Image, Precariousness and the Logic of Cultural Production in Hong Kong

Carolyn Cartier


Interpretations of culture in Hong Kong have tended to portray the city in terms of the vanishing present, in some combination of the instant, fleeting and disappearing. This article redresses such language of lack to consider instead how the idea of precariousness in the realm of the cultural has been less a condition of cultural production than a cultural strategy. Street art, including alternative performance art and political graffiti, has made the city itself the site of roving cultural production: walls, street surfaces and passageways accommodate forms of expression that the city’s cultural institutions have only more recently and uneasily embraced. In these different modes of time-space, contemporary alternative art occupies transitory territory and locates its ‘precariousness’ in lack of definitive status and uncertain future – mimetic conditions of defining culture in Hong Kong society itself. Its measures, by contrast, emerge in Jacques Rancière’s distribution of the sensible: the ways in which they render what is visible, knowable and ultimately sayable. As objects generating negotiation, such contemporary cultural projects anticipate instabilities of the present, identify hegemonic political economic logics and seek modes of resistance. Within these perspectives, this discussion juxtaposes two simultaneous events: the exhibit ‘Memories of King Kowloon’ on the historic graffiti of Tsang Tsou-choi, and the stenciled graffiti of Ai Weiwei in public space during April and May 2011.


Political Graffiti; Cultural Politics; Distribution of the Sensible; Postcoloniality; Contemporaneity

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