How To “Insert” Culture into Hong Kong

For one of the most “modernised” cities in the world, Hong Kong has long been criticised for its local culture scene. In a city where people are crammed into shoe boxes, stuffed into sardine cans and faced with the impossibly cruel ultimatum of  ‘get rich or die’, it seems that there is very little time to think about art, culture and what not.


The late 80’s to early 90’s was a golden age for both the economy and culture in this sub-tropical hub: when film directors like Wong Kar-Wai and rock bands like Beyond swept the culture scene, Hong Kong had the privilege to think, to discuss, to enjoy, and to progress its art and culture. However, as the economy tightened and those at the lower stratum of the social structure began to suffocate due to the termination of class movement, Hong Kong quickly turned into a desert where even the most basic forms of art struggled to find its place.


Faye Wong in Chungking Express by Wong Kar-Wai

I do not believe that Hong Kong is a cultural desert. For me, Hong Kong has significant political, social, traditional and even sports cultures that have been very well preserved. When it comes to film, the concentration of movies made about this city is no less than ones made about New York or Paris. However, it is the prevailing consumption culture that continues to overshadow any other forms of culture, casting a permanent stormy cloud above this city. Even for masters like Wong Kar-Wai, the struggle to combine entertainment and art has never stopped when it comes to their relationship with Hong Kong, as even he found great difficulty in securing financial backing for his films.


In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-Wai

This idea can be seen in the occupy movement that took place last year, when the young felt that there was longer any space for them to breathe, to create, or even to live, as every other sector had been so heavily dominated by the rich and powerful.

I have met many local photographers, painters, illustrators, singers and DJs in Hong Kong, of which there are two very distinct types.
1. Those that are born with a silver spoon, who always had the privilege to enjoy, travel and indulge in fine art, who has the right connaissance in high society to build up their fame easily through this powerful network. 2. Those that are usually from a middle to middle-lower class background who have always been interested in doing something creative, but eventually finds it very difficult to progress anywhere as the demand for edgier, younger creative artists is extremely low. Those with a specific aesthetic vision, or to put it more straightforwardly, a vision that generates no profit, finds no place for themselves in the city as too few have either the courage or financial support to break out.

Even the head of the Cultural Department in Taiwan once said, “in a city where there is not even an official cultural institution, how can we expect the prosperity of culture?”

In a society where people believe in rationality, practicality, and realist economy more than anywhere else, it is not difficult to understand why art and culture is put at the bottom. Sure, there is Art Basel, there is Affordable Art Fair, there are extravagant galleries in SOHO,  and there are also abandoned-warehouse-transformed creative spaces hidden in Aberdeen. But how many of these are doing the art for the art itself? The pretentions to be recognised, to be talked-about, to be highly regarded, is a daunting fact to the creation of art in Hong Kong. If this has become the foundation on which people build or create, it should only be called a creative business. If we look at PMQ, the developers have successfully turned another heritage site into a giant shopping mall, in the name of supporting youth creativity. But in the end, how many of us have really paid the effort to walk through all the commercial oriented “artsy shops” that never ends? To me, this is a capitalistic scheme hidden behind a socialist appearance.


Clockenflap has been a great attempt to reinject life into the culture and arts scene in Hong Kong. Since 2008, the city has been privileged to have created an urban space in the heart of the city, where unlike hidden bars and independent film screenings that only culture insiders would know of, people from all ages, all ethnicities and all cultural backgrounds are able to gather and join in on the celebration. Versatility is one of the keys to a successful music festival business. Even though Clockenflap initially wore the “indie” label, it has slowly grown out of a niche group of musicians and music lovers into a increasingly diverse and unique festival with big international and local participants.

Rocky 1

A$AP Rocky, who is one of the lineup highlights at this year’s Clockenflap

It is a rare sight to see new-era rapper A$AP Rocky dropping west-coast slangs in the same festival as British electro-punk legends New Order. Over on the other stage, the much-talked about golden child—Leah Dou, the 19-year-old daughter of two 90s Chinese legends: Faye Wong and Dou Wei. Leah’s effortlessly cool and short-hair-don’t-care unisex appeal, with her impeccable moody-bohemian vibe resembling but extending from her two parents’ youth, have attracted even Gucci’s Alessandro Michele to have her perform at the “No Longer, Not Yet” exhibition opening in Shanghai last month.

NewOrder_Photograph_CreditNickWilson (2)

New Order: Another cult highlight that will drive all the fans crazy this Sunday night

Leah Dou-EDIT

Leah Dou

The diversity of the line up goes on. One of England’s most important punk bands, The Libertines, was in attendance, as was Irish soul-healer Damien Rice, who was followed by Taiwanese indie rocker Crowd Lu. Whether you are a 15 year-old international school kid wearing an “underage” wristband getting drunk on beer, or an English Teacher from abroad wearing a shirt that says “I WAS IN MIAMI BITCH”, or even if you have always hid yourself in that underground dungeon in Sheung Wan dancing to French House all night long with French people constantly asking if you got an extra cigarette for them (Oui. C’est moi), I am sure you would find something that makes you happy here. Clockenflap has proved to both the Chinese and the international audience that this is a festival that tries to remove Hong Kong’s “cultural desert” sticker.

The Libertines 4

The Libertines

The road is long. Hong Kong is definitely a freer environment compared to other Asian cities for a big international music festival, with well-rounded infrastructure and money that supports the festival business. But how much of this cultural impact can really filter into ‘ordinary’ people’s lives, the local folk living in a compressed neighbourhood, struggling to pay rent and bills? Among the people to attend this festival, how many are actually from Hong Kong? These are questions to bare in mind.

Clean Bandit 3

Clean Bandit

The reason why I used the word “Insert” in the title of this article is that there is, indeed, a bunch of new era youth who are trying to reintroduce (while at the same time compromising many things) the cultural label in the city, and bringing in abruptly things they see as “correct and fun” in here, hoping the public would understand and participate.

But for now, Elsewhere is very excited about what is happening this weekend at West Kowloon Cultural Park.

Stay tuned.

Text Bohan Qiu
Edited by David Yang

Published on  










香港人是理性动物。狮子山精神相信的,就是“只要每个人拥有同等的经济机遇,剩下的全靠你自己的拼搏和奋斗”。试想在这样的社会心态中,文化艺术自然是被排挤在最下层的话题了。这里的人也许认不得三皇五帝,但却都精通炒股炒楼。好的,香港每年有Art Basel, Affordable Art Fair, 有中环奢华的画廊,也有鸭脷洲潜藏在工厂大厦的艺术空间。但这其中有多少是真正为了艺术本身,为了成就永恒的艺术价值而在创作的?这只能算是一个让富人买卖艺术、顺便逃个税的天堂罢了。看看PMQ,还不是成功地被发展商成功地打着创意和本土艺术的旗号,卖卖贵到没天理的一切你不需要的东西的大商场。不知道有没有人真的走过每一个看起来完全一样的旧已婚警察宿舍改造的“精品商店”,这又是一个披着社会主义的资本狼。


Clockenflap的多元性实则在全球范围都是罕见的。当新一代嘻哈说唱神童A$AP ROCKY被安排在英伦后朋克电子殿堂级乐队New Order之前演出;抑或是王菲窦唯年仅17岁的女儿窦靖童那毫不费力的中性酷劲和忧郁的波西米亚声线,配上英国当今最重要的朋克摇滚乐队The Libertines的野性甩头,就连绿茶文艺清新婊爱的卢广仲和Damien Rice也来献唱,这个周末还真是好不热闹。不管你是国际学校的00后青少年,还是穿着“I WAS IN MIAMI BITCH”等“文化衫”的白人外籍教师,又或是永远躲在上环地下听着French House不停被法国人问有没有烟的非主流青年(好吧就是我本人),你都能在这里找到一些让你白眼又让你开心的事情。





Bohan Qiu 的文字


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