Hong Kong has been going through a tremendous political movement since the summer of 2019. More than a year after pro-democracy protests burst into life, the city remains in a state of political unrest. Viewed globally, what can the movement teach us about the need to safeguard democracy and human rights, and more specifically about the role of art in protest?
The Hong Kong protests are notable for the role of creative practitioners, both amateur and professional, in helping to spread the movement’s aims. Countless examples of anti-authority and pro-democracy art have appeared online or on the streets of the city itself. These works, many of them created by ordinary citizens, have helped to raise morale, build solidarity, and spread ideas. The collective evolution of this art, when viewed chronologically, also shows the narrowing of freedom of speech, as ever more creative and subversive methods of protest are sought.
This exhibition and event series at FabCafe Tokyo is an opportunity to view the Hong Kong protests as a form of creative practice, or even a creative explosion, while at the same time considering how art can both inform and be informed by a political movement.
The series title was inspired by
“We f---ing love Hong Kong”
a rallying cry familiar to all Hong Kongers that first appeared during a protest on 1st July 2020. The date marks the first effective day of the National Security Law. With ‘white terror’ from the law shadowing the city, this new slogan was an immediate creative response from Hong Kong protesters. For our series title, we have emptied the subject matter to a line _____ to invite you to ‘fill in the blank’ and tell us what Hong Kong means to you.
Lady Liberty Hong Kong
The “Lady Liberty Hong Kong” project is an initiative formed by a group pro-democratic artists and professionals from Hong Kong. The project is a means to voice out, participate in and contribute to Hong Kong’s pursuit of democracy under the shadow of autocratic governments through art, design, and public engagement. The team created the iconic symbol of Lady Liberty Hong Kong, a statue that symbolized the unparalleled bravery of Hongkongers in voicing out amidst the rain of bullets and tear gas in the prolonged anti-extradition bill movement.
A Protester Story
Yellow Object is a project started by Openground Hong Kong during the movement. 18 anonymous designers designed 18 posters representing 18 voices for the struggle of Hong Kong protesters. A story of a hypothetical protester based on true events during the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and featuring posters from the Yellow Objects project aims at chronologically summarizing the uneasy situation of Hong Kong in both textual and graphical ways.
Hong Kong has long been a city where everyone can enjoy freedom of expression. Since the beginning of the protest movement, people from all walks of lives could freely express their voice and emotion through whatever medium they can utilize. Professionals or amateurs with artistic capabilities have created countless creative works to support the movement. Through these works, we can discover facts, feel emotions, understand situations and be empowered. However, since the establishment of the National Security Law, freedom of speech has been highly suppressed. The law aims at silencing Hong Kongers’ voice, but the creative energy of Hong Kongers has not been dimmed.
This exhibit provides a visual journey of protest art along with descriptions of important events within the movement to depict the relationship between creativity and political protest. We can also see how visual language has been transformed by shrinking freedom of expression in Hong Kong and how Hong Kongers have sought new ways to resist ‘white terror.’
Lennon Wall, in the Hong Kong context, originally referred to the mosaic wall created during the Umbrella Movement, located at Central Government Complex, Harcourt Road, Admiralty. In 2019, during the series of protests against the China-Extradition bill beginning on 9 June, Lennon Walls have reappeared, only this time across the whole of Hong Kong. This is referred to as "blossoming everywhere".
Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times
"Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” is a slogan used in the pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong. The slogan was first used in 2016 by Hong Kong Indigenous spokesman Edward Leung. By mid-July, as the demonstrations escalated in many districts in Hong Kong, protesters displayed posters reading "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" on Lennon Walls in the districts of Sha Tin and Tai Po. The slogan then gained popularity and has become the core motto of the movement.
On 1 July 2020, the day after the Hong Kong national security law entered into force, the government branded the slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" secessionist and pro-independence. In response, netizens designed various posters only hinting at the now-sensitive slogan. One of the posters showed the geometric typeface of the eight Chinese characters.