Reviews & Articles
高牆下，創意川流不息 | Creativity flows against the Great Wall
at 6:03pm on 22nd June 2021
1.-2. 陳嘉興，六月習作 2021《矩形的回憶》
3. Lady Liberty HK 香港民主女神
(Please scroll down for English version.)
自 1989 年天安門事件以來，每年六四香港人都在維多利亞公園舉辦悼念活動。民主女神像置於維園足球場中央，人們圍著它高舉手上燭光，向死難者致敬。那一片燭光之海可說是香港六四的標誌性畫面。然而，港府第二年以疫情為由禁止維園燭光，今年更以警員重重包圍足球場，叫燭光徹底地從維園移除。同時，官方又高調警告市民，參與六四集會或有違法風險。三十二年以來，在香港悼念六四遭逢前所未有的限制，但卻未叫人們洩氣，尤其藝文界更引發出近年六四少見的創意回應。
多年來，藝文界相約於 6 月 3 日晚上在銅鑼灣東角道以創作回應六四。有人做行為，有人報哀音，每年都「行禮如儀」，今年也不例外。去年《港區國安法》實施，加上五月底港府多次警告之下，今年六四相關的所有街頭行動都變得史無前例的高風險，我非常非常尊敬繼續現身於東角道的藝術家。最意想不到的是現已身兼區議員的張嘉莉（Clara）也到場，將 64 朵白菊花的花瓣逐片摘下來，悼念六四。她向《法新社》表示，「我們需要新方法去表達自己」。
的確，藝文界今年六四的行動溢出「行禮如儀」的層面，不少創作人發表極具時代特色的方法繼續悼念：設計師陳嘉興創作「六四比例」的黑框 T-shirt、政治漫畫家黃照達自製的「燭光」手機屏幕、「香港民主女神」團隊的民主女神 Instagram 相機濾鏡等。你要封維園嗎？他們就將民主女神和燭光帶出去。這些都是因應香港今年獨特政治環境而生的悼念方法，說了很多年的要突破「行禮如儀」好像終於都發生——大家都被迫創出新的禮儀。有策展人在樓上書店辦隱藏漫畫展，還有一些書店自發舉行「清貨」活動，部分書籍設定 64 折或 89 折。這些行動雖然微小，但人們仍然努力嘗試在隙縫找空間發聲。
Creativity flows against the Great Wall
by Grace Gut
It is believed that “the worst of times can make the best art.” Over the past few decades, Hongkongers have enjoyed a relatively comfortable social environment. However, as recent political unrest and the pandemic came together, life has become a greater struggle. In this environment people often turn to artists, expecting they could craft great meaning out of hardship. Only time will tell if this happens. At this point, I witnessed strong evidence from the recent June-Fourth memorial actions that creativity has become particularly active despite growing institutional and official constraints.
Since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in June 1989, an annual memorial event has taken place in Victoria Park. A statue of the Goddess of Liberty is positioned at the centre of the football fields. People gather holding candles in their hands to show respect for the victims and casualties. The sea of candles is a remarkable image of this annual event. However, the HKSAR government has cited pandemic reasons to not allow the annual vigil for a second year in a row and officials have warned citizens of the risk of participating in any unauthorized assembly. Anyone wearing black and/or holding candles were also warned that they may be subjected to interrogation. On 4 June 2021, the police for the very first time, sealed off Victoria Park. No one could enter the park’s grassed area nor the football fields, no candles could be lit on the site. The day’s symbolic candlelight image was completely removed, causing great disappointment to many Hongkongers. Despite this oppression, people from the local art scene acted out some creative ways to continue the June-Fourth memorial.
Similar to the June-Fourth candlelight vigil, there is a tradition in the local art scene that some people gather at East Point Road in Causeway Bay every year on the night of 3 June. Some would sing songs, some do performances. At the centre of the city, where people always come to shop and for leisure, they try to raise public attention. Their persistence deserves respect, especially with the current intense political atmosphere. The most impressive presence was Clara Cheung. She is an artist, curator, and a district councillor since 2020. Bringing 64 white flowers to East Point Road, she kneeled down and picked off every petal one by one as a memorial for the casualties. She told AFP that, “we need to find a new way to express ourselves”.
Indeed, some artists go beyond formality and suggest new ways of remembrance in response to the current repressive atmosphere. Chan Ka-Hing, a local designer, demonstrated printing a black rectangle of 6:4 scale on a T-shirt as a subtle way to remember June-Fourth. Justin Wong, a local political cartoonist, made an iPhone screensaver of candlelight enabling people to hold candlelight in hand outside Victoria Park. The “Hong Kong Goddess of Liberty” team had a similar idea. An Instagram camera filter with the image of the Goddess of Liberty at the centre was created: users can virtually carry the Goddess everywhere. Although Victoria Park was locked by the police, the June-Fourth memorial carried on. Apart from the virtual world, a curator launched a “hidden comic exhibition” in upstairs bookstores. Readers would discover comics about June-Fourth hidden in books. These action mays appear minimal, but at least, some people are not fearful and turning silent. Instead, they are trying to articulate and search for alternative ways to remember the victims of Tiananmen.
I must admit that some people criticize “to work alternatively” as a concession. However, the situation nowadays is highly unpredictable. The boundaries of the national security law are not clear. It is hard (if not impossible) to evaluate risk before every action. In other words, every action may be risky. Hence, it is difficult to judge others’ decisions, as everyone may have their own benchmark for risk. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
As Chan Ka-Hing told Stand News, “to work alternatively” is just a form of expression varying with the surroundings. Constraints are usually found in the making of art; from material to venue, physical constraints are all around. Instead of a “restriction”, they may be considered as a “condition”. When you execute a concept into reality, you must recognize and negotiate with that “condition”. Indeed, this is the uniqueness of art practitioners. As the “hidden comic exhibition” curator said, “artists are especially important now. They should work creatively to show people the possibility of making a breakthrough”. The worst of times may be the time for art.