A 7-stage sensory journey back through the decades for 10 friends in São Paulo, an experience spontaneously developed (or started to) after watching Wong Kar Wei’s Chungking Express with Brazilian filmmakers, a film which through its nostalgic depictions of 90s Hong Kong, awkward romances, disjointed narratives, symbolic cultural imagery and haunting songs (canto-pop my mum would play when I was a kid), triggered intense mixed emotions and for the first time asked me to not just ask myself direct questions about my past, my memories, my childhood and my relationships, but to demand a response, an interpretation and an expression of that openly. I’m not sure why there has always been this reluctance to expose too much, of not feeling sure about what I am exposing, I guess truth is so hard to grasp and solidify in words sometimes..
9 Jan: I wanted to start with Chungking Express’ tinned pineapples, bought at a casual local shop in Hong Kong, yet a symbol of character He Qi-Wu’s grating obsession and the date linked to it…
1 May 1994.
At that time I was 7 years old, admittedly my own experiences of Hong Kong as a child are a haze, I had visited a few times and it was always too hot, too mosquitoey, too smelly, too crowded, too noisy, too much walking, up too many hills, too many family members, the food too pungent, too much, too greasy, too boney, too many parts I didn’t want to try, it was an overload in too many ways. I don’t remember much specifically, but I do recall that it was just acutely, unbearably sensory, clashing with my everyday experience for the other 10+ months of the year in monotone, monochrome England. To the point of disliking the place (in some ways) even into my early adulthood, its grip on me only subsided in more recent years as I lived in Shanghai, therefore visiting and taking a more active role in exploring the place in independent, personal ways. Thinking back the intensity and the way it made me feel a sense of conflict physically (the heat), culturally (exposure to un-(or roughly) explained traditions and ideas), emotionally (feelings I could not describe or understand as a child at the time) and socially (I didn’t bond well with some cousins), yet it invited me into a deeply immersive environment, one that pushed me to interpret and engage with it, and therefore also my internal contradictions (living as a child of immigrants in a majority white Western place in 90s England) and I am sure was
of the many triggers that has asked me to question and ask about my own identity, story, history, sense of belonging, about movement and migration, about the role of symbols and traditions, about globalisation and modernism, both of their impacts on our (urban) environments. And somewhere at the core of all that lies food, not just in its literal sense, but again as a symbol (much like He Qi-Wu’s pineapples), a distinct, tangible, tactile, sensory symbol of that indistinct, intangible, murky, confusing connection – and with that to the relationship and understanding of my own mother, father and brother, the expressions of love, devotion and connection – to one’s art, culture and family, (so often expressed through food). To try to understand what is in this complex, nuanced, emotional and personal space, requires for me to deconstruct it, to go back in time, to pull things apart and to look at them from a wider lens, that’s often not my own, in that hope that I can appreciate more about what has fed my life and my being, far more than in sustenance, but also in character, philosophy, perspective and spirit.
So through 王家衛 Wong Kar Wei’s eyes I started, as his hypnotic visuals and narratives transported and drew from within me not just whimsical, imaginary spaces, but existing ones that shaped and continue to shape those around me, and therefore myself also.