I was amazed by the presence of a ritual to bring a Kuan Yin porcelain deity home in an informal shrine in Jalan Besar.
"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
The story of the Wa Fu community space began almost 30 years ago. The place was a destination for residents living in the near by housing estate to leave their statues of porcelain deities when they relocated or when the religion was no longer practiced by the younger generation after the passing of the elderly family member. The stepped profile of the ground leading to the sea is an ideal site to place the deities. They are secured individually by a layer of cement to prevent them from toppling over during a typhoon. Through time, a sea of porcelain deities began to take shape and are cared for by a group of elderly residents. Some deities are protected by simple shelters while others share their spaces with toy figurines that were also left here. A self-constructed shelter serves as both a community space for the elderly and for them to keep their belongings. A well close-by provides fresh water for cleaning after taking a dip in the sea. We are told it is a popular activity among the elderly and younger residents. Some come for a swim early in the morning before heading off to work.
The hillside informal shrine in So Uk Estate is connected to a larger network of elderly walkers and informal social spaces. The shrine is situated along a path that winds up the hillside, which is a favorite spot for the mostly elderly residents and housewives to engage in their morning walks and exercises. The shrine is often a stop over for the residents. They would offer incense or a simple prayer at the shrine on their way up or down the hill during their morning exercise routines. Besides exercising, the residents have also undertaken small, self-initiated actions along the various exercising spots; such as plant caring, building of small concrete steps to link disconnected parts of the hillside and allow a safer walk up the hill, introducing resting spots, setting up support facilities for the morning exercises, and repairing broken planters. Water for the plants is collected from the natural run-offs from the hill in small pails and buckets. The So Uk Estate shrine and the adjacent exercising spots are excellent examples of bottom-up initiatives in place-making. It makes a strong case for allowing urban dwellers to take control and have the opportunity to shape their immediate spaces in the city rather than top-down initiatives that often miss the point and cost much more than they should.
A young artist occupied an overhead pedestrian bridge in Bangkok for sketching and sale of his art pieces. He located himself at the junction between the bridge and the stairs to maximize his exposure to potential customers.
A group of couriers in Hong Kong temporarily taking over part of an empty street to unload, sort and deliver the parcels. The trees along the sidewalk are used as markers for the parcels grouped according to the buildings they are to be delivered. The process is well orchestrated and everyone seems to know the drill. Once the parcels are delivered, the empty street is returned to its original state, without a trace of what has happened.