The main protest site in Hong Kong occupies a large inner-city motorway as well as side streets, bridges and squares and it has been turned into an extraordinary, open-air art gallery.
The main protest site in Hong Kong, occupies a large inner-city motorway as well as side streets, bridges and squares and it has been turned into an extraordinary, open-air art gallery by pro-democracy campaigners.
These artworks, are by their very nature temporary. If – or most likely when – the authorities move the protestors off the site, these vivid, attention-grabbing pieces will be consigned to the dustbin.
What a tragedy that will be, for the centre of Hong Kong is now awash with an extraordinary range of political art.
Unlike the heavy symbols of state, designed to impress or intimidate, these works are light and bright and thoughtful.
A yellow ribbon is fired from a pistol, into the waiting claws of a dove. A pastel-coloured protestor, wrapped in goggles and plastic sheeting, prepares for battle with a yellow umbrella draped over his/her shoulder. A tiny sign, like a ‘flat-for-rent’ notice, asks people to rip off tab in support of universal suffrage.
Surely, the most impressive exhibit is the ‘Lennon Wall’ – a piece of greyish concrete leading to a bridge, which has been coated in multi-coloured post-it notes. Each one bears a slogan, a pro-democracy message and from a distance the effect is dazzling.
The digital equivalent of all these ‘post-its’ are probably tweets, but on the central protest site, the internet feels ethereal and insubstantial.
The ‘Lennon Wall’ is real-world beacon, constructed by thousands of real-time participants. It is a thing of beauty and power that cannot be ignored or simply clicked away.
Like the pro-democracy movement itself, these works of art are ownerless. There are no rules, no one to seek permission before installing a ‘piece’.
Last night – a group of urban sculptors threw up an oversize man built out of slats of wood, carrying a yellow umbrella. This everyday piece of domestic kit is the symbol of their revolution and a sign of their determination to say.
For many of us, ‘umbrella man’ harks back to Tiananmen Square, when pro-democracy protestors threw up a statue called the ‘Goddess of Democracy.’
But the students here in Hong Kong weren’t around for Tiananmen and they are finding their own way – their own creative forms – to say what they feel they must.