Progress Update
A reflection on Mobile M+ : Yau Ma Tei  
Which strikes you most: A free gold coin? A 50 year-old Coca Cola neon sign? Or exploring the phantoms on a coffin board shop?

These are just some of the artworks that mark the “Mobile M+: Yau Ma Tei”, the first in a series of pre-opening “nomadic” exhibitions curated by M+, the new museum for visual culture in the West Kowloon Cultural District.

As a multi-site exhibition of six large-scale installations, “Mobile M+: Yau Ma Tei” turned the supposed disadvantage of being “rootless” into an advantage, by realising projects that would not have been possible in a single museum building.

Pak Sheung Chuen explained his concept to Yau Ma Tei residents.
Stemming from the strong connection between Hong Kong’s contemporary art and the reconstruction of its history, seven Hong Kong-based artists – Kwan Sheung-chi + Wong Wai-yin, Leung Mee-ping, Erkka Nissinen, Pak Sheung-chuen, Tsang Kin-wah and Yu Lik-wai – have been invited to (re)imagine the city’s history and stories by interpreting “narrative” as an overarching theme.

In an effort to echo the museum’s mobility and forward-looking vision, the exhibition has been intentionally conceived within a largely flexible curatorial framework.

“I think it is about connecting with community,” said Amy Lee, a student of Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University who was hired to look after Erkka Nissinen’s studio on Shanghai Street. “It has attracted people who don’t go to museums.”

Creating an exhibition outside controlled and well-rehearsed domains like “white cubes” or “black boxes” has posed some extraordinary challenges, and of course opportunities, to all parties involved, especially the artists.

“Artists seek the venues and contexts that optimise their ability to realise their vision. If that venue is located somewhere in cyberspace, so be it! If it happens to be a treetop, the museum should go there,” said Dr Lars Nittve, Executive Director of M+.

Leung Mee-ping’s Coca Cola neon sign.
“All in all, the museum should be a good dancer and it should be the art that leads in the dance!”

Still the search for venues in Hong Kong is never easy. The M+ team first came across a five-storey building in Jordan, situated at the intersection of Nanking Street and Battery Street that had been unoccupied for more than 10 years. But a converted use to an exhibition space from a residential space required a series of procedures involving 10 government and regulatory bodies.

After several attempts, the team finally found venues that would fit each of the artists’ conceptual concerns. An open-air lot under the flyover near Temple Street Market, surrounded by street-side stalls, fortune-telling booths, and antique bazaars makes it an appropriate backdrop for Tsang Kin-wah’s visual sanctuary in the form of a large multimedia projection for contemplation of light and darkness, life and death.

The team also found two apartments above a row of coffin shops along Portland Street to house Yu Lik-wai’s photography and film installation, just next to a motel, with dimly lit stairways leading up to the space, hinting at supernatural fables and scary cinematic moments.

And a nearby park in Portland Street/Man Ming Lane Sitting-Out Area is the site for Leung Mee-ping’s installation of disused Coca-Cola and Sprite neon signs transported from Macau because it provides a fitting context to surface the tension between heritage conservation and urban revitalisation.

The gold “Core Values” coin of Hong Kong by Kwan Sheung-chi + Wong Wai-yin.
The uncertainty of artist Pak Sheung-chuen’s exhibition space led to a mobile approach in which he expanded his “site” to cover the whole district. Like a street telecom service sales, Pak took advantage of the Yau Ma Tei’s pedestrian culture by orchestrating “performances”, inviting the public to take part in workshops of his invention and displaying the outcomes of their performances.

To defend the core values is the core of the core values, best exemplified by a unique 24 karat- gold coin produced and displayed by artists Kwan Sheung-chi and Wong Wai-yin, is a satirical take of Hong Kong identity.

M+ curator Stella Fong said the M+ team did not ask artists to produce works concerning a specific topic but rather to use the socio-historical-cultural narratives and urban fabric of Yau Ma Tei as a point of departure for creating a diverse array of projects.

“We have thus aspired to an open-ended platform in which neither the artists, nor the curators, nor the public have the final authoritative interpretation for the works in the exhibition, so as to encourage everyone’s participation in the process of meaning-construction,” she concluded.

Seize the last opportunity to visit our Mobile M+ before June 10th, Sunday.