Eddy Zee, there were a few knock-off local versions immediately afterwards. “They have borrowed the format, but the finesse and technology of Remote Hong Kong would be difficult to match,” says Zee.
Indeed, is based on a model that has been tried and tested in around 40 cities across the world. So Hong Kong artists who would like their walks to really talk to the audience (and not necessarily by adopting the commanding, exhorting tone that Remote Hong Kong did at times) should probably try to find their own voice.
Cheung says there are signs of that happening. “More and more local groups are capable of efficiently handling such shows,” he says. It was the reason he opted for commissioning two new pieces rather than importing a time-tested model.
Chung is not as enthusiastic. “The state of immersive walks in Hong Kong is still in its infancy. We need to learn quality control and manage audience expectations,” she avers.
However, she would give a thumbs up to Lost Shoreline by Rooftop Productions, a mobile-app driven walk where participants explore the older areas of Yau Ma Tei on their own and get to choose from a range of theater experiences afterwards. Chung also recommends the journey of the isle designed by the theatre du pif duo Bonni Chan and Sean Curran as it allowed participants to freely leave and rejoin a guided walk across Cheung Chau island, “like in a hopon, hop-off tourist bus”.
“We met very interesting people, including a former Cantonese opera performer who showed us a few moves,” recalls Chung. “I thought the blending of playacting, history and real-life stories was very well executed.”
Walks could become especially meaningful when familiar locations are viewed through new lenses. The architect Anthony Lai led a group of students from Po Leung Kuk Lee Shing Pik College on a walk around their school in Tsuen Wan. They went up on the terrace of an industrial building and visited an abandoned wet market among other places. Lai was pleasantly surprised by the originality displayed in some of the photographs the students took. He mentions an image that clicked with him particularly well.
“It’s a photo taken with a hand hanging out from the window,
looking down with a singlepoint perspective setting,” says Lai. “The student did a good job in capturing a photo with an angle that is not common to see in everyday life. The window frames in their semi-opened position, together with the structure of the building creates a sense of illusion whereby the wall becomes floor. The image offers a lot of multiple readings.”
Lai is making a video out of the photos taken by the students during the walk. It will serve as the backdrop of the Hong Kong Episodes concert in January 2019. Developed as part of the Jockey Club New Arts Power initiative, the event is a tribute to life in Hong Kong on a typical day, created by Lai and the musicians Fung Lam and Teriver Cheung.
Lai says the experience of discovering Hong Kong anew in the company of young people has been edifying. “I’m inspired by how the students think and see things so purely without limits and constraints,” he says.
One wouldn’t have thought there was much left to discover by walking around in downtown Hong Kong, but it seems someone had a different idea. In February 2019, Hong Kong Arts Festival will present Choreography Walk. Those who sign up will take a walk “from Hollywood Road Park, and down Soho, the Mid-levels and Central, all the way to Pier 7,” says the event’s choreographer Justine A. Chambers.
The pace they are expected to keep will be nothing like what the swarming office-going crowd who walk that route on a regular weekday is used to doing. It will be set at a different rhythm, where walkers engage with the surroundings more mindfully, based on a new awareness of “how architecture, topography, urban planning and civic governance work upon our bodies, and in turn how we can activate our individual and collective physical power upon these forces”.
Along the way there will be a performance or two, so understated that they might be missed if the walkers weren’t totally alert to the surroundings. At the same time it’s required that “the participants move as an ensemble with an awareness of each other and work towards staying together,” notes Chambers.
Between walks that can make participants feel special in a group to those in which the feeling of being part of a group is special, curated walks in Hong Kong seem to be heading in a new direction.