Kowloon City Civil Servants' Cooperative Building Societies Exhibition
Exhibition Date：28 Nov - 06 Dec 2020
Venue: The Mahjong (1/F, 16 Pak Tai Street, To Kwa Wan, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
What can one do when facing the housing problem in Hong Kong? Perhaps we can learn from the past and learn from the present, with the experience of the civil servants’ cooperative building societies in Kowloon City which last for more than half a century. This scheme expands our imagination and recognition of current living quality and lifestyles. The civil servants’ cooperative houses were planned in the 1950s, spreading all over the Kowloon City District, located in Kau Pui Lung Road, Maidstone Road, Chi Kiang Street, Kiang Su Street, Shing Tak Street etc., witnessing the development of Kowloon City District and Hong Kong's policies during these 70 years . By discovering the historical archives and photos of the scheme, collecting residents' stories and sketching the beauty of the neighbourhood, this exhibition aims to reflect on and respond the development of Hong Kong with archives and art works, hence seeking the power to facilitate the future.
Wong Ka Ying
(b. 1990) is an artist, curator andwriter based in Hong Kong. She received her BFA degree from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2013. A keen observer of the art community and society, Wong critically reflects on the various social, cultural, and gender issues today through using a wide range of media, from polaroid photography, collage, screen printing, painting, performance to social media platform. Wong expresses passion in writing, curating and art educations. She made an outward appearance on various public sharing, seminars, panel discussion and talks, actively engaging with students and art lovers.
Jess Lau Ching-wa was born in 1991, Hong Kong. She explores the fading time, memories and the ever changing urban landscapes as subject matters, focuses on the qualities of different medias and the possibilities of their textures. She usually works with moving images, animation and installation. She graduated in 2014 from the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. In the same year, she received the Silver Award and the Best Local Work at the 20th ifva Festival (Interactive Media Category) in 2014. Her works have been exhibited in Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, Finland, Hong Kong, and at Ars Electronica Festival in Linz in Austria.
Kinchoi Lam is an artist and picturebook creator based in Hong Kong and Cambridge. His art mainly focuses on the pursuit and discovery of wonder through intimate aspects of daily life.
Guest Sharing Artist
Yim Shui Fong
Belle Lao, Travis Lung, Jess Li, Dennis Kwan
Pluck the flowers and grow skyscrapers ︎
by Jeff Leung / art critic of “Free Walk In”
The video that greets viewers on their right-hand side as they enter the exhibition tells the history of the Kowloon City Civil Servants’ Co-operative Building Society. The first part of the six-minute video, created by Belle Lao Un-teng of the Society, explains how the Societies were founded to provide housing welfare for members of the community; the latter half of the video is about the influence of the current policy of urban renewal. Organizer of the exhibition attempts to raise awareness of how the Society provides housing, and of issues brought by the present policy of housing renewal, and to explore other possibilities for housing policies, by means of exhibition and related activities. That is why the exhibition not only places emphasis on historical archives about housing (such as architectural drawings and legal documents), but also stories of people and how the community is closely knitted, and history of co-op society housing as reflected in Maidstone Road.
Artists conducts field trips and visits, and then created works on the theme about community relations. “The Sky” displayed on the window sill is a photography series jointly created by Jess Lau and Kinchoi Lam. A number of horizontal photographs are joined together to form the city’s skyline. The photographs show balconies and plants separated by a strip of sky. They lead me to think about the fading of community bondage caused by urban renewal. Apart from this work, the skyline has been the motif that symbolize urban landscape for many artists. Between 1999 and 2000, Leung Chi-wo created a series of works based on the shapes of sky sliced by the top edges of tall buildings, such as “Frank Lin Meets Broad Wai” based on the sky in New York City (1999), and “City Cookie” (jointly created by Leung and Sara Wong, 2000) of the sky in Shanghai. Painter Sim Chan paints skies and buildings on canvases of various shapes, such as “Sky” (2011-2013) and “SimSky Series”. The shapes of his canvases remind one of skyline in a circuit as one looks up through surrounding tall buildings.
Jess Lau Ching Wa & Kinchoi Lam
Residents of the Kowloon City Civil Servants’ Co-operative Building Society have devoted much love to the potted plants in their balconies. They are worried that such memories and space that allowed them to maintain their lifestyle would vanish after they move out. “The Sky” is the artists’ response to the residents’ sentiments. The artists fixed their lens towards the sky, and shot the plants on the balconies. There are a strong contrast of light and shadow between the two motifs (the sky and buildings), as the buildings and plants are backlit against the sky. The outspreading branches and leaves of the plants form a metaphor for urban renewal. When I looked at these photos, I recalled lyrics of Cantopop songs about changes in the city’s landscape: “Verdant hills under the tower became a gas station” (“Onto Whose Garden Would the Petals Fall”, 2007), and “pluck the flowers and grow skyscrapers” (“Swallowtail Butterfly”, 2002). Disappearance of flowers and greenery symbolizes the everchanging face of the city, and our estrangement from nature, in these lyrics and in The Sky.
The exhibition venue was once hotel rooms. The design of its L shaped windows connecting two walls is like that of balcony windows in old tenement buildings that run along street corners. With the exhibition set against the background of community resettlement, it seems the landscape outside the window and the art work in front of it are interconnected. As I leaned on the window, I looked at photos of “The Sky” mounted on wooden board placed in front of the window, and then shifted my gaze outside at a row of old buildings and a busy road; across the road at my left were the co-operative society buildings that this exhibition was about; while under the window, documents that explain the purpose and background of the co-operative society were displayed. I could not help but think about the imminent issue of urban renewal, as I shifted my view in and outside the window.(translated by Chan Lai-kuen)