A void that captures a slice of the sky offers a momentary relief from the densely built up environment. How many of us look up and see this precious vacant space framed in clean, geometric outlines by the architecture?
James Turrell's installation in the Chichu Art Museum on the island of Naoshima, Japan.
A Chinese Courtyard House in Suzhou, China.
"I was storing my work, small pieces and objects and stuff in shoeboxes and you know, recycling a shoebox to store things is very common thing, I guess. So when I was invited in the 1993 Venice Biennale, you have a kind of booth, or a kind of small space in a very long corridor, which is divided into small spaces for all the artists to show theirs. Very long one, it feels very impersonal. So this shoebox, it was representing the space that was shown, I think it was space into space into space. The title is empty shoebox. It therefore makes it very mysterious I think. And also the size is a very small thing, very fragile object. I think all the qualities express many things I am interested in relation with sculpture. A few hours before the opening, I was checking my space and I couldn’t find the shoebox. So they took it out thinking it was trash. So I went out, went to the dumpster and it was right there and in the end, and I took it back and put it in again…"
A fascinating phenomenon in a high dense city such as Hong Kong is the resourceful way in which empty surfaces are temporarily appropriated for a variety of uses
Roller shutters of a vacant shop taken over by advertising posters
Turning the shopfront of a failed business into an informal stall
Bank shopfront is borrowed to showcase items for sale
Shopfront of a bank closed for business on a weekend becomes a display surface for hats that include a mirror for the buyer to see if the hat fits
A temporary display or Chinese paintings along the walls of a bank closed for business
A street bollard used for advertising repair services
Railings to prevent jaywalking is turned into a temporary advertising space
Railings become bicycle storage space
Railings as support for temporary cardboard partitions used by the domestic workers and as backrests on weekends
Walls of a vacant building used for writing protest notes on unlawful eviction
A game of football organized by the migrant workers using an empty field waiting for development. The goalposts were made by improvising with 2 sticks and a piece of string stretched across.
A group of migrant construction workers using an empty field to play a game of cricket on Sunday. The lack of places for these workers to relax and socialize on their off-days motivated these workers to appropriate any open, free and available space.
The empty plaza of a commercial building in Orchard Road, Singapore cordoned off during Sunday to prevent the gathering of migrant domestic helpers.
A group of elderly and retirees using the space below the highway to play chess. In space starved Hong Kong, one can find many ingenious way of maximizing the use of limited space in the city.
"I use the old program pamphlets from the Cultural Center and spread them carefully over the floor. Important to have at least 2 layers to prevent the cold from seeping through. I overlap the pamphlets to make sure my 'mattress' is not scattered all over during the night. Don't worry, the pamphlets are for events that have already passed and we make sure they are disposed off in the morning. We don't want trouble from the authorities. We are also doing the earth a favor too by recycling these pamphlets!"