The New York Times has thoroughly destroyed Hong Kong’s so-called art scene with this interesting piece. Basically, the piece talks about what many bitter English-speakers-in-HK moan about on a daily basis: Hong Kong is lacking culture.
Discourses about making money, having money, or wanting money, dominate the minds of the average HKer. As a result, no one here is crazy passionate about sports, music, film, art the way, say, the Brits care about Oasis or Americans care about fantasy sports. The way I geek out about movies or NBA always gets me a few weird looks here. People are generally more apathetic here, that’s just a fact.
Naturally, everything suffers. The local music scene is lacking, and despite some awesome cats, such as one Justin Sweeting, trying hard to build a local rock scene , the same 50 cats show up at every gig, and 40% of them are probably friends of the organizer and the other 40% are bastard journos who always ask for guest pass.
The NY Times piece’s focus, though, is on the lack of art scene in Hong Kong. So let’s talk about art. The piece mentions how not one local artist has reached the level of fame that similar artists in NYC, London, Beijing, or Tokyo have. The piece also talks about how HK had almost no part in China’s art boom of recent years.
Of course, there’s a reason for this. China’s creative boom is picking up because, first off, they have a billion people. Second, China’s government is so controlling and behind-the-times that the new generation of educated individuals are going to rebel. People of Hong Kong, with all our freedom, safety (there is no crime here. I think the most violent HK crime of the year wouldn’t even crack NYC’s top 1,000), and luxury (we are in a better spot than many in China), has made us soft. There is less of a desire/need to rebel. When your life is comfortable, you ain’t going to push as hard as if you’re in a communist country with a ridiculous rich/poverty divide.
With that said, I have to defend Hong Kong though. Saying Hong Kong has no art of value is false. Maybe if we’re defining art by strictly abstract paintings of a fucking bird or sketches of a cup and shit, then it’d be true. But no. FILM IS ART. And for almost a two decade stretch from the early 80s to the late 90s, Hong Kong cinema provided something that no one else in the world could. And what we provided was so fresh and so clean, that Hollywood tried their damndest to recreate. As good as French cinema or British cinema is, they’re just poor man’s Hollywood films. But Hong Kong film had an identity all to its own that Hollywood couldn’t do.
Hong Kong will always be a consumer-driven city that’s a tad superficial. You can’t really blame the people here when Hongkongers suffer from such an identity crisis–most locals don’t want to be considered as Mainlanders (hence they don’t really want to be a part of China), and the English speakers are mostly high-horse riding goons who stay in the Lan Kwai Fong/Wanchai/Central bubble and talk about moving away one day, everyday. Some do, others are all talk. Too scared to leave the bubble.