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

Carolyn Cartier


Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Full Text

PDF

References

Abbas, A. 1997, Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Apple Daily (蘋果日报) 2011, '少女涂鸦撑艾未未 重案组政治大搜捕' (Graffiti Girl Supports Ai Weiwei; Crime Unit's Big Political Search), 15 April. Online, available: http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20110415/15169662 [Accessed 1 January 2012].

Chang, T. Z. 2001, 'King of Kowloon (Tsang Tsou-choi), ' in Power of the Word. Independent Curators International, New York: 32.

Chow, V. 2011, 'Artists to Hold Shows in Support of Ai Weiwei, ' South China Morning Post, 19 May. Online, available: http://www.scmp.com/article/968145/artists-hold-shows-support-ai-weiwei [Accessed 1 January 2012].

Chung, J. et al. 2007, 九龍皇帝. 2, 禁止標貼 = The Art of Treason. 2, Post No Bill. CUP Magazine, Hong Kong.

Chung, J. 2010, Kowloon King. Asia One, Hong Kong.

Clarke, D. 2001, Hong Kong Art: Culture and Decolonization. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.

Corcoran, S. 2010, 'Editor's Introduction, ' in Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, J. Rancière. Continuum, London: 1–24.

DeWolf, C. 2011, 'Hundreds March in Support of Detained Artist Ai Weiwei, ' South China Morning Post, 24 April. Online, available: http://www.scmp.com/article/965919/hundreds-march-supportdetained- artist-ai-weiwei [Accessed 1 Janurary 2012].

DeWolf, C. & Tsang, P. 2011, 'Ai's Arrest Crossed a Line, Says Graffiti Artist, ' South China Morning Post, 16 April. Online, available: http://www.scmp.com/article/965198/ais-arrest-crossed-linesays- graffiti-artist [Accessed 1 January 2012].

Erni, J. N. 2001, 'Like a Postcolonial Culture: Hong Kong Re-imagined, ' Cultural Studies, vol. 15, no. 3–4: 389–418.

Erni, J. N. 2012, 'Who Needs Strangers? Un-imagining Hong Kong Chineseness, ' Chinese Journal of Communications, vol. 5, no. 1: 1–10.

Fu, P. 2003, Between Shanghai and Hong Kong: The Politics of Chinese Cinemas. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.

Henderson, J. C. 2008, 'Conserving Hong Kong's Heritage: The Case of Queen's Pier, ' International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 14, no. 6: 540–54.

Ho, O. 2005, 'The Problem with Politics: An Interview with Oscar Ho, ' (by J. Millichap), Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, vol. 4, no. 4: 10–13.

Jacobs, J. M. 1996. Edge of Empire: Postcolonialism and the City. Routledge, London.

Lo, S. H. H. 2010, Competing Chinese Political Visions: Hong Kong vs Beijing on Democracy. Praeger, Westport, CT.

Lau, J. H. C. 2011, 'King of Kowloon Finally Gets Respect, ' New York Times, 4 May. Online, available: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/05/arts/05iht-kowloon05.html?pagewanted=all & _r=0 [Accessed 1 January 2012].

Lau, K. W. (ed.) 1997, The Street Calligraphy of Tsang Tsou Choi. Kin Wai's Workshop, Hong Kong.

Lau, K. W. 2000, 'Tsang Tsou Choi, ' in Artscope Hong Kong 2000. Exhibition catalogue, Sabrina Fung Fine Arts, Hong Kong: n. p.

Lim, L. 2011, 'Hong Kong Graffiti Challenges Chinese Artist's Arrest, ' National Public Radio. Online, available: http://www.npr.org/2011/05/04//135985475/hong-kong-graffiti-challenges-chineseartists-arrest [Accessed 1 January 2012].

Lu, T. L. D. 2009. 'Heritage Conservation in Post-colonial Hong Kong, ' International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 15, nos. 2–3: 258–72.

Ngan, I. and Lai, E. (eds.) 2004, Mapping Identities: The Art and Curating of Oscar Ho. Para/Site: Hong Kong.

Rancière, J. 2007, 'Art of the Possible, ' Interview with J. Ranciere by F. Carvevale and J. Kelsey, Artforum, vol. 45, no. 7: 256–67.

Rancière, J. 2009, Aesthetics and its Discontents, trans. S. Corcoran. Polity Press, Cambridge.

Sieh, M. 2011, 'Finding a Voice in Art, ' South China Morning Post, 30 May. Online, available: http://www.scmp.com/article/969147/finding-voice-art [Accessed 1 January 2012].

Smith, T. 2008, 'Introduction: The Contemporaneity Question, ' in Antinomies of Art and Culture, (eds) T. Smith, O. Enwezor & N. Condee, Duke University Press, Durham, NC: 1–19.

Tam, S. M. 1997, 'Eating Metropolitaneity: Hong Kong Identity in Yumcha, ' The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 8, no. 3: 291–306.

Tsang, P. 2011, 'Ai Weiwei Backers Project Graffiti Image onto Landmark Buildings, ' South China Morning Post, 29 April. Online, available: http://www.scmp.com/article/966332/ai-weiweibackers-project-graffiti-image-landmark-buildings [Accessed 1 January 2012].

Virilio, P. 1991, The Aesthetics of Disappearance. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Wear, E. 1999, 'No Place is Home: Outmanoeuvring Cultural/Racial Identity in Hong Kong, ' in Hong Kong Art Review, (eds) E. Wear & O. Ho. International Association of Art Critics, Hong Kong: 80–93.

Wright, A. 2011, 'The Buzz, ' South China Morning Post, 5 May. Online, available: http://www.scmp.com/article/966821/buzz [Accessed 1 January 2012].

Ye Bolin (葉寶琳) 2011, '什麼人訪問什麼人:我的塗鴉 最想給內地人和銀行家看' (Who Visits Who: I'd Like to Give Mainlanders and Bankers a Look at My Graffiti), Ming Pao [Hong Kong], 24 April. Online, available: https://ol.mingpao.com/cfm/style5.cfm?File=20110424/sta13/vza2 [Accessed 1 January 2012].