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
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.
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.