Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Not So Far From Home

Posted by Zach Morris
[Originally published on greatdance.com]

We arrived in Hong Kong roughly a day and a half ago, a bit shell shocked from the 16 hour flight, but eager to actually experience this city that we've spent the last several months researching. While still in New York, unable to respond personally to Hong Kong, we began rigorous research on the city and our site's social, cultural and historical makeup. Through this research, we hoped to discover how we, a group of New Yorkers, could begin to und
erstand and engage with a locale situated half a world away.
As it turns out, New York and Hong Kong share a number of similarities. Both cities owe their formation to European trading and financial interests. From their inception and to this day, commercial forces have shaped New York and Hong Kong. Whereas many cities owe their development to political or religious influences, NY and HK were threshold cities, gateways to the vast riches of their respective mainlands. Neither was run as a "traditional" colony. And
even now, it could be said that they are both wild cards, operating, to a certain degree, on their own unique systems. Their histories and topographies have been shaped by the intersections of culture, collision, commerce, change, innovation, and transformation.
These issues have particular resonance for us, coming from New York. New York has, since its creation as a trading post, been the site of cultural conflict and struggle. It was, at one time, the fastest growing city in the world. It was the world's first "big" city and thus had to deal with issues never before faced on that scale in an urban environment. It has been the site of racial turmoil, huge clashes between nationalities and religious factions, the hotbed of tensions between those of differ
ent social classes, and most recently, the site of enormous tragedy stemming from clashes of differing ideologies.
Likewise, from the beginning of western occupation following the Opium wars, foreign interest in Hong Kong has been commercial in nature, sometimes to the benefit and sometimes to the determent of the Chinese people. Like New York, Hong Kong has always been a changing, dynamic, mercantile, and maritime city where its denizens gathered in the interest of achieving financial success. Thus, both cities have become strange, bubbling laboratories of multiculturalism. By their very nature they have brought people of vastly different backgrounds and intentions together. They are fast paced, changing, unrelenting, and unsentimental. As such, both have forced the strangers who live within them to find ways to reconcile their differences in order that the city itself may continue its dynamic movement.
It was these commonalities that struck a chord with us.
Our group is composed of a diverse group of artists hailing from different cultural, geographical, and artistic backgrounds. We are, perhaps, quintessential New Yorkers: none of us are actually from there, we hail from different backgrounds but have come together to work towards a collective end. Our differences serve to reinforce our shared enterprise as opposed to hindering it.
Stepping off the plane and into Hong Kong there was a bustling familiarity. The sites, smells, and blaring noise were perhaps more comforting then jarring.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

chris said:
I'm interested to know: How do the bagels in Hong Kong compare to New York's bagels?

Added: November 29, 2007 9:44 PM | Permalink

Zach Morris said:

Thanks for your comment. Yes, I'm interested to see how the material we generated in New York translates into this space and this cultural context. We've already discovered some unique challenges, some total surprises and some outright misconceptions that we had.

In my next post I'll talk a little about where we were coming from...and after that, we'll touch on how that's changed and unfolded actually being here.

Added: November 29, 2007 1:49 AM | Permalink

Zach Morris said:
Thanks for your post! Yes, the longer we're here the more comfortable and familiar Hong Kong seems. Obviously, there are massive, massive differences...but hailing from New York, the pulse, speed and energy are very, very similar.

I was most happy to find that Hong Kong (being an inherently multi-cultural and international city) was as welcoming as I'd hoped. The people are kind --brisk, busy, and direct-- but kind. Very similar to New York in that there's an acknowledgement that, regardless of our differences, we all must share the same space...and so courtesy and a basic respect for one another seems omnipresent.

Added: November 29, 2007 1:46 AM | Permalink

Mago said:
Felt like I was there with you sucking up the energy while reading your post. I can see them as sister cities, alive and pulsing with diversity and light, yet with iron underbellies formed in their history.

Added: November 27, 2007 7:09 PM | Permalink

Anna Brady Nuse said:
Hi Zach,

Great post on the similarities between our two cities! I'm excited to hear how your work unfolds (or gets unpacked).

Added: November 27, 2007 1:19 PM | Permalink