All Quiet on the Eastern Front?
On Ng Kai Fung’s ‘Wall___Sink’ (2021) exhibition
The local pro-democracy movement participated in majority by Hong Kong younger generation since 2014 subsided with outspread of the 2019 coronavirus; this lengthy socio-political instability resulted massive physical and on-line propaganda or visual responses range from photography, drawings, poster graphics, slogans and site specific demonstration objects. With this agitated background as creative springboard, a fine art student, Ng Kai Fung selected a conceptual photographic direction as a voice from his heart. ‘Wall___Sink’ (2021) represents a personal ‘zeitgeist’ (spirit of the age) and consists of two photography series completed during his academic study, namely the ‘Night’ (2017) and the ‘Sisyphus Metropolis’ (2020).
In ‘Night’ (2017) Fung searches his fading existence and identities at distant angles resulted from long exposed self-portraitures among different exterior and interior environments. These low key colored imageries recall ‘noir urbanism’ where the dark atmosphere provided a setting for his phantom-like body and became a strong emotion participation of the lived reality space. The observing photographer maintained a rational distance with the chosen sites but rendered his pathic involvement through gothic aesthetication processes. Fung filled the fragmented night environments with sensitive emotion qualities and symbols, the arranged photographs lined up specific spatial sense with fleeting corporal identity through his enhanced empathetic feelings. The urban space depicted became a platform of negotiation, controversy and re-evaluation of Hong Kong’s official tourism identity as a ‘Pearl of the Orient’; this contradictory discourse furthers in Fung’s succeeding series.
The above perceptual experience escalated to a more ambitious scale in ‘Sisyphus Metropolis’ (2020). The photographer used tele-photo lens to shoot the distant architectural views of protest sites happened in 2019, these spots include The Lion Rock, North Point, International Commerce Centre at Kowloon, Wan Chai and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. For each composition he staged a young model, standing alone among the maze like buildings and gazes back to his camera; the minute and detached existence of this youngster requires the viewer’s attentive observation. Fung combined dozens of these segmented architectural shots exposed in different times of the day with Photoshop’s digital stitching function, surrealistic building skin textures are created because of paradoxical mixture of day and night lighting effects. Through digital post-production means the artist dematerialized the urban landscape into monochromatic spaces of null gravity or empty voids; his current projected scenario of a vacuum life aroused gloomy sentiment. Hong Kong as an alienated place is portrayed like remaining tombstones in a quiet ruined district, the phantasm of this apocalypse after Judgement Day is an exhilarating combination of realism and expressionism. ‘Sisyphus Metropolis’ (2020) is a discursive re-structuring of Hong Kong architectural space under immense socio-political pressure, these gothic imaginations can be deciphered beyond the very nature of accepted architectural thinking: Fung’s urban uncanny is dire prediction of an impending crisis, he pushes the conventional notion of our homeland from historical glory to the present state of dystopia through his dark looking glass.
Is this a naked truth about Hong Kong’s ‘future’
Dust Hung contributes extensively as photography critic and independent curator. Hung is one of the founding members of the Hong Kong Photographic Culture Association and museum expert advisor (Hong Kong photography) for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.