Photography & Text ISAAC LEUNG
Take a moment and imagine: You are on the 40th floor of your 40 square-foot apartment balcony looking out and you see tightly-packed skyscrapers, where drying laundry is hanging from your neighbor’s repetitive grids of windows. When you go to work, on a buzzing street full of frenzied hives of activity, you see slivers of sky and clouds reflected through the facade of metal-framed glass. When night falls, you are at the slum-like noir of a city center, illuminated by fifty shades of red and blue fuzzy neon signs. For a moment, you feel like you are a 1960s character in Wong Kar-Wai’s romantically staged film. This is Hong Kong, the city where I was born and grew up.
There are many reasons why Hong Kong is considered one of the world’s most unique cities. First is the city’s paradoxical nature of everyday life, a bricolage of both past and present, characterized by an excessive use of technology, and yet a vast variety of regional cultures and traditions are constantly present. From new cafes taking root amid hyper-modern skyscrapers and hipster galleries blooming in grassroots neighborhood, Hong Kong promises its citizens and visitors an experience like no other.
Classified on Wing Fung Street
31 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai
In soap operas, the same characters go to the same cafe several times a week. But have you ever wondered if anyone does this in real life? I have been a customer for years at Classified on Wing Fung Street. Indeed, I would say the cafe is like my second office, where I have meetings with different people from the art world. I always get the exact same thing: a latte and then earl grey tea.[/caption]
Even being in Hong Kong is like living in a labyrinth of hypermodernity, but the charming Wing Fung Street always remains, where you can escape the throng or have a quiet time in the middle of the downtown. Taking a seat at the table next to the window for a view of the leafy street is one of my favorite yet most mundane things to do in Hong Kong.
Bound By Hillywood
32 Boundary Street, Prince Edward
Near a roundabout in the middle of Hong Kong’s poorest district, there is an art gallery-bar hybrid called Bound by Hillywood, a place where you can see any of the locally-brewed hipster kitsch, from reclaimed colonial furniture, sexually explicit artworks, nostalgic neon signs, to vaporwave-themed interior design.
When you are of a certain age, there is a list of things that you are too old for. Although I know when to say, “No thanks, I’m too old for this,” it was an adventure for me to see hoards of millennials who enjoy fashion, music, and drinks that are considered outside of the mainstream in Hong Kong. Being one of the most-Instagrammed bars in Hong Kong, remember to check in and take a photo, or it didn’t happen.
21 Lan Fong Road, Causeway Bay
I do have a big “fetish” for glasses and it is obvious to those who know me well. When I was young, I thought it was all too strange until I found out Alfred Hitchcock also had the same fetish. Glasses, most people would consider an accessory, are the one thing I cannot live without.
Finding the right glasses is always difficult. For that reason, I buy multiple pairs of the same glasses. It gives me a sense of security and helps me to not worry that my favorite glasses will be out of production one day. At Visual Culture, one can find array of hand-made Japanese glasses in rare shapes and colors. That’s one of my favorite places for glasses shopping besides Tokyo.
Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences
2 Caine Lane, Mid Levels
For a glimpse of the old times of the city, explore the narrow Tai Ping Shan Street. Located at the north slope of Victoria Peak in Sheung Wan, the district was one of the first areas where the Chinese population resided during early British Hong Kong. In recent years, the district has been turned into an artistic quarter, packed with hip restaurants, bars, and cafés.
Along the way, seek out The Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, a unique museum in the city where metal gates or fence walls stand side-by-side at the entrance of an historical building, hinting at its previous life as a medical institution. The museum is housed in the former Old Pathological Institute where the belongings of people with plague and other infectious diseases were sterilized. As for now, one can see an array of disinfecting equipment displayed on site. If something like this could easily keep you entertained, why go to theme parks?
About Isaac Leung
Isaac Leung is a practicing artist, curator, and scholar in art and culture. Since receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the New Media Art Department of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013, his works have been exhibited in over 30 venues across the globe, including Zolla/Lieberman Gallery (USA), Para Site (Hong Kong), Videotage (Hong Kong), Connecting Space (Hong Kong), MOCA (Shanghai), and the Venice Biennale of Architecture (Italy). In 2013, Leung was appointed as the Chairman of Videotage, Hong Kong’s hub for creativity in new media and one of the longest-running centers for new media art in Asia. Leung also holds a PhD degree in the contemporary Chinese art market and regularly lectures on the topic at art fairs and universities around the world. In 2017 he will serve as the Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultural and Creative Arts of the Hong Kong Education University.
Issac Leung in ILL.I BY WILL.I.AM