To Khai, congratulations on finishing your dissertation (finally!) and getting that MLitt degree.
1. This was intended, more than a year ago, to be an article in the fashion of photography exhibition reviews appearing on popular publications of newer yet also popular online publications, intended for the reading public and the amateur, the quarter-, the semi-, and (hopefully) the professionals who hold an interest in Hong Kong, in the arts, in photography or in any of these categories in the formula of Hong Kong + “…”, aptly entitled “Đến Blue Lotus Gallery xem ảnh Wing Shya chụp Trương Quốc Vinh – Going to see Wing Shya’s photographs of Leslie Cheung at Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong”. But the fact that this article never materialised as such has proven one or two things about my relationship (or lack of) with the medium of the review: one, I am physically and mentally unable to sit still and fully commit to writing a mid- to long-form article and thus despite my initial hyped up plans for it, the fame I would get for it, I never came through and never managed to achieve the praises and comments and shares on social media that I had so coveted. Of course, this wanting or need of/need for widespread acclaim is an overt expression of my deep insecurity and fear of always being on the margin, occupying a niche, trying in vain to be accepted for my personal brand of “I will tell you what Hong Kong is” while being accepted, lauded and celebrated by many. In short, an attempt to break through into the mainstream artistic and cultural life from my position in the “underground”, in the “dark”, in the “unknown”. That too, happened for a while but ultimately, because of circumstances, and mainly because of my anti-mainstream personality trait, I have come back to my niche and abandoned any hope of going back to the mass anytime soon. I have also stopped trying to use Vietnamese as the language of these discourses because I am most comfortable talking about these subject matters in English. Thus the review never materialised – and I didn’t have to invest so much of my time, grey matter and emotions into a compact 1,500 to 2,000 word-limit essay against an imaginary deadline. No deadline for me, thank you very much.
2. And so in place of a review, this “dreamscape” came about, although very very late: after the exhibition has ended and everyone has gone home, after promises have been made and broken, and after all hope has been lost and found and buried again and again.
Instead of talking about lights and colours and the significance of the placement of characters or any profundity-from-details practices expected in an arts students, let alone someone who often prides herself in being the only Vietnamese arts student in Hong Kong and thus have a lot to say about it, I actually, from the first moment the idea was conceived, had abandoned any ambition of talking about them in favour of telling a story that begins with: “I remember the year 2003 vicariously through the memories of my course instructor Dr Fiona Law…” Storytelling is an innately human thing, whereas writing about arts is a trained practice. Telling story though writing about arts is possible and when done right can open up many wonderful possibilities. However, I am not the talent you are looking for. My stories, like my hyped up undergraduate brain running on coffee, junk food, overshared instagram feed, instant noodles, cheap alcohol and existential dread, are fragmented, fragmentary, and fragmentations of memories that once put back together paint a picture that does not resemble a real place. It is not the physical “white box of modernity” whose walls are nailed with prints and price tags located on a small alleyway up the slopes of Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan that you have to look very closely for. It is a room recreated in my mind by my words: it once existed as a real place and reproduced as a copy, a pastiche, a fake, depthless surface projection; it depicts true subjects and time that had slipped through. That is why it is a dreamscape: not something I dreamed of, but possessing the fleeting, transitory, ephemeral quality of a dream, for the dreamers.
3. In the Spring Semester of 2019, I took a major course in Hong Kong culture and identity taught by Dr Fiona Law. Near the end of the semester, she told us the story of her life during the 2003 SARS pandemic. She had just graduated from university and had taken up teaching for a while to see if she liked it, and when SARS hit all schools were closed and she didn’t have a job anymore. One day, her friends and her went hiking because they got all the free time and when they got down to Central from the mountains, there was a very big crowd gathering at Central. It turned out that the idol Leslie Cheung had jumped to his death.
The date was April the first. This everyone knew. Continue reading “Dreamscape #2: On seeing Wing Shya’s photographs of Leslie Cheung at Blue Lotus Gallery Hong Kong”