Studio Exhibition (10/F): The House of Ong Mo Kew

The House of Ong Mo Kew / 破屋藏嬌

Johnny Gin / 甄祖倫
Five archival inkjet prints, 56 x 43 cm each 
5張收藏級噴墨打印,每張56 x 43 厘米
2016

Statement 自述:

Outdoor stairs have been integral to Hong Kong’s development since its early colonial days. Staircases allowed the enclave to expand up its steep slopes, enabling more democratic access and easier physical navigation to previously inaccessible areas, as well as more interaction between people from different cultures and social backgrounds. An example of this is evidenced by the remnants of a tenement house built around the mid-1800, recently discovered adjacent to the Mid-Levels escalator. The ownership of the building has been traced back to Ong Mo Kew, a Chinese Tanka woman described as a champion for “protected women”, women who lived under the protection of a foreigner due to their anomalous position between the European and Chinese communities. Facing discrimination and struggling to overcome social and economic disadvantages in a patriarchal society, Ong and others like her who achieved upward mobility did so against considerable odds.

Walter Benjamin believed that ruins represent a landscape of possibilities that provide a critically reflexive tool for understanding the condition of our times. Read as a palimpsest, the materiality of ruins offers itself as an allegory of historical events. This fragmented site stood undisturbed for 150 years while the neighborhood surrounding it evolved. Its surfaces, bearing the physical traces of time, remind us that our struggles remain much the same.

香港城市發展從殖民地初期以來,已離不開階梯的拓建。沿著這些階梯,民眾聚居之地便可以在陡斜的地勢上延伸,原來偏僻的地區變得熙來攘往,城市裏變得四通八達,而且可以促進文化各異、背景不同的人群互相往來,有助塑造一個城市。中環近期發現的民居遺址,位於中環至半山自動扶梯旁,約建於19世紀中期。該處夾在閣麟街與吉士笠街之間,當年屬於香港的周邊地區。根據查考,房子為蜑家女子紅毛嬌所有。她是受外國人包養的「受保護婦女」的表表者。這些女人處身華洋之間,是個不中不西的異類。她們遭受父權社會的歧視,卻仍無懼重重困難,努力掙脫社會經濟劣境。

華特·班雅明認為,敗井頽垣正好呈現出某個地景的種種可能,而且可以成為一種重要的反思工具,讓我們理解自己的時代。這些殘跡不妨當作經過層層覆寫的歷史寓言來解讀。周遭環境已經飽歷了150年滄桑,而紅毛嬌遺址至今尚存,在其滿佈歲月風霜的臉上,可以昭示許許多多的掙扎奮鬥,古今如一。

This artwork was part of the exhibition Always at the edge of things and between places 永遠在邊緣永遠在過渡, curated by Melissa Cate Christ and Scott Dietrich. Held at Connecting Space Hong Kong 14 May - 03 June 2017, the exhibition presented multimedia art and design works that reflected upon Hong Kong's vernacular cultural landscape. For more information, visit stairculture.com/archive and alwaysathedge facebook.