Wong Ka Chong (which means “the factory of the British colonial government” in Cantonese) was a cottage house district in which my father lived for many years. I followed the old address and found that it is now a six-storey Civil Servants’ Cooperative Building which has been left abandoned after all the properties were sold to a Chinese Investment Company in 2016. A high-rise luxury apartment will be developed here in the future.

As the door unlocked, my curiosity quickly turned into agitation as the space exposes the grim reality of the times: housing issues in Hong Kong. From illegal cottage houses built by bare hands in the 50s, to the establishment of the system of Cooperative Buildings, there was once hope that civilians could build their homes in Hong Kong. However, housing now brings only stabbing pain to the majority—with ever-surging property prices, one cannot imagine to afford a space called “home”. What now lies in front of me is a large empty apartment, so I can investigate time in Hong Kong as captured by these objects, and to imagine the texture of life of homeowners and the life of a well-off Hong Kong family during the colonial days.

Newspaper clippings of 4th June 1989 and a yellow umbrella wall strap; documents of the Cooperative Building Society and pieces of personal information; five-digit, six-digit, seven-digit, and eight-digit telephone numbers; postcards from overseas and wedding slides; and goddess statues in the living room and copies of pornography in the bedroom fill the space with fantasy — as though one were entering the backstage of history. Collected objects were unearthed and placed, naked, under the sun. These are not artefacts of ancient history but modernity, an arbitrary time capsule that uncovers the interwoven experiences of an individual, a family and life as it is now.

What encouraged me to revisit the space for a photoshoot was the desire to remap the relationships between the objects and the people who once lived in there, but what I found were objects that had obviously been removed. The presence of randomly inverted boxes and loose items show that the objects had lost their owner, like a piece of history to which no one pays attention, a piece of history that can be freely manipulated, altered, deleted and defined. Does this not represent one nature of transition?  Photography provides a rational lens to observe this unlocked space. It helps capture fleeting emotions in the present. I gave up restoring the truth of the found objects, using instead images to construct a subjective timeline to analyse the seemingly important and unimportant traces marked on the objects, and leave a footnote for the Cooperative Building and its history.

 

大門沒有上鎖

皇家廠曾是爸爸住了多年的木屋區,跟着當時的地址我卻來到一個公務員合作社樓宇的廢墟,因近年所有業權由內地投資公司購得而人去樓空,將會發展成豪宅。

大門沒有上鎖,我的好奇迅速轉為一種激動,空間暴露了時代對照下冷酷的現況──香港的住屋問題:由50年代自己非法搭木屋,到有合作社建屋的制度,竟有一種「可能」叫「在香港起樓」,但到現在住屋帶給大部分的人只有刺痛的感覺,不斷炒高樓價,難以想像負擔得起物業作為家 。而眼前偌大的空樓給我檢視停留在物件上的香港時間,想像擁有自己地方的生活質地,想像殖民地時代的小康之家 。

八九六四的剪報與黃色雨傘掛飾、合作社的建屋文件與散落一地的私人資料、5位數6位數7位數8位數的電話號碼、海外明信片與結婚幻燈片、廳中的神像與房內大量的色情刊物,實在是一個充滿奇幻異色的空間,彷彿踏進了歷史的後台,收藏已久的物品終於衝出地底赤裸裸的展現在日光下,這不是遠古而是近代的,不同時空的記憶恣意穿梭,揭露了個體的、家庭的,能與現在產生交織和共鳴的經驗。

誘使我再次回到大廈拍攝是因為我想從物件「重組案情」,卻發現明顯有物件被移走,場景是更胡亂的被翻箱倒櫃,失去主人的物品,如沒人理會的歷史,被人任意擺佈、改動、刪除和定義。 這不正是過渡的一種本質?

攝影提供了一個理性的眼睛去觀察這個還未鎖上的空間,以及捕捉此刻流動的情感。我放棄把事件的真相還原,而是通過相片建構一條主觀的時間線,分析物件身上原以為重要的和不重要的痕跡,為合作社樓宇牽連的歷史刻下一個注腳。

 

This work is awarded the WMA Masters Award 2017-2018, details:

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