High & Dry

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2007, 12:00am

The Conservancy Association

Centre for Heritage

Sep 1 to 30

It runs through Peel, Graham and Gage streets in Central and is where locals get their daily supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. It has also featured in numerous films, soaps and commercials. But the Central wet market, which has been part of the social fabric of the neighbourhood for more than a century, now faces an uncertain future, with government plans to redevelop the area.

Conservationists say they're not convinced by reassurances from the authorities that the market won't be demolished. Nor are artists taking part in a multimedia exhibition that opens on Saturday.

However, High & Dry isn't a protest against the redevelopment, which was proposed a decade ago. Rather, the group show sets out to celebrate this important piece of Hong Kong heritage.

Project director Jay Forster says the show isn't a hardcore sociopolitical act. 'The whole point of it is a celebration of the Gage Street market because otherwise artists end up just ranting,' he says. 'The idea is to bring awareness, and highlight the vibrancy of the market.'

More than 40 artists, including designers, filmmakers and photographers, are taking part. Most of the works are installations, but there are also videos and photographs on display.

Forster, a professional designer, managed to recruit some high-profile names, including anothermountainman (Stanley Wong Ping-pui), G.O.D co-founder Douglas Young and celebrity photographer Wing Shya. Also taking part are James Hacking, Cedric Maridet, Wanda Choi, William Furness, Henry Ip Siu-fung and Rob McGuire.

Forster says many of the works aren't specifically about the wet market, but rather an artistic exploration of the concept of markets. 'Some works are direct, like a nice image of the market or a well-taken photograph,' he says. 'But a lot of stuff I've seen has taken the theme of market and used it as an abstract [expression] or come up with something abstract with that.'

Forster says High & Dry is the first phase of a plan by the artists to save the wet market: 'The history of it is incredible. It's a 140-year-old area and it's always been a market. If the [stall owners] get evicted, the older generation will die. The only thing that keeps them going is the fact that they have something to do every day.'

However, the government and property developers are likely to get their way. Forster agrees, but says it doesn't mean people should just sit around doing nothing.

'We'll have achieved something,' he says. 'At least it will preserve the memory of the market, if nothing else.'

Mon-Sun, 10am-6pm, Annex Block, Conservancy Association Centre for Heritage, 36A, Western St, Sai Ying Pun. Free