LEANDRO ERLICH, Bâtiment – Oi!2014, site-specific installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hong Kong. 


Oil Street Art Space
Hong Kong

Last year, a Grade-II historic building (a designation given to Hong Kong architecture of special merit that has been recommended for preservation) on North Point’s Oil Street was re-launched as a public art space called “Oi!” Housed behind a red brick wall, the space is currently showing an exhibition that explores the history of indelible sites in Hong Kong, through illusions generated from carefully designed multimedia installations.

Visitors are first greeted by Bâtiment – Oi! (2014), a work placed in the open area located in front of the entrance. On the ground lies a rectangular platform made to look like the façade of a windowed building, and a giant mirror looms over it at a 45-degree angle. Here, Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich challenges the audiences’ sense of space and understanding of visual reality. The clear outline of a black pipe running up and down the horizontal façade references an architectural style that formed in Hong Kong under British Victorian and Edwardian influences of the colonial era. The three-dimensional installation invites active participation from the audiences, encouraging them to lie down on the various parts of the platform and look up at their reflections. Visitors—especially couples and families—have been eager to queue up in order to experience the visual illusion of seeing themselves defy gravity. Amateur photographers can gather around the installation to take creative images of their friends and document the moment.

KINGSLEY NG, Luna Park2014, multi-channel video and sound installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hong Kong. 

Raindrops, joyful music, sorrowfully accented piano notes, the sound of showering water and the noise of a busy street welcome viewers to the unique world of Hong Kong new-media artist Kingsley Ng’s “Luna Park” (2014). Through this installation, Ng gently retells the history of North Point as it was around a decade ago. The work uses light and sound to create and project five scenes that illustrate an imaginary story about people living in North Point. The scenes demonstrate the transition of North Point from a place of “recreation” to “re-creation,” shifting from a pleasurable, old park to another urbanized element of the ever-changing city. The black-and-white footage shows the happy faces of people enjoying themselves at Luna Park—Hong Kong’s largest amusement park during the early 1950s—and on the screen there are also text, consisting of poetic sentences that fill in the missing pieces of the film’s story. Meanwhile, in another room, a soulful, five-channel video is projected beside an artificial lake that covers the floor. The first four scenes combine fiction and real history and is accompanied by man-made rain that physically disturbs the harmony of the lake. People can walk freely in between these parallel universes. Audio and visual elements work together to create a nostalgic atmosphere, bringing people back to the old days. The last scene symbolizes a new beginning; the visitors’ moving shadows and the work’s noisy audio suggest the passing of time, long-forgotten history and the present.

META4 DESIGN FORUMFaçade, 2014, multimedia installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hong Kong. 

While Ng’s “Luna Park” captivates the audience emotionally, the work by Hong Kong-based design firm Meta4 Design Forum adopts a more intellectual approach. Façade (2014) focuses on three sites—Queen’s Pier, Hing Wah Street and Lee Tung Street—that were demolished due to commercial redevelopment programs that arose in the last decade. In this work, photos of old streets and buildings taken by Hong Kong documentary photographer Tse Pak-chai are enlarged and projected onto two screens, unleashing treasurable memories, scene by scene. Inspired by the modern high-rises that are gradually taking over the city’s old buildings, the installation includes curtain walls—the symbol of urban redevelopment since its introduction in the late 1970s. Images of Hong Kong’s buildings and streets are projected on a row of fragmented, rectangular glass panes nearby. These historic images are reflected onto the curtain wall in spontaneous colors and broken outlines—a result of the uneven surface of the mirrored panes. Staring at these reflections, one may realize that things are always changing and that nothing is everlasting.

The exhibition reflects the artists’ responses to the changing city of Hong Kong. While some may see the mirrors as merely being the material that was used to create the artworks, the artists prove them wrong. The projections on the mirrors in this show are also a reflection of the local culture and identity.

Reflection!”at Oil Street Art Space, Hong Kong, runs through July 8.