Looking back at some of this year’s festival highlights. Curated by Ying Kwok, the exhibitions for LOOK17 focused on photography as a medium of exchange, enabling cross cultural conversations between people and places. The exhibitions opened up points where this exchange also takes place across time, and the space between public and private worlds, with individuals captured at junctures in between.
Building the Civic,
Victoria Gallery and Museum
Above and cover image: Lau Chi Chung, Lost Family series
Building the Civic at Liverpool’s VG&M housed contemporary and historic works by Chinese photographers South Ho and Lau Chi Chung. The ornate Victorian museum setting in contrast to the stark black and white images of Hong Kong urban life in the corridor. Umbrella Salad is a series of black and white photographs and videos capturing scenes of the Occupy Movement in Hong Kong. Unlike the documentary approach taken by most photographers to record the events, Ho used an indirect method filled with symbols and metaphors to represent his personal experiences and the forces involved in the movement. In the gallery space, Lost Family comprises wall and vitrines displaying juxtaposed found photographs with contemporary images, held together in cut mounts, photo corners, and in frames or albums – pictures of shared histories in shared places, presented in highly personalised form. the subject to the tension between personal and civic space. The compositional similarities of these images are what connect them, photography alluding to an exchange between past and present, Lau Chi Chung creating this dialogue through fictional re-presentation of the past in the present to create new narratives around unrelated people, events and sites in Hong Kong. The title, Lost Family, evokes the questions of ownership – the collision of public and private in found images containing untold stories.
Lau Chi Chung, Lost Family series
Forest I and II
Outside the VG&M an outside exhibition called Forest, presents works in public space on stands that we can walk between and which become part of the architecture of the street for the duration of the festival. The photographs they contain, Michael Wolf’s intricate candy coloured images of iconic corner buildings in Hong Kong, their coloured tiled facias here corresponding with the School of Engineering opposite.
Forest II, outside Open Eye Gallery in the glass foyer shows Wolf’s series of workers on breaks, the individual, captured in a moment of semi-subjectivity in the context of work in which subjectivity is lost. These are times and spaces that belong to governed urban experience but which go largely unseen.
Liverpool and Hong Kong Reflections
Museum of Liverpool
In the spirit of exchange that runs throughout the festival, the exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool reaches back in time with an exhibition drawn from the photographic archives of both Liverpool and Hong Kong. In a contemporary personal narrative woven throughout the exhibition, Liverpool born Curator Charlotte Tsang reflects on her memories of her Chinese cultural heritage, prompted as she works through the archive of images in the open Eye Gallery archives. The show opens up cultural parallels across generations and place, and presents a unique view of the development of the medium in photographing the urban everyday.
Martin Parr, Chung Wah Supermarket, Liverpool c. 1986
“I grew up in Liverpool. But I was brought up observing a culture and hearing about traditions that felt like oddly outdated ideas of Hong Kong.
My dad was born in 1940, and settled in Liverpool in the 1960s. In a way, his Hong Kong cultural identity was fixed at that time, and blended with his new home.
Throughout the 1960s – 1980s my parents took my older siblings to visit our Hong Kong family and considered moving over there. Through my recent visits to Hong Kong, I have discovered that it has changed immensely since my parents’ last visit.
Even I have a very British idea of contemporary China. Although there is undoubtedly a strong sense of tradition, there is also far more openness to change, and to the future, than I see in the West.
It is this dynamic mix of cultural perspectives that has inspired this selection of photographs from Open Eye Gallery’s archive. They are a reflection of my identity and how it has been shaped between Liverpool, the North West and Hong Kong.” – Charlotte Tsang
John Davies, Chavasse Park Liverpool, 2008
These are displayed in dialogue with images by Ho Fan, widely considered to be the grandfather of Chinese photography. His work shows a parallel with European modernist photography, and in his abstract compositions, a parity of experience, same captures, light and shadow, the compositional photographic elements become key – the world revealed through the photograph, the detail of these – detail. His images tell Chinese life in the 1950s and 60s, but pictured here in this exhibition alongside works by Martin Parr and John Davies, we see emerge the universal language of black and white images that tell stories that are not so dissimilar. Isolated figures captured in their own worlds going about daily life, within a seemingly endless public sphere conveyed in infinite light and shadow.
Ho Fan, Alley Barber, Hong Kong, 1963
Ho Fan, W, Hong Kong, 1959