Date: 30 May 2016
To experience Hong Kong’s “25 Minutes Older,” an artwork by Kingsley Ng, one boards a special tram at either Western Market or Causeway Bay, to meander through the city and through time. For 25 minutes, the length of the route, participants hear haunting spoken fragments of Lau Yee Cheung’s Tête-bêche (《對倒》), a popular novella said to have inspired filmmaker Wong Kar Wai to make In the Mood for Love, which takes place in 1960s Hong Kong.
The title “25 Minutes Older” references a 1978 Latvian black-and-white documentary “Ten Minutes Older,” observing the faces of children watching a play. Against the ambient real sounds of Hong Kong outside, and a gentle rocking of the vehicle in motion, in Mr. Ng’s work, a woman’s voice intones a wish to migrate to Hong Kong, where apparently grand houses with gardens can be purchased for a few bars of gold.
With the windows in the tram’s upstairs compartment sealed, on one wall “a camera obscura with two apertures on its sides” projects images of the streetlife that the tram passes by, and texts from Mr. Lau’s famous stream-of-consciousness story, seeming like incantations appearing among shadows and street signs familiar to any Hong Konger. According to Mr. Ng, it is “a space for the audience to re-experience the city through moving lights.”
Mr. Ng, one of Hong Kong’s most interesting contemporary artists, describes the project as a “moving time capsule that does not get old in a fast-paced city.” The current project, which finishes on 2 June is part of the 5th Large-Scale Public Media Art Exhibition: Human Vibrations, an ambitious art festival curated by Caroline Ha Thuc in collaboration with six Hong Kong artists, as part of the Arts Development Council’s 20th anniversary celebrations.
With only about 2,000 tickets available–only 15 people for each of the 12 rides a day, “25 Minutes Older” has been received enthusiastically by the Hong Kong public. The registration page (http://www.25mins.info) has been shared more than 1,500 times on Facebook, and all slots taken in three days. The tickets are given out for free.
Last year, the the Hong Kong tram system had its 110th birthday. The “ding dings”–as the city’s trams are affectionately called–are an ubiquitous part of the landscape. Taxis, buses and the underground train system provide faster ways of getting around in Hong Kong, yet the trams which cost HK$2.30 (US$0.30) per ride, continue to be packed at rush hour and evoke a special nostalgia for Hong Kongers.
Although the six lines only ply Hong Kong Island, they traverse many landmarks from Kennedy town in the west to Shau Kei Wan in the east. Hong Kong Tramways, now operated by French-controlled Veolia Transport RATP Asia, would do well to consider the ding dings for more such quality arts initiatives. Or they should think of seriously sponsoring an extention of Mr. Ng’s project, which only has budget for a two week period. “25 Minutes Older” reimagines the Hong Kong tram as much more than conveyance system, but also a cultural platform, something uniquely and beautifully Hong Kong.