“Both Sides Now 2” came to Phoenix earlier this week, in the first stop of its UK tour. The event presented a series of 15 short films (ranging from 21 seconds to 10 minutes) by Hong Kong artists and filmmakers, exploring the social and political climate of Hong Kong in recent history and the present day.
The programme featured a diverse range of filmic formats, from moving images and animations to documentary films, displaying them within a context that allowed the audience to draw different parallels and connections between each of the pieces. The collection was curated by videoclub (a UK-based artists’ film initiative) and Videotage (a Hong Kong-based new media art organisation), aiming to open up dialogue between Chinese, Hong Kong and British audiences and to reinterpret the experience of ‘here and now’ for both cultures.
The relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China was a key focus for many of the works, and the screening felt incredibly timely following the events of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014. The pro-democracy protest saw over 100,000 people live together in the streets of Central Hong Kong for over two months, in response to China’s refusal to grant universal suffrage to the territory. The peaceful campaign was reimagined and reinterpreted in ways that challenge traditional narratives, using varying styles such as interviews, amateur footage, and documentary-style filming.
With the themes of Hong Kong’s recent political upheaval reverberating through the works, it was refreshing to see a collection respond so immediately to contemporary issues.
The post-screening Q&A with project curator Isaac Leung provided some very useful context, where he explained his aim in presenting “different locations, people and times to interlink the lives of people in Hong Kong.” The residents of Hong Kong, he explained, are split between those ardently pro-democracy and those pro-Beijing, leading to vastly different experiences and identities.
The Q&A also dwelt on the legacy of the Umbrella Movement and the handover of Hong Kong to China in the 1990s. The overwhelming feeling among many residents of Hong Kong, according to Isaac, is one of fear and pessimism; only last month, China reaffirmed its commitment to denying Hong Kong universal suffrage, and so political unrest is likely to grow. With projects like Both Sides Now, the hope is that the evolving landscape of Hong Kong politics will continue to be recorded and reconsidered over the coming years.
If you’d like to find out more about our diverse art programme, click here.
videoclub is a UK-based platform for artists’ film and video. Its intention is to support artists, and to showcase new artists’ film to increase public engagement. Find out more.
Videotage is a leading non-profit organisation in Hong Kong focusing on the presentation, promotion, production and preservation of video and media art. Check out their website.