── 節錄自約翰 · 伯格(1926-2017)《我們在此相遇》中的〈甜瓜──離世者記憶中的某些水果〉
屬於港島東區的北角，亦即藝術推廣辦事處「油街實現」的所在地，本身就是一個流傳各式傳奇的地方。這些故事所涉及的地點多不復存在，如戲院、屋邨，甚至是海的位置。油街碰巧是其中一個歷史豐厚的地點 ── 不管這些歷史是想像出來，還是真實的。特別就香港的藝術和文化層面而言，今日「油街實現」後面那所已被拆毀的前政府物料供應處大樓，在九十年代末倒曾經是最有活力的自發藝術工作社群聚合地。1 很多人仍記得那荒廢掉的停屍房 （亦稱「永別亭」）成了一個不分晝夜開放的藝術實驗場。
北角也是二十世紀中葉來自上海和福建的移民集結地。他們當中許多是擁護共產主義的進步份子或愛國份子。六十年代中期，中國大陸文化大革命期間，沿英皇道的天台學校成為左派陣營的批鬥場所。1967 年，工人於九龍新蒲崗發動大罷工，觸發左派暴動，自製的土製炸彈散落北角街道。恐懼迅速彌漫整個城市，港英殖民政府警隊很快以直升機降落僑冠大廈天台截擊騷亂者。暴動後，香港的左派進步活動轉為地下，消聲匿跡。年輕一代大多對當年暴動事件不知情，更莫說在何處發生。不過，有心者已經開始以步行團、 討論會、話劇和紀錄片，去尋覓和分享他們對這段歷史的理解與回憶。2
視覺文化理論家尼可拉斯·莫則夫在他的文章〈看的權利〉中把「看的權利」視為「掌握真實的權利」，又或是「爭取主體性，行使自主權，整理可見和可論述之間關係的權利」。3《彩色香港》（2014 ）作品包含一段錄像裝置，展示尹麗娟在一本印滿1940-60年代香港面貌的畫冊上逐頁塗髹上灰色粘土泥漿。4 攝像機的位置放在頁面正上方，框住觀眾的視線，唯一可見的是在幾秒鐘內急速消失的老香港。滴著泥漿的筆迅速和有致地把色彩繽紛的頁面完全填滿灰色。然後翻過已塗抹的頁面，展示簇新的一頁，藝術家又重複著之前的動作。通過這一系列動作，尹首先展現出一個不再存在的香港面貌，再把它去掉。這一種刻意把呈現的東西變模糊的方法，是把「消失」視像化。既已視像化了，這個消失的過程也就可被言喻和被論述了，即使這個老香港實質上和意象上並沒有真正的存在過。尹催眠般重複繪畫和翻頁的動作，不僅給予城市的重複消逝一個實質的形態，更讓這形態共存於藝術家與觀眾的思想和視覺中。尹的其他作品如《時光再現》 （2013） 和Phenomenon of Times（2014）也曾試過在特定的書籍上紀錄繪畫的過程。5 除了這些作品外，《彩色香港》強烈地闡明，一個主體，不管是藝術家，還是觀眾，如何闡明可見和可論述兩者的關係；時間的消逝、被抹掉，被覆蓋的現實，和這現實是如何形成的。
要對尹麗娟的藝術實踐有全面的認識，必須同時考慮她在浸會大學視覺藝術學院 (BUAVA)的教學工作。她八年前開始全職在浸會大學視覺藝術學院任教，主導和發展校內的陶藝工作室。的確，尹描述自己時也說，教學是她藝術實踐的必要部分。因此她教授陶藝，不光重視手作工藝，更著重關注領會陶藝所涉及的流程和物質性。這方面的要求體現於她如何帶領同學集體參與設立學院的戶外木火窯。6 尹的策展工作和參與各地當代藝術展同樣重要。她通過這些渠道跟其他藝術工作者分享、實驗和鑽研。7 2015年在 1a 空間策劃的「不/一樣」的展覽，便是其中一個例子。於這次策展過程中，她邀請了六位從未做過陶塑的香港藝術家，一起去探索物料、形態和創作過程，還有探索以全新角度進行創作的想法。8 幾乎沒有任何其他情況，比純粹探索未知更能觸動原始的激情和能量。
1, 有關油街和左派運動的歷史，多本出版刊物皆有詳細叙述，如又一山人著的《油街結業：五二二日夢醒時份之存在和過去》(2001), 1a空間出版的《由油街到牛棚》(2001)； Para Site和墨爾本West Space 合編的《由本土至境外：藝術家自主空間》((2002)；亞洲藝術文獻庫(AAA)的數碼館藏中亦存有油街藝術村的資料，如展覽及節目場刊，和1999年「油街藝術空間：前政府物料供應處研究及記錄保存」所記下抗衡政府迫遷的一系列活動。
2, 重溫、 重構和交流1967 年左派暴動歷史的一些活動，包括政治科學家葉健民主辦的「活現香港」，2014年由「一條褲製作」的有關暴動的話劇和2017年羅恩惠導演的紀錄片《消失的檔案》。
3, 尼可拉斯·莫則夫著〈看的權利〉，刊於《Critical Inquiry》，第 37 卷第 3期（2011 年春季），頁473-496。具體節錄來自頁473-4。
5, 《時間恢復》 （2013）把馬塞爾 · 普魯斯特六冊《追憶逝水年華》塗上黑色粘土和被燒的書，顯示在2013牛棚藝術村題為「滴溚 滴」的展覽上。《時間現象》（2014）包括九卷羅馬欺·杜特著的印度史，被塗上白色瓷漿，於2014年第二屆科欽-穆茲里斯雙年展中展出。
6, 2015 年，尹麗娟和駐港藝術家石山哲也一起創立了香港首個木燒窯，是香港首個在專上教育機構建立的木燒窯。
7, 尹曾參與的國際藝術展，包括2014年由Jitish Kallat策展的印度第二屆科欽-穆茲里斯雙年展，2014 年曼徹斯特舉行的亞洲三年展及2016 年瑪麗亞 · 林德策劃的第十一屆光州雙年展。
8, 參與「不/一樣」的展覽藝術家包括莊藝勤、陳育強、程展緯、 林嵐、馬琼珠和余偉聯。
「本文是對藝術家尹麗娟（Annie Lai-kuen Wan）在北角油街實現2017年展覽《收集月光》（Collecting Moonlight）的回應和存檔。」
作者：黃湲婷（Michelle Wong）是駐香港的研究員。 2012年至2020年間任亞洲藝術文獻庫研究員，其時主要研究香港藝術史，並透過展覽和期刊探索交流與傳播史的多元面貌。2021 年於大館當代美術館策劃《咫尺之內，開始之前：隨意門及其他足跡》，2020 年為橫濱三年展策展團隊一員，2016 年任第 11 屆光州雙年展助理策展人。文章見於《Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art, 1945–1990 》(2018)、期刊《Southeast of Now》(2019)等。現為香港大學藝術史博士候選人。
Melons, Moonlight, and the Right to Look
“The taste of the melon included both darkness and sunshine. It miraculously united these opposites, which can otherwise never exist together.”
From “Melon—Some Fruits as Remembered by the Dead”, in Here is where we meet by John Berger (1926-2017).
In some ways, the taste of melons is not unlike moonlight. The moon is lit by light rays coming from the sun, and it is only visible in the dark. It is where sunshine and darkness meet, and in their coming together a third is produce—the image of the moon as we see it, and our eyes become aware of and susceptible to its marks, textures, and contours as reflected by the sun. Annie Wan Lai Kuen’s recent project Collecting Moonlight (2017), like many of her other projects, crystalises such moments when impossible elements meet to activate our perception of the appearances of similarities and differences, of truths and its falsities. But before we follow Wan’s projections of fables, visions, and washes of unexpectedly intimate experiences, let us first address North Point and its Oil Street.
North Point, part of the Eastern District on Hong Kong Island where Arts Promotion Office’s Oi! on Oil Street is located, is itself a place made through the circulation of myths. These stories are often around landmarks that no longer exist, such as cinemas and housing estates, or even the sea. Oil Street happens to be one of places where its histories, imagined or real, flow over the brim. This is perhaps especially true for the arts and cultural community in Hong Kong, as the Former Government Supplies Department, the now-demolished building behind the current Oi! premises, used to house one of Hong Kong’s arguably most vibrant self-organised artists communities in late 1990s.1 Many still remember the abandoned morgue—the pavilion of eternal farewell （永別亭） as they called it in Chinese—that turned into a site of artistic experimentation during both daytime and night.
North Point is also a stronghold of Shanghainese and Fujian immigrants from Mainland China in the mid 20th century. Many of them were communist sympathisers—or the progressives （進步份子）or patriots （愛國份子）, as they called it. In mid1960s the Cultural Revolution took shape in Mainland China, and the rooftop schools in buildings along King’s Road became forums of criticism（批鬥會）. As events erupted alongside the workers’ strike in San Po Kong, Kowloon, to become what we now know as the 1967 Leftist Riots, home-made bombs strewn the streets of North Point. Fear filled the city like gas would any space and soon the British colonial police force descended upon Kiu Kwan Mansion in helicopters, raiding rioters’ hideout. After the riots, Hong Kong’s leftist progressive activities went underground and its visible traces dissipated like gas would when let out to the open. Many from a younger generation hardly know of the events let alone the places where they occurred. But some have started seeking and sharing their own encounters with this history and the places that bore witness to it through walking tours, discussions, documentary theatre and films.2
These layers of framing are important in situating and mediating Wan’s project Collecting Moonlight within the contexts of Oi! and North Point. This is because the sensibility that Wan’s works activate in us hinges upon the information that we already have on the places and moments that they address. Wan’s works lead us to question what other stories and contradictions lay beyond or behind what we see on a surface. It could be a storefront, an abandoned kitchen, or a shelf of consumer goods neatly lined up by the colour of their packages. What might we find if and when we seek to look into corners that are rarely lit? To see Wan’s ceramic objects as mere mimetic replicas of its noisily colourful real life counterparts would be to miss a critical point. What we ought to see is how these objects activate our awareness of the spaces they inhabit, how they sensitise us towards perceiving the places’ aspirations, the desire of the objects’ original and future owners, be they survival instincts, political ideals or creative drive. Wan’s objects are much like moonlight —they are not themselves sources of light, but they mediate a possibility of seeing. Thus when we encounter them in their contexts, we as subjects claim and exercise that ability to see and make sense of what we previously may not. It is perhaps not a coincidence that Wan’s objects in Oi!, re-casted in white clay and fired, resemble the moon in their light translucent glaze.
In his essay “The Right to Look”, visual culture theorist Nicholas Mirzoeff defines “the right to look” as “a right to the real”, “the claim to a subjectivity that has the autonomy to arrange the relations of the visible and the sayable” .3 Colourful Hong Kong (2014) consists of a video component where Wan painted over the pages of a photo pictorial magazine of 1940-60s Hong Kong with grey clay slip.4 The placement of the camera directly above the book cropped the audience’s view. The only visible elements are the colourful pages of an old Hong Kong, which became completely grey in a matter of seconds as the artist’s hand holding a paintbrush dripping with clay slip swiftly and smoothly painted the pages over. The painted page was then flipped to reveal a clean one, and the artist continued with her act. Through this gesture, Wan first made the image of a Hong Kong that no longer exists visible, and then turned it opaque. This process of rendering a representation obscure is a disappearance made visible. Now visible, this process of obliteration is also sayable and articulable, despite the absence of an old Hong Kong in both concrete and representational terms. Wan’s mesmerisingly repetitive action of painting and flipping over pages gives form to the city’s repeated withdrawal not only in actuality, but also in the artist and viewer’s mind and vision. Wan’s other works such as Time Regained (2013) and Phenomenon of Times (2014) also document the process of painting over specific books.5 Alongside these works, Colourful Hong Kong powerfully articulates how a subject, be it artist or viewer, arrange and articulate the relations of the visible and the sayable; the realities of times lost, erased, overwritten, and how they became so.
A holistic examination of Wan’s artistic practice would consider her teaching at Academy of Visual Arts, Baptist University (BUAVA) as well. Since eight years ago Wan has been working full time at BUAVA, heading and developing the school’s ceramic studio. Indeed Wan has described in her own words that teaching is an integral part of her artistic practice. Hence her commitment to teaching not only craftsmanship, but also an empathic understanding of processes and materiality. This intention manifest in collective activities such as setting up the academy’s own outdoors wood fire kiln with students.6 Wan’s curatorial work and participation in various contemporary art biennales weigh in equally important. They are channels through which she connects with other practitioners, sharing, experimenting and working through ideas together.7 The 2015 exhibition titled ‘Ceramic Show by Non-ceramic Artists’ in 1a Space, Hong Kong, is one such example. For this exhibition Wan invited six other Hong Kong based artists who had not worked with ceramics before, to explore not only the material, its form and processes, but also the very idea of working with something entirely new.8 There is hardly any other situation that induces more raw excitement and energy than the genuine exploration of an unknown.
This short essay does not have the space to elaborate further on these parts of Wan’s practice, but it tries to signal the necessity of looking at artistic practice in a more expansive way. To consider aspects that do not generate what is conventionally regarded as art objects, to follow arcs of a pursuit that may not always be viewed as artistic practice. These are crucial conditions in which a multi-faceted creative life and mind within a continuously changing world is sustained and nurtured. See this short essay, too, as a performative claim of the right to look—for “[t]he right to look is not about merely seeing. It begins at a personal level with the look into someone else’s eyes to express friendship, solidarity, or love. That look must be mutual, each inventing the other, or it fails. As such, it is unrepresentable.”9
1, The histories and stories of Oil Street have been recounted in a number of publications such as Before and Ever After. 522 Days of Oil Street by anothermountainman (2001), From Oil Street to Cattle Depot published by 1a Space, Hong Kong (2001), and Space Traffic: Artist-run Spaces Beyond a Local Context published by West Space, Melbourn and Para Site, Hong Kong (2002). Asia Art Archive’s digital collection also includes a series of archival materials on Oil Street’s artist village, such as documentation of events and exhibition, and records of the campaign ‘Save Oil Street’ to resist government eviction in 1999.
2, Some of the activities that revisit, reconstruct and circulate the histories of 1967 Leftist Riots include walks hosted by Walk in Hong Kong with political scientist Ip Kin Man, the 2014 production of 1967 by Pants Theatre, and Vanished Archives, the 2017 documentary on 1967 riots directed by Connie Lo Yan-wai.
3, Nicholas Mirzoeff, “The Right to Look”, in Critical Inquiry, vol. 37, No. 3 (Spring 2011), pp 473-496. The specific quoted terms are from pages 473-4.
4, Colourful Hong Kong (2014) also consists of the magazines in ceramic form after it was painted over with clay and fired. Usually the fired books and videos are displayed as one installation, but this essay addresses only the video component of the work.
5, Time Regained (2013)features six volumes of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time being painted over with black clay slip and the fired books, and was shown at the exhibition ‘I Think It Rains’ (2013) held at Cattle Depot, Hong Kong. Phenomenon of Times (2014) includes the video of nine volumes of Romesh C. Dutt’s Indian History being painted over white porcelain slip alongside the fired results. This work was shown at the second Kochi-Muziris Biennale ‘Whorled Exploration’ in 2014.
6, In 2015, a wood-fired kiln was set up by residence artist Tetsuya Ishiyama and Wan. It is the first wood-fired kiln among the tertiary institutions in Hong Kong.
7, Contemporary art biennales that Wan participated in include 2nd edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale ‘Whorled Exploration’ curated by Jitish Kallat (2014), Asia Triennial Manchester 2014 (2014), and 11th edition of Gwangju Biennale ‘The Eighth Climate (What does art do?)’ curated by Maria Lind (2016).
8, Participating artists of ‘Ceramic Show by Non-ceramic Artists’ include John Aiken, Kurt Chan Yuk Keung, Luke Ching Chin Wai, Jaffa Lam Laam, Ivy Ma King Chu, and Francis Yu Wai Luen.
9, Mirzoeff, pp 473.
This text was written as a response to Annie Wan Lai Keun’s exhibition Collecting Moonlight, held at North Point Oil Street Art Space in 2017.
Michelle Wun Ting Wong is a researcher based in Hong Kong. From 2012–20 she was a researcher at Asia Art Archive (AAA), focusing on Hong Kong art history and histories of exchange and circulation through exhibitions and periodicals. She curated Portals, Stories, and Other Journeys at Tai Kwun Contemporary (2021), and was part of the curatorial teams for Yokohama Triennale 2020 and 11th Edition of Gwangju Biennale (2016). Her writing has been published in Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art, 1945–1990 (2018), the journal Southeast of Now (2019) amongst others. She is currently a PhD candidate in art history at the University of Hong Kong.