Hong Kong is a city made up of very contrasting and very tight layers. The city rises from lush vegetation, shows a futuristic maritime facade to take on the appearance of a maze of tight streets that bear no resemblance to its facade.
The walker who ventures in particular to the heart of the old city of Victoria, on the hill, discovers another city, older, made up of small intertwined streets, buildings with faded facades, sometimes blackened by bad weather, where eclectic networks of cables that hang from the roofs. A city waging a silent battle against nature, which is trying to take it back to impose its plant order. Tiny plants at first continue to sprout in the smallest cracks in the roadway, trees cling to the exterior sewer pipes on the facades, feeding on the slightest leaks. Old banyan trees with invasive trunks plunge their roots deep into the city as if they were looking for its ancient history.
The many strata of the city hide a half-erased or voluntarily destroyed past and it is in search of it that the younger generations of artists set out. Photography, architecture, writing and theater play a major role in this recreation of urban spaces and memory. The very fabric of the city – old inscriptions on the walls, wallpapers, popular household objects, old legends and ghost stories – everything is significant.
A very urban culture
All this production sometimes takes on intimate and personal aspects through the evocation of childhood and the family, which greatly restricts the scope of this sometimes unintelligible art to outsiders. Over the years, however, it has become of universal interest because it reflects an experience of the city and is becoming topical in other megalopolises whose modernity is later.
The pressure of time in this always busy city, the speed, the constant erasing of the past, the oppression of reduced space, local history are elements that stand out in many artists whether visual artists, writers or poets. “Everything is happening so fast here that you are not allowed to know what is really happening. We have to face the difficulties in a limited time. Appreciation of life seems like a luxury. Repetition is the pattern of our daily life. The sense of discovery no longer seems to be part of our nature. People come, people go. Time comes, time goes. Hong Kong is a city in a hurry”, explains the videographer Lam Yiu Tong while in a poem Au Ka-lai expresses the extreme pressure exerted by this city which never rests:
“We laugh, we shout, we are mad, mad with these full nights of insomnia, all the signs lit, mad with these last night suppers, our bellies crying with hunger, mad with these TVs on, the stench and relief of abandoned meals. ”
“Everything goes so fast here…”
Hong Kong is a city where more than half of the population lives in public housing, from skyscrapers to tiny, crowded apartments, with windows sealed with grills to prevent children from falling. “These nights, I am locked in my cage, clinging to my little window, contemplating the starry lights from my twenty-eight floors. These nights, you are locked in your cage, your lips parted, touching a cloud tossed in the wind. These nights, where we live like in broad daylight”
Hong Kong is this megalopolis constantly crossed by human waves, which sees its past constantly crushed by new architectures of concrete and glass.
I sometimes look with amazement at these gutted buildings, destined to disappear which, only yesterday, housed childhoods, pasts, so many stories. All that remains are desecrated apartments, exposed to the harsh light and the battering of demolishers, shreds of wallpaper, the only vestiges of life that have disappeared. Undoubtedly, for the son of a peasant that I am, earth, stone and man form only one entity and it is particularly painful not to be able to fully grasp the meaning of this continual earthquake, glass and concrete. .