The Real and Unreal in Hung Keung’s works
我認識的洪強有他相當陰柔細膩的一面，這或許與他的名字並不相配，但卻恰當地反映在他的作品之中。在《樓上｜樓下》中好些驀然回首、輕扣(解)羅衣的畫面，亦容易令人聯想到五代詞人的綺麗詞風。我想，作者在運用這些影象時或有一定的象徵意義，但作為觀眾，我似乎沒有很大意欲去深究其竟，大概畫面所形構的氣質氛圍，已蓋過了它所要指涉的世情現實 – 那十二種角色身份。
Hung Keung’s works somehow manage to give a sense of the unreal, though from theme to setting, they are often based on the real life.
Upstairs/Downstairs is his latest video work. Well, not exactly a video work. In this almost 7 minute long work, 80% of the footage is made up of a collage of stills. The frame is a reconstruction of a sliced up reality that is alienated. It does give the viewers a sensual experience different from real-life, thus creating a different reality.
Most of the time, Upstairs/Downstairs shows a female character in various dichotomic costumes, the distinctive left and right side of which represents a distinctive role, roaming up and down the old and new buildings in Mongkok. These dichotomic costumes are seen in and out of the various settings. According to the auteur, they make up twelve personalities, namely a cosmetic saleslady, a sex worker, a housewife, a student, a construction site worker, an office lady, a South Asian ethnic, a restaurant waiter, a salesperson, a young wife, a man in unisexual attire, and a middle-aged woman. A collage of broken images doth not a plot make. But then the authur often reiterates it is not his interest to make a critical documentary or cinema verite.
Watching Hung Keung’s video work is like looking at paintings of the European Rococo period. He is more interested in mise-en-scene, the composition of light, colour and ambience than the realist theme. The realist theme serves only as a starting point for the work; the visual interpretation, alienated from reality, directly evokes the secret world of the auteur and the viewers.
In the attempt to enter Hung Keung’s secret world in his work, I am more interested in two points (may very well be two sides of the same coin): one is the female character in his work,; and the second is the feminine characteristics in the work itself.
Though deliberately put into different disguises, he female character in Upstairs/Downstairs still carries a look of the modern woman typical in vogue magazines, young, rebellious and a glamour beyond her age. Besides a reflection of the auteur’s preference in casting and the influence of pop culture, it can also be a projection of how the auteur sees woman. In his earlier work Transmigration, the character is a woman more advanced in age (Hung Keung’s mother), but there is still traces of the above described archetype in her. In the character’s monologue on her dreams, the desire to fly away, to break away and the hesitation is obvious. “The glamour beyond her age”, then, is more like stubbornness, a refusal to succumb. This female archetype may not be a deliberate creation, but I think there is room for exploration in this direction in Hung Keung’s works.
The Hung Keung I know does have a feminine and delicate side, though it doesn’t fit his name (the name Hung Keung in Chinese has a strong sense of masculinity), it is appropriately reflected in his works. Some flashbacks and disrobing scenes in Upstairs/Downstairs evoke the ornate Five Dynasties lyrics. I think that there must be some symbolic meaning behind this visual manipulation, but as a viewer, I don’t have too great a desire to go deep into it. The ambience exudes from the frame has overwhelmed the real world it depicts – the twelve roles.
If the model of vogue magazine and his mother are the real world prototypes for the female in Hung Keung’s works, the unreal ambience created through visual manipulation provides a reclusive and elusive, and intimate private world for the auteur and this female archetype.
“the lab” brings you local video/film artists’ old and new works starts from this Jan. Hung Keung is the artist-in-focus in this August. Please refer to P.XX for details.
文 /Text: 何兆基 / Dr. HO, Siu-kee
前香港藝術中心藝術學院高級講師 / 藝術碩士課程主任。
Former Senior Lecturer / MFA Course Coordinator, The Art School, Hong Kong Arts Centre