The playful works in ‘Street Optics’ illustrate how urban space lends itself to optical experimentation in moving image production. With their ever-roving eyes, unique perspectives, and deft technical skills in cinematography and editing, the featured artists explore the urban environment as not only a manifestation of freedom and belonging but also as a site of alienation and change. By turns lyrical, essayistic, and syncopated, these works contemplate the street as a crucial motif of the city by rendering its alternative possibilities.
Song Dong | 1999 | Single-channel VHS transferred to digital video | Colour | Sound | 4 min.
M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong. By donation
Broken Mirror, one of Song Dong’s early signature video works, depicts street scenes of Beijing. The silhouette of a hammer moves into the frame and shatters it, jarringly revealing the scenery behind. As the gesture is repeated, passers-by realise that the hammer is in front of a mirror which reflects the surrounding environment and other onlookers. As the rhythm intensifies, sequences featuring Tiananmen Square, car traffic, new residential buildings, and the demolition of older houses succeed each other until the artist appears in the last definitive sequence. The unsettling display of coexisting yet opposing states reflects on China’s spectacular urbanisation in the late 1990s and questions the artifice of the city’s fragile surfaces.
Non-place, Other Space
Linda Chiu-han Lai | 2009 | Single-channel digital video | Colour | Sound | 13 min. 45 sec.
M+, Hong Kong
Non-place, Other Space draws from Linda Chiu-han Lai’s personal moving image archive, which documents the sights and sounds of Hong Kong and Macau between 1991 and 2008. The video’s multilayered narrative weaves together banal, everyday places and events—including street-food stalls, random conversations, and media broadcasts—with imagery related to monumental events, such as Lunar New Year, the millennium celebrations, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Through the reorganisation and reactivation of these fragmentary views of Hong Kong street life, recalling its disappeared buildings and outdoor locations, the work shifts between nostalgic meditation on the past and critical analysis of the present.
Static No. 23
Daniel Crooks | 2017 | Single-channel digital video | Colour | Sound | 5 min. 45 sec.
M+, Hong Kong
Shot with a fixed camera in Hong Kong’s iconic Wan Chai Road, Static No. 23 (Revolve) captures and distorts the rhythms of the bustling neighbourhood by harnessing the power of digital production and editing. Bodies and buildings expand and contract from multiple, concurrently visible angles, while forms and colours morph into and away from each other, shifting our perceptions of space and time. The artist treats time as a physical, malleable material, while always retaining the integrity of his core imagery, tethering it to a world that people know and experience every day.
Gordon Matta-Clark | 1975 | Single-channel 16mm film transferred to digital video | Colour | Silent | 18 min. 40 sec.
M+, Hong Kong
Conical Intersect documents Gordon Matta-Clark’s iconic 1975 Paris Biennale project. The artist and his collaborators cut a spectacular cone-shaped void through two historic apartment buildings in Paris that had been slated for demolition as part of the construction of Centre Pompidou. The film documents not only the artistic intervention, but also the reaction of pedestrians witnessing it from the street. The newly created yet ephemeral dialogue between a formerly private space and the public sphere—–against the backdrop of the museum under construction—–concludes with the final demolition of the buildings, drawing attention to the dialectical relationship between creation, deconstruction, and destruction.
Simon Liu | 2019 | Single-channel 35 mm transferred to digital video | Colour | Sound | 13 min.
Courtesy of the artist
A frenetic re-cataloguing of the artist's personal image archives, E-Ticket is a film constructed from 35mm photo negatives and films taken by Liu as a teenager during travels in India, Mexico, and Hong Kong. Scanned frames were cut apart, reshuffled, spliced in rigid increments, and recomposed into intricate geometric compositions, forming patterns that move in rhythmic and emotive iterations. Abstracted cityscapes meld with images of people, places, and moods, reflecting the artist's disparate observations of the world and forming a filmic stream of consciousness that has become a proxy to contemporary lived experience and memories.