Lights, cameras, action ... artist fights street glare

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 March, 2011, 12:00am

Flashing neon shop signs, glaring street lamps, huge screens on building facades showing bright adverts.

They might be a sign of prosperity in Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mong Kok, but to web designer Wesley Wai Ming-sum who lived in the area for nine years before moving to Ngau Tau Kok last year, they were perennial eyesores that disturbed his sleep and got on his nerves.

The 31-year-old took 6,000 pictures of the sources of light pollution from his fifth-floor flat in an old building on the street. He combined them in two, two-minute videos for his graduation project last year at Hong Kong Arts School. They were uploaded onto YouTube last week.

Wai called them the 'Lucifer Effect' after the book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by American psychologist Philip Zimbardo, which explores how good-natured people can be made to commit evil deeds.

The videos are accompanied by noise from traffic lights, jackhammers and the busy pedestrian flow.

The fine arts graduate said the light pollution, combined with the irritating din of hawkers' cries, police sirens and thugs shouting in the evening drove him crazy.

'What inspired me to make the videos was the first acid attack in Mong Kok [which injured 46 people in 2008]. I think the culprit could be anybody who is driven crazy by all the light and noise there.

'The lights are on until late into the night. I didn't have to switch on the light for illumination at night. I was an insomniac then and stayed wide awake because of the light.'

Despite only paying monthly rent of around HK$2,000, he moved out last year before he got married.

'My wife couldn't stand it. She said it was like sleeping on the street.'

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, environmental affairs manager for Friends of the Earth, said a law should be passed against light pollution.

There is no specific legislation in Hong Kong regulating outdoor lighting, and government officials are pondering whether such a law is necessary. There were 226 complaints about light pollution last year, 13 more than in 2009.