Session Seven: Films by Bo Wang and Pan Lu

Date: Saturday 30 March
Time: 16:00
Venue: ICA Cinema One

Miasma, Plants, Export Paintings, Dirs. Bo Wang and Pan Lu, Hong Kong, 2017, HD, 28min., Mandarin with English subtitles
Traces of an Invisible City: Three Notes on Hong Kong, Dirs. Bo Wang and Pan Lu, Hong Kong, 2016, HD, 70min., Mandarin with English subtitles.

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A double bill of essay films by Bo Wang and Pan Lu exploring the colonial history and contemporary culture of Hong Kong.

The first film, Traces of an Invisible City: Three Notes on Hong Kong, presents urban space in Hong Kong as a vivid showcase of the hidden logics of globalisation and capitalism, and of the historical changes currently occurring in world cities. It examines a series of urban landscapes in Hong Kong to illustrate the tension among their visual existence, function, and ownership, and how the city’s public space has been constructed, used, owned, and interpreted. Public spaces, which are primary loci where public life happen, are regarded here as nodal points that connect the city’s past, present and future. The film contains three chapters that are parallel to but interwoven with each other: global, local, and divided space. The first chapter, ‘The Exhibition’, observes Art Basel, one of the largest art fairs in the world, held at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. The second chapter, ‘The Streets’, explores the dramatic transformations of Hong Kong’s public space in recent years, blended with flashbacks of history. And the final chapter, ‘The North Side’, juxtaposes the Hong Kong-Shenzhen division area in their visual reversal, where Hong Kong’s agricultural landscape is contrasted with the rapidly urbanised side of socialist China. Miasma, Plants, Export Paintings is a short film, initially conceived for a two-screen installation, investigating the peculiar dynamics between imperialism, scientific research, race and gaze in nineteenth-century Canton. The devastating tropical climate created strong fear and anxiety in the British troops stationed at Hong Kong after the opium wars. The nineteenth-century myth of ‘Miasma’, the bad air, relating epidemic diseases with air, environment and race, helped to consolidate the vertical segregation on Hong Kong island. Acclimatisation efforts were made in pace with the expansion of the British Botanic Empire, a global network of scientific research, which circulated not only botanic specimens but also illustrations of those plants created for the purpose of research. Local commercial artists from Canton, in South China, were commissioned to make these paintings.

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