January 3, 2018
People in the community dedicate themselves to promoting better understanding of Hong Kong among the international community.
Reporters: Brian Yu, Grace Liyang, Nannerl Yau
Editors: Doris Yu, Jessica Li
Diplomacy is typically thought of as something undertaken by states to advance their interests and tell their side of a story on the international stage. But some Hongkongers are hoping to conduct a kind of informal diplomacy. They think people around the world need to hear Hong Kong’s stories from Hong Kong people, so that they won’t simply regard Hong Kong as being the same as any other Chinese city, or solely equate it with China.
Based on the idea of civic diplomacy, some local scholars founded Network DIPLO, a network that aims to foster a vision of “Hong Kong in the world” by organising city tours and maintaining close contact with overseas representatives such as consulates in Hong Kong.
Some people are worried that the soft power of Hong Kong is in decline. Derek Yuen Mi-chang, the Convener of Network DIPLO, is one of them. Given its unique history and international nature, Yuen thinks Hong Kong city deserves to have its own diplomacy efforts.
To do this, Network DIPLO organises city tours to introduce overseas visitors and foreign residents to Hong Kong’s governance system in the British colonial period, the history of the Sino-British negotiations, the drafting process of the Basic Law, and the development of Hong Kong’s relations with the Mainland under “One Country, Two Systems”.
Network DIPLO is not the only group trying to promote Hong Kong to the world from a local perspective. Hong Kong Free Tours is a platform created to facilitate exchange between travellers and locals. During its walking tours, tour guides are encouraged to share their own feelings towards the city with tourists, whether they are positive or negative. The only principle is that the guides should think their sharing will help tourists understand the city from a new perspective.
“Under current system, whatever happened, Hong Kong people will not be able to speak for themselves, it will be told by Chinese government officially,” says Michael Tsang Chi-fai, the founder of HK Free Tours. “Hong Kong Free Tours cannot fill this gap, but it provides people [with] a different channel and perspective to see Hong Kong.”
The tour guides don’t just take tourists to visit important and memorable spots, they also show them pictures of major events that happened in this city, such as the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and the Mong Kok unrest in 2016. “So the guideline for everyone in HK Free Tours is, you need to speak about certain topics, but how to speak is up to you,” Tsang adds.
While different city tours are helping tourists understand more about the city, some artists strive to promote a better understanding of Hong Kong through music and art. Alex Yiu, a local composer, who is also a visual and sound artist, was inspired by events such as the 1967 leftist riots and the jailing of the Occupy Movement student leaders. He composed a song named Double to express his feelings about Hong Kong’s political situation. The work consists of music and video, which includes footage of the 1967 Riots and the jailing of the Occupy Movement’s student leaders. The piece was performed in public for the first time by The Hong Kong New Music Ensemble at the Cycle Music and Art Festival in Iceland.
“Some people came over to me to discuss and chatted about Chinese history and Chinese politics: contemporary politics or Ancient Chinese culture,” says Yiu. “I feel like the audience has a wide aspect of what is going on with the rest of the world.”
Yiu says artists have been incorporating political elements into their work throughout history.
“It is important for us to bring out the political situation in Hong Kong because we are in need or somehow have the anger or the urge to push the political situation out of Hong Kong,” says Yiu. “At the same time, I wonder if we take out the politics or social aspect from Hong Kong art, what is the rest of Hong Kong Art will be?”
It is not just Hongkongers who live in the city who are intent on telling Hong Kong’s story. Some Hong Kong students studying overseas and professionals working abroad are also joining in. After the Umbrella Movement, several young Hongkongerss who study and work in the United Kingdom set up an organisation named Democracy for Hong Kong (D4HK), in order to support Hong Kong’s democracy movement and raise awareness of Hong Kong’s political development in Britain. The group organises protests in London to raise awareness in the international community when major events take place in Hong Kong. It also arranges meetings with British politicians in the hope of raising Hong Kong issues at the parliamentary level.
“With our efforts, more and more British people start to know more about Hong Kong. Afterwards, they also started to talk about Hong Kong society,” says Jobie Yip, one of the organisers.
“Although we are not a front-line organisation, we are just supporting [the] democracy movement in Hong Kong, but still, we hope to make a contribution.”
weighing sound in space: Wong Chun-hoi and Alex Yiu
at 5:00pm on 18th May 2017
International Association of Art Critics Hong Kong
At the courtyard of Comix Homebase, a circle of relay switches plugged into multiple sockets laid on the ground around a dozen of chairs. They set up a boundary visitors had to cross to have an experience yet to show itself. Wong Chun-hoi called each switch a ‘dumb unit’ for being simple and low-powered, but able to bring signals of light, sound and other gadgets into operation.
The first relay switch was activated when Wong, sitting on the ground in the middle of the circle, pressed the control button as if holding a joystick. The switches began what Wong called their ‘hard work’, which sequentially activated small toys interjecting the circular line of switches: a glove clinging unperturbed onto a twisted clothes hanger, a palm-sized chimpanzee on a swing, a line of finger-size plastic gold fishes... Their trembling mocked the weight and tediousness of their source of power–hundreds of excessive dumb units. The final point of the circuit was a small and controlled combustion in a coconut shell suspended in front of Wong’s face. Off the fire went, and the circuit released a laugh at its own destruction.
Alex Yiu’s performance carried a steadier and more even rhythm. He began with one cassette recorder and player. Holding it in hand, he pressed the Record button and sang a tone. He then put the machine on the ground, pressed Play to playback what he just had recorded. He repeated the same move for around thirty minutes, with variations to the way he hummed the tone. During the process, the audience was free to move around and find their own way of listening. In multiplying his own technologically mediated voice, Yiu lifted the burden the voice conventionally carried in defining the self. How successful this could be, it seems to me, depends largely on how far space was incorporated as a factor into the dispersal and distribution of the voice.
It was not clear if Yiu was interested in this aspect of the materiality of the sound in relation to the repetition and reproduction of his voice. Since the machines are analog in format, hence imitating physical reality rather than being mediated by a humanly devised language like the digital, how this reality could change (by complicating, condensing, overloading, dispersing, etc.) depends on each of his bodily gestures in relation to the physical properties in the space. Without giving some attention to resonances of the repetition of his voice in space, the meaning of the voice hovers indecisively between its conflicting desires to be rendered null while also wanting to be heard as his original voice.
What to hold up and what to destroy are questions guiding both Wong and Yiu’s artistic decisions in the performances. They could be quick on-site decisions that are contingent and instinctive; they could also have long been prepared for. Regardless of how far each individual work accomplishes what it intends, the curatorial choice of juxtaposing the two is productive of a precious occasion to reflect on the capability of sound among other mediums to constitute intimacy in human relations.
This article was first published on Contemporary Musiking on 15 March 2017.
International Association of Art Critics Hong Kong
Hong Kong musicians to reflect on colonialism with showcase at Iceland festival
Ten artists and associates of the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble will make their debut at the Cycle Music and Art Festival
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 8:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 11:15pm
Some of Hong Kong’s top classical music artists are entering the world of contemporary art to reflect on colonialism at a festival in Iceland ahead of the centenary of the end of rule by Denmark.
Ten artists and associates of the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble will make their debut at the Cycle Music and Art Festival this week with three works by Hong Kong composers performed back to back with a German group.
“There are many different artistic voices in a city like Hong Kong, so it’s an eclectic programme of works we want to showcase there,” William Lane, who founded the ensemble in 2008, said.
“We are like the festival’s Hong Kong edition during a week of residence there and will undertake programme building leading up to a concert on September 23, as well as long-term cultural exchange.”
The Icelandic debut for the ensemble follows a visit by four artists from Iceland to Hong Kong last April that spearheaded collaboration for the Cycle festival under a theme of reflections on colonialism in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of the end of Danish control over the island.
“I did my work based on interviews with pianist Tinna Thorsteinsdottir, and with her rehearsal footage I composed Doublé,” said local composer Alex Yiu, discussing his contribution to the event.
“As the baroque title suggests, the first part of the work is biographical on the pianist, but it changes in the second part, in which I have selected footage of major social events in Hong Kong – from the 1967 riots to the recent jailings of student leaders – to go with the music played by the ensemble.”
Yiu was referring to leftist anti-establishment unrest in Hong Kong in 1967 that left 51 people dead, as well as the sentencing last month of three former local student activists over a protest in 2014 in the run-up to the Occupy pro-democracy sit-ins that shut down large parts of the city.
Yiu said the video-music format had been inspired by Occupy, which he had only watched from afar as a student at Goldsmiths, University of London, in England.
“While part of the video depicts a series of political events from Hong Kong, the work itself is an experiment in seeking unlikely connections between seemingly unrelated elements,” he said.
Meanwhile composer and flautist Angus Lee, the musician responsible for the sounds behind visual artist Kingsley Ng’s Moon.gate installation, which has been critically acclaimed in Hong Kong and Taiwan and will now be brought to Iceland, said his “explosive” music complemented Ng’s “contemplative” narrative. But he said it had no political intent despite how listeners may interpret it.
“It’s open to interpretation. The work is more about providing space for reflection and thinking,” he said.
Lane said the festival’s colony theme was not “from a subversive point of view but about history and discussion to make connections and find different responses to that reality”.
On another video-music partnership, Orviilot – by Hague-based Hong Kong musician Lam Lai and Icelandic video artist Sigurour Guojonsson – Lane saw a dialogue between the Chinese diaspora and the city’s composers.
“It is a refreshing reality that many artists like Lam, while part of a diasporic Hong Kong ‘colony’ overseas, contribute to this city through their regular return trips to the city and international artistic connections,” he said.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Artists to reflect on colonialism at Iceland festival
藝文記2017/3/23 — 18:01
戲曲世界有「折子戲」概念，不同戲碼選段共冶一爐，節目各有特色、觀眾各取所需；當代劇場也有類似做法，一晚雙演（Double Bill）、三演（Triple Bill）也很流行，就如香港藝術節剛剛落幕的《西西利亞狂想曲》（Cecilia's Rhapsody），一晚就有三個不同節目，而在上月底上演的《舞鬥》（Dance Off），更是一晚七演，七位編舞應邀踏上同一舞台，既各展所長，又互見高下（按演出次序）：
李偉能（Joseph Lee）《並不只有我》（Confession ain't Solo）
李偉能表示，《並不只有我》的創作起點源自「被操作的表演」，如總統演說等，同時近年常見的罪犯自白也特別令他好奇，這或許也可從作品英文名字「Confession ain't Solo」略見一二。
編舞利用「被操作的表演」這形式，來探討「被操作的表演」這主題，思考空間甚大，而在舞台呈現方面，聲音形成一重文本，身體形成另一重文本，兩者之間的角力、糾纏、交疊，進而創造出新一重風景，讓《並不只有我》成為一個非常豐富的作品；李偉能正計劃推出重演作品《回聲摺疊－…的一場獨舞》（Folding Echoes - It's dancing, a solo by...），進一步探討表演者、創作及觀眾在演出中的角色異化與轉移，同樣甚具知性，令人期待。
a.m. post Issue 123 November / December 2016
If music is sound that is pleasing to the ear, then noise
can be described as sound which refuses to cooperate or be pleasant. Regardless of whether there is a melody or not, any kind of noise that can be emitted is considered as ‘sound’. Sound helps preserve emotions, and can even evoke distant memories. Of the five senses, hearing is probably the most difficult to illustrate and the most abstract. “What potions have I drunk of siren tears”, curated by André Chan and featuring Hong Kong artists Alex Yiu and Cheuk Wing Nam, brings viewers a brand new experience in ‘looking at’ and ‘reading’ sound art.
“Song to Daphnis Book”, tailor-made by Yiu for this exhibition, tells of the West’s obsessions with ‘the Orient’. He juxtaposes text from several literary works and films, using highlighters of different colours to point out the various interpretations of the term ‘rice queen’, illustrating the subtlety of interracial same-sex relationships. These text excerpts provide the most vivid descriptions of a rice queen, making people realise that adjectives such as ‘mysterious’, ‘exotic’, and ‘oriental’, often used when talking about Asians, are in fact stereotypical words arising from indescribable foreign imaginings and racism. A voice recording by the artist, in which John Luther Long’s Madame Butterfly, Richard Mason’s The World of Suzie Wong, and John F. Rooney’s Rice Queen Spy are seemingly told as one condensed tale while making their respective marks, accompanies the work. The tape recorder, also a part of this piece, plays Yiu’s reading of a passage from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 119 (What potions have I drunk of siren tears...) on a continuous loop. His Asian accent, together with the audio map on the wall, skilfully turns exoticism into cliché, thereby exploring the relationship that language and accent have with identity – in addition to language, people also find a sense of identity in accent. In other words, ethnic groups which share a common accent also share the same geographical and cultural background.
The inspiration for this piece of sound art originates from the artist’s own experiences in London. Through“Song to Daphnis Book”, viewers can observe Yiu’s personal reflections, his understanding of the world, his questioning of language, and even the toxic aftermath of cultural hegemony brought on by colonisation.(text: Ida Yang)
Recipient of the “CASH Music Scholarship 2014/2015” Announced
Sponsored by the CASH Music Fund, the "CASH Music Scholarship 2014/2015" for overseas studies has been awarded to Alex Yiu. He will further his postgraduate studies at Goldsmiths, the University of London in fall 2014, majoring in Sonic Arts.
Alex Yiu, an active composer and violinist, graduated from the Hong Kong Baptist University, where he studied music composition and production under the guidance of Dr. David Francis Urrows and Dr. Christopher Keyes. Alex was the winner of RTHK's "New Generation" young composer's competition in 2013. His works have been played by major music ensembles such as the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, Chai Found Music Workshop from Taiwan and notes inégales from the UK. His interests are not limited to contemporary classical music. As a non-traditional violinist, Alex has performed psychedelic folk, indie pop and ambient music in Sonic Anchor, Hidden Agenda, Shan Zhai Music, Culture Industries Association (CIA) and Oi! (a.k.a. Oil Street Art Space). Artists whom Alex collaborated with include Italian psychedelic folk guitarist Caligine and Hong Kong independent singer-songwriter Serrini. Some of Alex's soundscape recordings are available at the Library by soundpocket, where he has been assigned as a sound collector.
Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong
Sonic Anchor #16 Review – Signs, Purpose and Clarity
Samson Young / Curator of Sonic Anchor
In certain sound art communities there is a tendency to highlight the fragility of sound, and the importance of protecting them from the assaults of modern civilisation. This almost romantic notion of sound as pure and untainted is also evident in the very language that we use to describe sound recordings – high / low fidelity, lossy compression, decay. To quote Rey Chow and James Steintrager, “…sonic objectification is almost by default organised through a Romantic paradigm, whereby sonic capture is understood implicitly as the capture of that which is lost.” In many field-recording based sound performance, one observes a relentless devotion to the quality of sound – where pristine recording conditions and the most restrained in-studio processing (therefore leaving the original recording mostly untouched) are seen as signs of respectable craftsmanship.
This “romantic discourse of loss” is certainly not evident in Alex Yiu’s offering at the last edition of Sonic Anchor. The field recording that his performance was captured at the waterfront of the West Kowloon Cultural District. The quality of the recording is rough – wind noises and recording “flaws” abound. One sensed that there is no desire on the artist’s part for the audience to listen to the field recording with any degree of care: minutes into the performance, the field recording became overwhelmed by a cacophony of sound consisted of synthesised noises, outbursts of energetic gestures on the violin that resembles clichés in contemporary classical music, and heavily processed recording of Handel’s Messiah. As if this wasn’t adequately complex, a video recording of the waterfront that is subtitled with the English texts from the Messiah runs parallel to the music.
Juxtaposition is certainly one way to open up imagination – it has the possibility to construct intriguing associative networks of signs. Where Alex might have fallen short in this performance was not a lack of sense of purpose or clarity (for I am convinced that being articulate is not a pre-requisite of a thoughtful artist), but a lack of imagination. The massive overload of signs acted not to enrich each other’s associations, but instead they flattened and held one another hostage. The result is a relentlessly repetitive production of their most obvious and logical associations, given the political climate au courant. Little new meaning could be generated by such an act of juxtaposition. In this sense, the piece is not at all confused or muddled, but instead it progressed with the most severe sense of certainty, underpinned by the most logical (though probably quite appropriate) formal structure – one that resembled the romantic arch of a 19th century symphony. While the eclectic combination of contrasting elements was daring and refreshing, the piece was perhaps not as quirky as it first appeared.
About Sonic Anchor
Sonic Anchor is an experimental music and sound art concert series jointly presented by Contemporary Musiking (CMHK) and the Hong Kong Arts Centre. Sonic Anchor advocates, encourages, and cultivates experiments in sound and music. Taking full advantage of the intimate setting of the McAulay Studio, Sonic Anchor brings curious audience and adventurous artists together, to enter into a conversation of mutual discovery and respect. Please visit www.hkac.org.hk and contemporarymusiking.com for details
「聲音下寨 # 16」觀後感－－符號、目的與清晰
楊嘉輝 / 「聲音下寨」策劃人