2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 375

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Transnational Flow & Hybridity: Contemporary Art, Design, and Home in Hong Kong

Organizer: Wendy S. Wong, York University, Australia

Chair: Bernard Luk, York University, Canada

Discussant: Bernard Luk, York University, Canada

Hong Kong’s colonial background familiarized the region with mixing and matching cultural elements from different sources before Hong Kong arrived at its own hybridized identity. When Hong Kong became the Special Administration Region of the People’s Republic of China, its hybridized identity continued to evolve along with the increasing influence from China. From cultural products to items intended for everyday consumption, the region is a unique case study in the creation and consumption of cultural hybridity as a phenomenon of globalization. What has happened to everyday life and culture in Hong Kong since 1997? This panel sees the importance of studying the unique hybridized identity of Hong Kong, as the region is facing direct and indirect influence daily from mainland China. Papers in this panel inquire about the contemporary development and consumption of Hong Kong’s hybridized identity in everyday life. Case studies draw from art, design, and creative media that reflect the hybrid style, aesthetics, form, practice, production, consumer culture, and so on.

“Super-Hybridity” + ART HK 11: Hong Kong’s Affair with Hybridity (To be Continued)
Alice Ming Wai Jim, Concordia University, Canada

For a brief season in the art world, the neologism “super-hybridity” proposed by Jörg Heiser in the September 2010 issue of Frieze surpassed hybridity and the less popular “post-hybridity” as fodder for intellectualizing about contemporary art processes concerned with accelerating cultural hybridization courtesy of the Internet, globalized capitalism and “people’s desire to macerate the limits of oppressive traditions, censorship, xenophobia and perception itself.” The ‘super’ is to indicate how “hybridization has moved beyond the point where it’s about a fixed set of cultural genealogies and instead has turned into a kind of computational aggregate of multiple influences and sources.” Hong Kong will unlikely disown hybridity – particularly its own. However, exhibitions concurrent with the 2011 Hong Kong International Art Fair may well speak to the conditions and characteristics of super-hybridity and recent Hong Kong art as testing ground for Heiser’s proposition. Originally produced for Prospect.1 New Orleans, the post-Katrina NO Lab in RMB City, a collaboration between Beijing artist Cao Fei (a.k.a. China Tracy) and Hong Kong-based French architect-artists MAP OFFICE (Gutierrez + Portefaix), was produced in Second Life and widely seen on YouTube. Halley Cheng’s “Game Theory” exhibition reverse engineers popular video and board games in his Song Dynasty-style drawings on wood panels. Kacey Wong’s exhibition title “Love the Future” (ai wei lai) in Mandarin is the blogger code name for Beijing-based artist-activist Ai Wei Wei released June 22, 2011. This paper argues that a theory of networks and dromological analysis (Virilio) would further discussion of these projects as super-hybrid.

Transnational Flow, Cultural Production and Identity: Imagining Red-White-Blue
Wessie Ling, University of the Arts London,

‘While borders may be cultural constructions….[w]hat they come to mean and how they are experienced, crossed or imaged are products of particular histories, times and places’ (Schiller 1997: 159). This paper studies transnationalism as a mode of cultural reproduction and reconstruction of ‘place’ or locality. It focuses on the local ‘indigenisations’ of the Red-White-Blue polyethylene material and the roles played in its reproduction by Hong Kong art and design intermediaries. Referring to the colours of synthetic material, with its little known origin of Taiwan, the term Red-White-Blue is a material commonly used for burlap bags or tarp for construction. The cheap, strong and opaque quality of the multifunctional bag was, in the early 1950s, the most popular bag carrying food and necessities from Hong Kong to Mainland China through Shenzhen, the first city after crossing the British/Chinese border. Despite the bygone era of Hong Kong people’s return trip to China, it continues to be used widely today as carrying bags, store and construction canopies as well as in many daily rituals. It has come to be associated with the ‘local spirit’ that draws on images of a relentless construction site, an industrious, trading city built by a ‘hardy and hard working people’ (Turner, 2005) and is subsequently seen as the city icon in the colonial days. Postcolonial Hong Kong saw it employed as a creative medium with the aim to promote a positive Hong Kong spirit. It has since been taken centre stage in art galleries, museums and biennale, commercial spaces and marketplace stirring imagination of Hong Kong. Its symbolism has crossed continents to become a global product. While its global branding works for the universal emblem for the migrants, its symbolic assertiveness has played on the reconstruction of identity and locality. Questions arise include transnational interaction, authenticity, identity and its relation to hybridity, cultural production and consumption. This paper seeks to address these questions through the study of the Red-White-Blue.

Homey Home: Representations of an Ideal Home in Hong Kong
Eric Ping Hung Li, University of British Columbia, Canada

Thousands of residential buildings had been built during the last decades in Hong Kong. However, the new development still cannot satisfy the fast-growing demand of houses in Hong Kong. The limited supply and the overflow of financial capital from mainland China escalated Hong Kong’s real estate prices dramatically in the past few years. Owning an expensive property in Hong Kong has now become a status symbol for many Chinese consumers. This paper studies how TV commercials in Hong Kong construct the “ideal home” images for the public. Unlike the traditional conceptualization of home where it is a place for shelter as well as a place that symbolize togetherness and continuity, the contemporary representations of an ideal home in Hong Kong is more related to inter-personal communication. A home has become the extended self of the owner(s) and a symbol of status. Focusing the TV commercials of real estate projects fro 1997 to 2011, my current research projects examine the semiotic meanings of the portraits of an ideal home. The discussion centered on four analytical discourses of “globality,” “luxury,” “mobility,” and “functionality” that leads to the construction of modern Chinese representations in Hong Kong. This paper attempts to theorize the institutionalization of the representations of an ideal home among the Chinese consumer society. Also, I seek to explain how an ideal home became a symbol of communication and an extended self of the owner(s) that influenced by the socialist market economy in China.