Making a Home IV

13th March 2021
credits: Marie Yan

Some break in this journal…

After I sorted the flat, I started going around.

I already have my favourite bus, number 81 to West Kowloon Station Terminus. It goes straight south to the busier districts of Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui.

I wanted to go to Hong Kong Island a couple of weeks ago and the journey was close to 90 minutes. Because I have the luxury of time, I didn’t mind.

On my way to my second bus to the Hong Kong island, I walked passed the HK Polytechnic University which I had heard so much about when it was occupied during the 2019 protests against the extradition bill.

I later looked up a picture of the place right after its forced evacuation. Collision of time, from yesterday to today, if this picture didn’t exist, could I have guessed what had happened? Only a few traces of damage remain on the walls.

You may or may not have heard of it, a documentary by a collective of anonymous filmmakers about this episode, called Inside the Red Brick Wall, was pulled from release last minute after attacks in a pro-government newspaper mid-March. This started a chain of events I am indirectly tied to while I write A Tidal Home.

I wrote about it on my wall at the time, after the film was pulled, HK’s chief executive Carrie Lam declared the government would from now on be on full-alert to make sure artists would abide by the wildly interpretable National Security Law.

The production team of A Tidal Home had a crisis meeting after our funders followed in the steps of the government, reminding artists have to respect the law.

The script was already making references to protests, even if the place of the drama was fictional. And the entire production relies on this one funding. Legal advice was not hopeful.

We decided to split the play in two parts, two separate stories, one about the city overcoming a flood, one about its near-collapse following social protests.

And hope to produce the first one in Hong Kong and keep the second one for a production in Europe.

So here we are restarting almost from scratch.

The greatest trick played by advancing authoritarianism is to create the illusion of events. Make us believe we have crossed a line, we have sought the punishment that falls on us. It’s dramaturgy as I’ve studied it for theatre: a narrative cause must lead to a narrative consequence. But it is only to disguise as long as is necessary the face of pure arbitrariness, which can only ever be the resource of any hegemonic claim to power.

In reality, it barely needs any reason to pass a new measure. Anything can do, or even nothing at all. Since the goal is already set.

I don’t doubt the restriction of freedom of artistic expression was only waiting to be enacted. For sure the moment the Polytechnic University was occupied, claiming one of the strongholds of free thought and the youth, the moment protesters resisted the police and the eviction, already the arts had to become a target. Because art remembers with eyes that can’t be bought or convinced of anything else than what they saw and felt.

I feel so strongly the injustice unfolding right now and how paradoxically it fuels my own sense of belonging here. Can you ever be home when you don’t in some way bear the wounds of a place?

18th November 2019
credits: China Daily

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