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A woman wearing a black dress and sporting a large bow in her hair is seen resting her hand on a watermelon that is placed on a stool in an electronics market. She appears to be staring down at the fruit. The street is lined with densely packed stalls, some of which have strips of LED lighting hanging from the awnings above. The only visible person in the photo is the woman.

The Hong Kong as Mise-en-scène video commission project invites local artists to showcase their creative visions by exploring Hong Kong through an experimental, cinematic lens. The result is a series of thought-provoking videos that capture the complexities and rich visual texture of Hong Kong.

M+ is dedicated to exploring visual culture and expanding the boundaries of the museum experience. To further this mission, we commenced a digital content initiative in early 2022, just a few months after the museum’s opening in late 2021. Our goal was to develop a global voice in the conversations about visual culture and to capture and preserve the rich visual texture of Hong Kong, our home city.

Still image of the moon in a light evening sky with buildings aligned along the bottom and right of the frame. In the foreground, bamboo scaffolding is visible, and a film sprocket can be seen on the right side of the image.

Reverberation by experimental filmmaker Dorothy Cheung interweaves the past and present in a poetic voyage through the streets of Yau Ma Tei

Inspired by iconic images of Hong Kong that have appeared in countless films and have imprinted themselves in the minds of millions, we adopted the concept of ‘mise-en-scène’ to leverage the narrative and documentative power of moving images. A term from film studies, mise-en-scène refers to the arrangement of visual elements within a frame, including everything in front of the camera—the set, props, lights, colours, actors, costumes—and how they relate or interact with one another. To stage Hong Kong as mise-en-scène allows us to observe the city in the form of a cinematic setting, unfold its intricate textures and sensibilities, and expand its visual identity.

A body movement artist stands on a rooftop, with a city skyline of illuminated apartment buildings in the background. The sky reflects the city's lights. The rooftop is lit by a green glow from the stairwell. The artist is dressed in a black outfit that exposes his upper body and arms.

Cinematographer Etienne Leung’s improvisational piece Hack the Moment intertwines the city’s urban landscape with light, sound, and body movements

We were excited about the many stories that could be told with this mise-en-scène approach. We also believed that it should be a collective effort to develop a new stream of voices that inspects the city through different lenses. It should be a discourse, not a one-way statement.

That’s why Hong Kong as Mise-en-scène was developed as an artistic commission initiative that invited home-grown videographers from diverse backgrounds to propose their creative concepts. Among the submissions, five proposals were selected for realisation.

Six people stand together in an industrial freight lift, surrounding a young girl who holds up a light in her palm.

Lifting, by documentary filmmaker Lo Chun Yip, explores the heart-warming connections that take place in Hong Kong's lifts, providing a glimpse into the city’s unique vertical landscape and its impact on the people who live there

While developing the videos, we encouraged open discussions and ideas-sharing between the videographers and M+ representatives. After months of hard work, we are grateful to see Hong Kong as Mise-en-scène videographers Dorothy Cheung, Etienne Leung, Lo Chun Yip, Lo Lai Lai Natalie, and Benny Woo successfully experiment with unique strategies to create visual journeys of their impressions of Hong Kong while offering self-reflective and thought-provoking views of the city’s complexities and contradictions.

As a museum dedicated to visual culture, we believe in the power of moving images to explore and document the world around us. Through the Hong Kong as Mise-en-scène initiative, we have created a platform for emerging videographers to showcase their creative visions and for audiences to experience Hong Kong in new and exciting ways. We hope this initiative will inspire more artists to explore the potential of videography and contribute to ongoing conversations about visual culture.

Close-up of rice plants growing in a paddy field, with obscured human legs covered in mud visible in the background.

Deliberately Flow by video artist Lo Lai Lai Natalie engages with amateurs in the rice fields to capture the dynamics of farming in Hong Kong

About Video Commissions

M+ is committed to providing platforms for projects by creative practitioners who propose new frameworks and discussions for visual culture. Hong Kong as Mise-en-scène is a video commission initiative launched in 2022 to support emerging talents and to foster conversations with local creatives.

Image at top: Visual artist Benny Woo’s Pillars uses an ensemble of fragmented daily experiences to explore the stereotypical gaze of social media that shapes our identities

Elaine Wong
Elaine Wong
Elaine Wong

Elaine Wong is Video Producer, Digital Programme at M+.

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