Monday, October 21, 2013

King of Kowloon

First, two things:

I’ve been invited to guest curate a show for Sixty Inches From Center’s birthday party at Autotelic {Studios} on November 23. Thanks to Tempestt Hazel for the opportunity! [10/31 edit: Now at Flats Studio / a massive old bank building. Like, theres a vault and everything. Heres a photo of the space. And, according to Tempestt, I have unlimited power over it. Get excited / be afraid.]

It’s 4Art Gallery’s 10th anniversary. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Robin Rios, the gallery’s owner and my dear friend and mentor. (This post—one of this blog’s first!—includes a photo from Somnambulist, the wall-less exhibition I curated with her back in the day.) Show Robin some love! Check out the two exhibitions she’s curated this month at the Zhou B Art Center: Centerline on the buildings main and second floors and Shattered Mirror in 4Art on the fourth floor.

Now, on to what prompted me to post today:

Mei Ho House before renovation, 2009.
(Photo via ARTINFO Hong Kong.)

My heart spun when I saw today’s news from ARTINFO Hong Kong, with the headline “Defunct Housing Block for Homeless Now a Museum” and the above photo. This is where my dad was born and raised, where he spent his entire childhood. This is Shek Kip Mei.

(If you haven’t looked through the photo albums from my most recent Hong Kong trip: My dad and his brothers grew up in the Shek Kip Mei public housing projects, a resettlement estate that was essentially a slum. Multiple families were crammed into concrete units 120 sq. ft. in size. The only window in each unit looked out onto a narrow outdoor corridor, which ran along the exterior of a 7-story-tall H-shaped building. Bathrooms were communal; tenants bathed with small pails. Kitchens were nonexistent; tenants cooked in the corridors.)

As a little boy, my dad saw it all here. Teens snorting coke in the stairwells. People jumping to their deaths from the balconies. Gang members disemboweling each other in the courtyards below. The cops—who were white and British—rolling in (that’s when you knew shit got real). Gang members teaching each other Confucius’ Analects. People waking early to hawk wares on the streets. Kids crowding into the one unit that had a TV. My dad, three years old, watching a neighbor play the erhu and trying to emulate him with a pair of chopsticks. On those hot and humid summer nights, residents brought their cots outside and slept on the corridors. No one locked their doors (“Whats there to steal?”), and everyone looked out for each other. “Life was tough and people were poor,” my dad once said to me, “But happy.”

My dad as a 15-year-old BAMF / Boy Scout.

I don’t know how I feel about this “revitalization project” just yet. I do know, however, that visiting this place will be a top priority when I go on my annual Hong Kong trip in May.

For Art Basel.

Can Aubrey Canada Dry Graham Drake surrender “Started from the Bottom” to my family ‘cause like…

1 comment:

  1. In hindsight those old estates looked more like concentration camps but people in squatters huts felt blessed to get an allocation. With time even the bad old days become the good old days.


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