A Detour in Hong Kong

Detour festival

This might be an odd thing to say about Hong Kong, but the place lacks spontaneity. For all of its hustle and intensity, it’s awfully beholden to routine: every day, the same street markets, the same packed MTR trains, the same carnival of consumerism. Even the political protests, though frequent, are quite orderly, almost choreographed.

So thank goodness for things like Detour, a new art and design festival that is headquartered at the old Married Police Quarters, a wonderful 1950s-era housing block (home to Hong Kong’s chief executive in his early years) that was once home to police families and is now empty and abandoned. Just a few years ago, it was meant to be sold and redeveloped, but it has now been preserved and earmarked for creative uses like Detour.

Detour is run by the Ambassadors of Design, a well-funded group whose stated mission is to make Hong Kong into a more creative city; among the events it organizes are Pecha Kucha Night, Cut and Paste and the Business of Design Week.

For the most part, these things take place inside galleries, design shops and other private venues. But this year’s Detour is the first to occupy a public space, and the Ambassadors have done a wonderful job of converting the police quarters into an urban playground, with installations from dozens of artists housed in the old flats and the central courtyard turned into a big beach. So far, the beach has played host to film screenings, lectures, Pecha Kucha Night and an indie music showcase.

You can read more about the festival at CNNGo, which did a quick survey, and Time Out, which ran a nice feature on the construction of a bamboo bridge between the police quarter’s twin apartment blocks. I wanted to hear more from the event’s organizers, though, so I sat down with two of them, Millie Hung and Alvin Yip, earlier this week. Read the interview here.

Detour festival

Detour festival

Detour festival

Alvin Yip and Millie Hung

Detour festival

Detour festival

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Thursday December 03 2009at 11:12 pm , filed under Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, Politics, Public Space, Society and Culture and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

2 Responses to “A Detour in Hong Kong”

  • LB says:

    Very interesting! That complex looks like an amazing resource. I imagine it would make a fabulous live/work/dorm kind of space – where creative people could set up, some on long term leases, some just visiting etc with the common spaces available for working, exhibits, experimentation, socializing.

  • C. Szabla says:

    I’ve heard the same complaint (about the lack of creativity) from others who’ve lived in Hong Kong as expats. The organizers seem to duck the question: who’s trying to “contain” energy in HK? For all the censorship on the mainland, Beijing has a way more flourishing arts scene than Hong Kong.