Official Artist
Simon Birch
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Why are there no Chinese science fiction movies?

So I am back in HK after a very educational trip to NYC.I had to move out of my lovely apartment of the last ten years, a huge space in the middle of HK, a 70 year old building, on of the last low rises on my street. It of course, such a cliche, got knocked down to be tuned into a massive tasteless residential block. This is the HK way. So I got evicted and threw a goodbye party which quickly turned into an out of control riot as hundreds of gatecrashers turned up and trashed the place. Which was fine because they are tearing it down anyway but left me a bit sad to see my home with all the memories, abused. It was of course my idea in the first place to trash it. Seemed like a good one at the time. Twat.Now I'm basically homeless, sofa surfing and deciding whether to bother getting a new place or just to keep traveling. The world is supposed to end this year so maybe I'll go see it one more time.My lovely apartment after the last party. Now it's a pile of rubble. Progress....My last day in HK before I left was a fun one, a friend took the lovely Cleo and I for a spin around HK and New Territories in his own helicopter. Dope![](http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ttJNFMukjMg/TyT9UWah-qI/AAAAAAAACFM/ciLOYhMixgc/s400/cleo2.jpg)Ok, so NYC....An immensely positive experience. I don't know the city that well so being there for an extended period really allowed me to see it all from street level, the good, the bad and the hipsters.I was staying in Lower East Side, Alphabet City, which years ago woulda been pretty ghetto but now, as with much of Manhattan, it's losing it's edge and has become as clean and safe, gentrified, as the rest of the ex-Dutch, ex-British colony, ex-native american land. Now it belongs to money of course. But then, don't we all.There's still a little grime here and there, I've never seen so many homeless and crazies. I'm not sure if they come from all over USA to congregate in NYC or they come to the city normal and it turns them crazy. Maybe be a bit of both. If I was homeless I'd get to Florida asap, a lot warmer.On my first night I walked down to the local bar to meet a friend and passed a sweet little old man who looked like part of the neighborhood, i gave him a polite nod, he said 'go fuck yourself'. Nice. Welcome to the jungle.I spent most days walking the streets, something that is remarkably hard to do in HK. It was a pleasure to daily stroll many miles without an incline in sight. Every street offers up a cool cafe or bar or bookshop or gallery an overwhelming cultural energy. From street level and grass roots stores to the many museums and parks and venues. Just a wonderful city.

I spent much time walking the galleries. There are many in Lower East Side that are tiny but exciting and raw. (Joe Sola at Blackstone gallery was a good one. His work was a video of the artist in his studio. He would invite critics or gallerists to see meet him and when they walked into the room he would run and leap straight through the glass window, jackass style). The glut of big player galleries are in Chelsea which are rigid and commercial on a whole other level. In LOE the staff are often the owners and are friendly and engaging and easy to communicate with. In Chelsea the people are often cold and exclusive. But that's just some of the people that work there, it doesn't take away from the truth of the work which, uptown or downtown, is wonderful or awful in varying degrees. LOE can be awful but at least risky and surprising, as is Brooklyn, whereas, in Chelsea, there are no surprises, everything is geared to cover their expensive rents. Nonetheless, some of the work is fantastic and humbling. Joan Mitchell at Cheim and Read being one of them, Peter Liversidge at Sean Kelly was great, and Michael Borremans at David Zwirner being another.Peter Liversidge, a little known young British artist. It looks like a pile of junk but was actually a really well thought out and fascinating exhibition. Joan Mitchell's work was amazing hung together, works from the last few years of her life. Wouldn't have had the same impact at an art fair..... Michael Borremans wonderful oil paintings. I asked how much it was, US$800,000. I said I'd be interested at 10% off. They said no.It all gives one perspective on ones own work as an artist and ones level of activity. It made me feel better about my work but also made me realise I still have a long way to go. The institutions are all packed. Every museum was incredibly well attended, I found that very exciting. So many people pouring through the museums. The MOMA had a DeKooning retrospective which was amazing, Guggenheim had Cattelan which was really fun but one of the highlights was the Museum of Natural History which really makes you feel like being a kid again.

Above from the Museum of Natural History Cattelan at the Guggenheim, very entertaining.Below is work by Carston Holler at the New Museum. His work is a bit circusy, not unlike some of my installation work. I actually met him a while back. He came to my exhibition Hope and Glory. I didn't know who he was when i was introduced to him or what his work was, this seemed to upset him. He was unfriendly. It was a short conversation. I asked him if he wanted to grab a beer. He said he was busy.  Birds in cages, must have ripped that idea offa Dragon-I. I had a go on the slide that snaked through the buildings floors. It felt sad. All this art activity of course makes me, a Hong Kong artist, very jealous as we have nowhere to show our work or any of the platform that is so apparent in NYC, and our city is just so conservative and has little of that edge or individuality. But at the same time, it means we can invent ourselves here and don't have to fit into any existing structure to make our way up the ranks. You define yourself without rules and the only thing to stop you is the limit of your passion. In NYC there is a lot of attention and criticism and competition. None of that here so artists can develop with perhaps a different mindset, unhindered by expectation or market requirements. Of course both cities have pros and cons and this is a complicated discussion but I guess, one has to believe that, as HK is our city, it can be the best place for us to be artists. Otherwise we might as well fuck off to New York and slowly climb our way up their art world ladder. It's not necessary, NYC isn't the be all and end all anymore, the art world is now polycentric.HK offers us artists the opportunity to really make a mark, to be a pioneer and part of some huge cultural developments in a brand new, yet defined, arena.

The only thing holding us back is ourselves. I think our identity is one of the issues. We really should just embrace our unique and multi-cultural past and present. That's a whole other chapter....I was welcomed by friends, and friends of friends, which was lovely but it's not as welcoming as HK. Here we are a smaller community and we are more open to outsiders, we all are exactly that. So we cling together and are always looking for new friends. In NYC they are more insecure and there is a feeling that you're not accepted until you live here and put a few years in and start paying taxes. Until then you're just a tourist so you're not that welcome. In the art world with which I hoped to engage, I was ignored often, people wouldn't make time for me, or brushed me off, which is good for my enormous ego. People in brooklyn were much nicer. And just regular people all over NYC are really very lovely.So I made a couple of great new friends, J, A and N in particular, and they showed me everything the city had to offer, along with old friend Max who always comes through. A highlight was the drive to Montauk, beyond the Hamptons a beautiful little surf town. Also, in the city, a walk along the Highline, such a stunningly simple and positive project, a renovated, elevated, subway line, turned into a park. Wish we had that kind of open space feature in HK. We just keep filling in every gap in the skyline.Montauk. Deserted beaches and plenty of surf.I met some lovely artists who had lived in HK, had a great catch up with my art magazine publisher friend Charles (who did his best to put me off being and artist in NYC), met all kinds of gallery people who were generally awful, tried to meet artists and curators with little success. I met a few, like urban artists Faile, but none seemed keen to hang out. I met a super nice guy with a great gallery of South American photography called 1500 and i met a lady from a well known London gallery, Lazarides, who I managed to get into a fight with about whether people should take an exam before they are allowed to have children.

Had a great time hanging with Daniel Wu who was making a movie in Williamsburg. I got to hang out on set which was really cool. It's an international movie with a great cast, all set on a space ship. Got to chat to many people on set including the art director who designed the movie Pan's Labyrinth.

This inspired me much, so myself and new friend Nicole got together and wrote a screenplay, which led to some fascinating research missions including talking to a number of veteran soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. On the set with Daniel Wu. He plays the captain of the spaceship.On the plane back i was sitting watching a movie, minding my own business in business. Used my points to upgrade. Sweet. Cathay business rocks. Anyway, in the darkness half way through the flight, a person walked past my seat and threw a bit of rubbish on me. It seemed on purpose but they went by so quickly i wasn't quite sure. I picked the crumpled piece of paper up and unravelled it. It said 'Wanna play? 17A'.I got up to show the stewardess and ask who was sitting there. She laughed and said a nice chubby Asian dude. Ha! I went round to 17A and there he was, a young guy with a big smile. I said, 'i'm flattered but unfortunately, I play for the other team'. Everyone was laughing, him me and the staff, and his boyfriend.

I had a quick trip down to Singapore for the art fair there which was very disappointing, but Singapore is great. I know we all dig at it because it's so square and the people have funny accents but there's so much going on there. They kinda put HK to shame culturally. I mean, the government there supports music festivals like Zoukout which are awesome. HK would never allow that kind of thing here, it's such a shame. We have these great places where we could do such thing, look at HK stadium, but the government won't let concerts happen there because a few residents complained about the noise.

Such a lost opportunity. Instead the herd us out to the airport to that shitty expo hall. Shameful.

It's always embarrassing to explain to people coming through HK that there is no art museum, no rock concerts in the city, no dance music festivals, etc. Amazing that if you want any of that you have to go to Singapore. And the air is clean there too! Our government is just way more conservative and rigid than sterile Singapore. Anyway.....Now back in HK I'm newly inspired by my adventure and working on a large installation project as well as a new set of paintings. Am also developing a permanent space for HK but that will take some time. Though the world economy is in trouble, I don't need much to survive, just enough to pay for food and paint, so I think it's gonna be a great year ahead. Will make good art. Will contribute what I can. Will push but not too desperately, and see what happens.My first project is 'Daydreaming With....'This is a project created by old friend James Lavelle. James has a band called UNKLE and has collaborated with all kinds of interesting people over the year in arts, music and fashion. Radiohead, Massive Attack, Beastie Boys, Bathing Ape, Maharishi, Futura 2000, Jonathan Glazer...and on and on.Daydreaming at Haunch of Venison, London last year. Photo doesn't really do it justice as there were lots of dark little rooms and corridors filled with art, hard to photograph.He invited all these people to contribute to an art exhibition a year ago in London. He invited me too. The show was a huge success and very different to your average institutional exhibition so we discussed the idea of bringing the project to HK and expanding on it.Of course, as usual, finding any space or money for this proved impossible until suddenly last week, Swire Properties saved the project by giving us the space (Artistree, where we held Hope and Glory) and some funding to get the thing moving.So we are in business. We are pencilled in  to open this 40 artist group show May 3rd. So we got a heck of a lot of work to do to get it designed, built, shipped, created, PR'd, etc in just a few months. But hey, I like a challenge.Video piece by Doug Foster that we'll be showing in HK.We're just confirming the line up as i write this but it looks pretty awesome with all kinds of artists, big, small, contemporary, film, installation, urban and on and on. Will be so much fun. We're trying to work in a pop up restaurant too to give it even more of a twist. The show is on while the ArtHK art fair is on too. So it's good timing. It'll be a non-profit project again but we'll have a shop selling books and stuff to help with the costs.We won't be getting any money or involvement from the government as they fucked us over on Hope an Glory. The project will remain independent, by the people for the people!Anyway, it's very generous of Swire to support us again. They were so generous to us when we staged Hope and Glory at the same space a year or so ago.In the meantime I'm painting my latest favourite model. Shu Qi is a Taiwanese actress who has been in a ton of movies and built a great award winning career. Super nice girl now staring in new paintings by me! She's a very good actress and is able to look scared and upset on command!2012, here we come...!SBx

over 12 years ago 0 likes  5 comments  0 shares
welcome back, Simon!
over 12 years ago


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Hong Kong
Member Since
September 27, 2007