In the Cattle Depot Artist’s Village, a space opens between buildings growing old with their recent ancestry; a courtyard of past utility, punctuated by brick structures which have become galleries and studio spaces. Behind the creative commune the old effects of cattle wrangling and the organised dissemination of herds of cows sits relatively untouched, rotten and crumbling amongst the leaves of young trees. The whole space, an oasis amongst the ghetto of east Kowloon’s newly crumbling 1950 and 60s housing blocks, speaks to the surrounding area of a freedom and escapism through the power of creativity, and productive communion. Curiously, the cattle depot’s entrance is manned by a trio of security guards, despite the only visitors being a clutch of wide eyed Chinese youths. Equally curious, is that despite the blatant explosion of creativity in these old cow sheds, the young visitors are the only visible human life.
Chaos and anarchic revelation make the brief exhibition, “Anarchitecture Bananas” in one of the Cattle Depot’s gallery spaces, an enthralling and exciting prospect. In the opening space, the audience are greeted by a diaspora of urban photography; ordinarily a plain sight, what makes this so lovely is the dirtiness of the space, paint splatters all over the floor the visible remnants of uninhibited creativity. In keeping with this ramshackle state, We Are Society’s intriguing photos are mounted with a large nail directly through their centre; a sincere desperation to present the freedom and emergency of creative movement. This notion is maintained throughout the exhibition, where many of the artworks have simply been flung recklessly onto the floor. The overall effect is so contradictory to refined attempts at communication of the high brow, recognizable, contemporary artworld, that the work takes on an overwhelmingly radical identity, the power of revolutionary thought usually inscribed to student movements of the 1960s, but far more explicit and exciting than anything produced in art schools these days. I very nearly trod on and destroyed the miniscule black village that makes up Suki Chan’s “In Silence”, but maybe thats the point of an artwork that seems to speak about the invisibility of, and the camouflaging by architecture of, a society whose outward, expressive, voices are unheard.
Overall the exhibition’s inherent reactivity is an implied dissent against the formulas of architecture in Hong Kong’s urban mass, which is largely controlled by the government but yet bought and sold for irresponsible, antisocial millions. This grubby space housed by one of the old city’s few architectural remnants provides the perfect refuge for these voices to extol their critical disenchantment. It seems somewhat criminal that the alternative ingenuity of the artists involved should be confined to an interior only experienced by a tiny minority, but as one can see from the proliferation of stickers and stencils throughout Hong Kong Central by Start From Zero, the quiet artistic solitude of the chosen few is starting to spread onto the streets outside.
Pictures (in order): Justin Wong Chiu Tat, Suki Chan, Clara Cheung, Start From Zero, Doris Wong Wai Yin, Frog King, Andrew S Guthrie, Ducky Tse Chi Tak and Kady Fung