting at most muted yet surviving media remnants. The tangible traces grow out of, and point back to, torrents of the past that are complex flows of energies, undifferentiated and impervious to words. In making visible the disparate facts of the past for their potentiality, I have come close to Gilles Deleuze’s concept of “the fold(s)” of space, movement and time, which characterizes art. Our lifeworld as infinite folding points to the multifaceted nature of events and history as surviving traces of past existences. Central, in this sense, is “a body of infinite folds and surfaces that twist and weave through compressed time and space.” The 2-storey downward “torrent” on the wall, from Level 17 to 15, too, is a process of becoming while asserting concrete geographic occupation not to be obliterated.

Interpellating grand colonial history via artistic activity, Lost Textures recurrently unfolds and wraps pockets of urban surfaces in Central. The pasts and presents are neither relative nor contrastive, but mutual folds of concrete living. Rather than negating grand narratives, the down-flow torrent playfully highlights the 2nd-generation HSBC 1886-1933(formerly City Hall on the same site) as the map narrative’s abrupt end point.

Why 1930s? It was a short period of relative peace that afforded modernity to flash, governmentality to re-entrench, and everyday conflicts to work out themselves with ease… before Japanese aggression intensified towards the end of the decade.

QRC, once the edge of Victoria Harbour, was, by mid-1930s, a site of scrambled usage. It was where top entertainment enterprises concentrated, from cinemas for foreign films, theatre for Cantonese operas, fanciful hotels and restaurants to offices of record and film distribution. Off the main road, side streets were the habitats of working class immigrants, many of them cargo carriers on Connaught Road, then the new praya. Between QRC and Connaught lied Des Voeux Road Central (DVC), accommodating more cinemas plus several major department stores, including Wing On 永安 (no. 211), The Sun 大新, Sincere 先施 (no. 189) and Lane Crawford 連卡佛 (between QRC and DVC east of Pedder Street).

《異質地誌:褶疊待延的皇后大道》(2019) / 黎肖嫻 及「句點。據點」藝術群體/ “Exit Strategies” (陳浩揚策展)

《異質地誌:褶疊待延的皇后大道》就地裝置以1930年代的皇后大道中為主幹。就在短暫的時空裡打開又整合,以第二代匯豐銀行(前身為大會堂)劃上句號,並不完全擱置大敘事。過去與現在同體,並不相對或對立,而未來就在我們的頂上懸空。

概念陳述

在《異質地誌:褶疊待延的皇后大道》就地裝置之中,黎肖嫻再一次以藝術創作調理歷史書寫的實驗,介入歷史敘述,與「句點。據點」成員忻慧妍和李可穎協作,以多元策略去呈現皇后大道中的褶疊時空體構成的異質地誌 – 從標記式的圖示、地理表彰的符號、現成物的聚併、史實研究,到照片搜集和實物雕塑以至活動姿態的投影。 臃厚卻斷裂的時間層,把現代性搖籃的皇后大道化為一個空間體,過去或在當下呼吸,未來必然在此刻?眼前的事物和每一片方寸土地,牽引著各自獨立的「系譜」或牽連,合起來是個只能夠「置身其中」的實體。創作者是潛入還是猛力擠進去?還是夢寐、想像?可以肯定的是:那是對未曾親身閱歷的「過去」的知性的創造。

1930年代的皇后大道中為主幹,連帶近鄰的大道橫街小巷,年代隨意的推前倒後,找來各式各樣沈默卻會發聲的碎片,試圖給一團飄遠的、僅可觸及的夢想渴求賦予破缺的形骸,好讓我們可攙扶著一點甚麼繼續發問。我們想像這闕輓歌就像一道往下衝的洪流,裹袱著各種未能命名的力與能量,當中仍有清晰可辨的「卵石」,有待語言的陳述。如是,我們多走了一步,朝向「物」的潛在性,挨近德勒茲 (Deleuze) 提出的 ”folds” 的說法:世界作爲一個實體充滿的是無限褶疊的表面,是時空的捲曲撚擰與交織,亦可無限次數的張開和再次的裹袱,而這也是藝術創造活動的本身。沒有可完全說得清的皇后大道或中環故事,「褶疊」的思維卻放闊了歷史中「事件」的參照幅度:「過去」極其量是多面多向的存留碎片,指向真真活過的人或行動者,而中環或皇后大道也就是有待不斷張開和裹合的被壓縮的時空體。從17樓到15樓,或許是個「生成」的過程,卻不容曾盤據土地的實物實存給一念勾消。《異質地誌:褶疊待延的皇后大道》就在短暫的時空裡打開又整合,以第二代匯豐銀行(前身為大會堂)劃上句號,並不完全擱置大敘事;過去與現在同體,並不相對或對立,而未來就在我們的頂上懸空。

為何1930年代?並不偶然。那是戰前香港一個可貴的天下太平的短暫時空。1920年代末的動盪過後回過氣來的香港的「現代性」再度花姿招展,殖民政府治理法重新起步一一整理,民生問題有較舒展的空間以活出來的方法去釐清、尋求解決。

皇后大道於十九世紀50年代是維多利亞港的臨海大道。到二十世紀30年代,已是經歷幾度發展里程的密集商業中心,娛樂事業尤其興旺,新舊華洋混合,貴賤參雜。一條皇后大道南北一帶的戲院不下十間,標誌著零售業的典範的四大華資與英資的百貨公司就在北面的德輔道中矗立排列著。貫穿兩條大道的卻是衛生設備簡陋的華人民居,如中國街(今天的萬宜里,就在HQ對面),住滿了在干樂道海皮當苦力的男丁和隨他們移民到香港的妻兒。