活現檔案歷史 ∣ Bringing Alive Archival History
約翰百德 (John BATTEN)
at 10:19pm on 23rd January 2017
1. Old Master Q advertising on window at Comic Home Base exhibition, January 2017.
2. 'Honor King' exhibited at University of Hong Kong Museum, January 2017
(Please scroll down for English version)
動漫基地有一個開放庭園，以往一直少被運用，是次展覽則成為老夫子漫畫電影的戶外放映館。我看了桂治洪執導的《我係老夫子》（1976），電影以肥瘦諧星「勞萊與哈台」（Laurel and Hardy）那種老式滑稽肢體打鬧為主，出乎意料地意淫，而且在社會與政治上都不正確，然而這種小清新卻令大小觀眾（包括我）捧腹大笑！
香港大學美術博物館現正舉辦另一歷史檔案展覽《水盡雲起––金賽收藏之非洲裔美國人的藝術及歷史》。這次難得的機會，讓觀眾得以一睹各式與非洲裔美國人相關的文件和藝術真品，展現他們在美國的豐富歷史、成長和文化發展中的經歷、奮鬥和貢獻。大部份展品都與奴隸和種族主義相關，而麥爾坎．X（Malcom X） 和馬丁．路德．金等積極推動人權活動人士的書信真跡更令歷史躍現眼前。其中一幅寫有「HONOR KING: END RACISM!」（尊崇金：結束種族主義！）的海報便帶有特別強烈的感覺。它是其中一幅於1968年4月8日（馬丁．路德．金被行刺後的數天）在田納西州孟菲斯市街頭高舉的海報。另一幀照片拍下了黑人與白人男女在孟菲斯連成陣線、舉起這些海報，為獨立展出的海報提供了歷史背景。到了今天，海報背後的含意仍然與世界各地的現況息息相關。
Bringing Alive Archival History
Comix Home Base is housed in a row of Wan Chai tenement buildings built in the 1910s. A style of building previously seen throughout Hong Kong, but after successive waves of redevelopment, these, sadly, are the only survivors from this period. Now publicly owned, they have been preserved by the government and the Urban Renewal Authority was tasked with their renovation and future management. Immediately before their renovation these buildings were low-cost and hostel accommodation and their basic internal layout is still best suited for residential uses. However, the Urban Renewal Authority has designed the renovated buildings for retail, food and beverage and exhibition uses. These are all awkward spaces in which to operate – fire, safety and building regulations have prescribed that staircases, elevators, circulation and toilet facilities dominate the building’s internal layout because of its public and entertainment uses. The retail and restaurant spaces do have slightly larger areas, but the Comix Home Base exhibition space is small and spread over several floors.
The renovated tenement buildings were proposed by the Hong Kong Arts Centre to the Urban Renewal Authority to be a dedicated, permanent space for the exhibition of comics/cartoons. The Hong Kong Arts Centre had previously seen large audiences visiting their occasional comics exhibitions, and a devoted space for comics was thought to be attractive to the public. However, this has not transpired. Reading cartoons and watching animation films may be popular in Hong Kong, but exhibitions devoted to comics is actually a niche area of interest and Comix Home Base’s limited exhibition space has restricted the size and scope of exhibitions that can be mounted.
Over the last eighteen months, the Hong Kong Arts Centre and the Urban Renewal Authority have been forced to expand the type of exhibitions mounted at Comix Home Base: sound art, art inspired by literature and photography exhibitions have recently been shown. Despite keeping its name, comics and cartoon exhibitions are no longer solely shown at Comix Home Base. Also, education activities, talks and video showings support exhibitions. Consequently, despite the space’s physical limitations, exhibitions at Comix Home Base are more diverse and engaging for audiences. The sole use of these heritage buildings as a comics ‘base’ was misguided, but changing the tenement buildings from their original residential uses was also wrong. In the future, it is conceivable that they may again be used for housing.
The recently finished Old Master Q exhibition, however, was an excellent cartoon-themed show. It comprised a well-mounted archival display of the cartoons of ‘Old Wong Chak’ (Alphonso Wong) and his son ‘Young Wong Chak’ (Joseph Wong) who have continuously drawn the Old Master Q cartoons since the early 1960s. The curator of the exhibition, Stanley Wong Ping-pui, complemented the original exhibition of cartoons with his own ‘contemporary art’ interpretations: thus, we see a walking Old Master Q as the “Julian Opie of the East”, using British artist Julian Opie’s walking-style videos as inspiration. This gave the exhibition a contemporary feel.
There is an open courtyard at Comic Home Base; in the past it has rarely been used, but during this exhibition outdoor screenings of films based on Old Master Q cartoons were shown. I watched Mr Funny-bone (1976) directed by Kuei Chih-hung. It was old-style slapstick humour of the Laurel & Hardy variety. It was surprisingly bawdy, refreshingly socially and politically incorrect and all the children in the audience, including me, enjoyed it!
A similar archivaI exhibition now showing is Rising Above: the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection at the University Museum and Art Gallery of The University of Hong Kong. This is a rare opportunity to see original documents and art related to the African-American experience, struggle and contribution to USA’s rich history, growth and cultural development. Exhibits related to slavery and racism predominant, and such items as the original letters of Civil Rights activists Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr bring history alive. Particularly poignant is an original poster stating: ‘HONOR KING: END RACISM!’. This is one of the posters carried through the streets of Memphis, Tennessee on 8 April 1968, just days after King’s assassination in that city. An accompanying photograph of lines of women and men, black and white, carrying these posters in Memphis puts this single displayed poster into its historic context. Its message is still relevant, around the world, today.
Links for further info:
Rising Above: the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection - until 26 February 2017
Indulging in Imagination - Exhibition of Old Master Q's Comics Works
Chinese translation: Aulina Chan
Originally published in Ming Pao Weekly, 7 January 2017