Update from Hemlock

The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator this morning is one of unbridled inquisitiveness as Hong Kong’s disfranchised and neglected middle class try to get to the bottom of the ultimate government whitewash: the painting-over of the stripped pine in the Central Market hanging-gardens corridor. No sooner has the emulsion dried than certain insightful predictions are proved correct, and the job is revealed to be an undercoat with a view to further aesthetic enhancement of the locale.

The work is at an early stage, but there is sufficient outline to see what is happening, and it is not going to be pretty. Heaven knows it is scary enough when our civil servants attempt to be creative. But when they gather in their committees to choose successful applicants among Hong Kong graphic designers vying to demonstrate their artistic imaginations in public, the results can be bloodcurdling. My neighbours and I stand in awe of what is grimly forming.

“That’s so revolting it makes me think they would have been better off knocking the place down and selling it to the property developers to build another mega-tower,” says Mr Chan the asset manager.

Maybe, I suggest, that’s the whole idea. Fortunately, I have a breakfast assignation with sharp and shapely Administrative Officer Winky Ip ahead of me, and I will discover the truth.

The splendorous bureaucrat is stirring her congee as I sit down opposite her in the elegant Formica confines of Yuet Yuen restaurant. When I show her the pictures of the unfolding artistry she is defensive.

“Let’s get this straight,” I tell her. “Exhibit A. You paint over natural wood surrounded by genuine potted plants. Then you ask someone to come along and paint really bad-looking, um, plants over it.”

Winky looks at me suspiciously. “Correct.”

“OK,” I continue. “And then we have this thing here. Exhibit B. A sunset, maybe a bit Van Gogh or a bit pointillist, over a…”

Winky examines my photo. “That’s a cornfield.”

“OK, a sunset over a cornfield.” I look at it myself for a few seconds. “Can you tell me how the sun has come to be reflected in the amber waves of grain?”

“It’s the ocean,” she snaps back. “I was thinking of something else.”

“What kind of an ocean is it that clearly has some sort of vegetation growing on it?”

“It’s the Sargasso Sea. That’s seaweed.”

I personally find such slippery evasiveness rather fetching in female officials, but not everyone shares this taste, and I remind Winky that Hong Kong’s residents expect greater transparency these days. Come clean, I urge her. What’s really happening here?

As we sip tea and prepare to head off to our respective offices, she admits that there is an agenda at work. She produces a story in today’s South China Morning Post: ‘Beijing to build world’s slowest maglev’…

“Tell you what,” I say, “if you give me enough funding, I bet I could build an even slower one.”

“No no,” Winky assures me. “That would be me-too-ism. We’d get criticized for that. But we have to do something to put Hong Kong on the map and make sure we don’t get left behind by the mainland. So this is it.” She points to the pictures of Central Market. “We’re going to have the world’s most unnecessary, ugliest and stupidest urban indoor mural! The decision was made at the very top! Who’s going to be able to beat that?”

Click to hear the Great Society’s ‘Grimly Forming’!



This entry was posted in Hemlock. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Update from Hemlock

  1. Maugrim says:

    I think we have a vision as to what we can expect from the West Kowloon project in terms of artistic standards and how the area might be ‘decorated’.

    So, inflation is a problem and they give every man and woman over 18 $6,000, a week after saying they wont?

  2. Shanghai Bling says:

    Could the model the kids are oogling be a 1:1 scale model, as in the classic Blackadder IV episode? Alternatively, perhaps it’s the equivalent of the 18″ Stonehenge stage prop that made a guest appearance in the film Spinal Tap.

  3. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Someone needs to tell the fat kid not to touch the exhibit.

  4. Big Al says:

    Actually, that’s not a model – that’s the real train. So, not only will it be the world’s slowest maglev train, it will also be the smallest. And the one with the shortest track – you see the full length in the photo, just from side of the room to the other. Still, there are benefits; it will be relatively cheap to construct and will have a very small carbon footprint.

  5. Bundle of His says:

    I’d been hoping for many years that they would pull down that ugly chunk of concrete that is Central Market. I even tried to figure out how they would approach the construction of a new shiny tower vis-a-vis the existing bridge over Des Voeux Road Central.

    Let’s be honest: Central Market has no redeeming features whatsoever. And if that is Bauhaus then I know a few more Bauhaus buildings in old Kwun Tong, if you are interested.

  6. Its an Eyesore says:

    True only in Hong kong could a smelly decrepd piece of junk like the central market be saved whilst anything remotely aestetic gets bulldozed. I remain convinced (CONVINCED I TELL YOU! CONVINCED!!) that everyone who wanted central market “saved” belived that they meant western market, or one of the other actualy historic buildings in Central (the bulding wher the fringe/FCC is , the Old bank of china, th building with Shanghia tang in it, err thats it.
    Only explanation that makes sense.

  7. Victoria Northwich says:

    You mean, Eyesore detector, that we could perhaps hive the CM building off on the yanks over in Arizona who in the 1960s bought London Bridge in the mistaken belief they were going to be getting Tower Bridge? It sounds good to me.

  8. Hunny Chail says:

    One time I sees a child art exhibition with my momma Lady Marmalade.

    All de paintings were mounted on fridge doors!

  9. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Perhaps the uric-scented hobo who lives on the stairs can lodge a claim of adverse possession. What’s the period required for that vs the government in HK – 12 or 50 years? Perhaps the hobo will turn out to have been funded by a property tycoon to live there all this time. As long as the hobo is not Louis Koo and the property tycoon is not Richard Li, the media will report it in full.

  10. Stephen Vines says:

    where does that clochard get the $$$ to buy that booze ? Is he eligible to get the 6k from John “Dirty Sanchez” Tsang ?

  11. Mike Giggler says:

    “We don’t need no stinkin’ budgets.”

  12. stanley says:

    “All de paintings were mounted on fridge doors!”

    George, that’s a line poached from the great Stephen Wright. Really, enough please. Choose another persona if you must but no more HC…

  13. stanley says:

    And, before you start, no – I don’t have a stick up my ass…..

Comments are closed.