Exhibition invites visitors to take a sideways look at our vertical city

Exhibition invites visitors to look down onto recorded scenes of daily life

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 December, 2013, 5:09am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 December, 2013, 5:09am

Like most visitors on their first trip to Hong Kong, artist Peter Alwast was stunned by the cityscape that confronted him.

The bustling streets and forest of towering skyscrapers set against the city's dramatic natural terrain triggered sensory overload, but the scene also planted the seed of an idea.

The Australian decided he wanted to take a sideways look at Hong Kong's vertical style of living by getting people to think differently about their constant struggle to reach higher ground - whether that be a villa on The Peak or an 88th floor apartment.

He worked out pretty quickly that the richer you are in Hong Kong, the higher up you lived.

"Hong Kong is so vertically stacked," Alwast said. "What I wanted to show is that the ground is the common thing. Whether you are elevated or not … the common thing is that we all share a vulnerability to time."

His intriguing work, which opened at the Cattle Depot artists' village in To Kwa Wan on Friday, consists of four video screens showing animated scenes on a loop which he hopes will engage viewers and make them think about the city in which they live.

Since October, Alwast, from Sydney, has spent hours exploring the city, capturing video footage of Hong Kong scenes from skyscrapers in Central to domestic helpers gathered on Sundays, and a broomstick sweeping leaves away to clear a path.

"They are ubiquitous Hong Kong motifs," said Alwast, who shot some footage at the gardens in Caine Road, Mid-Levels, near where he lives.

Using a technique called bitmapping, the video footage is then wrapped around 3D objects to create animations.

These looped animations play on four large monitors placed on the ground so that visitors look down onto the work, and it is this idea of looking down that resonated with the 38-year-old from Sydney.

"To look down is a literal thing in Hong Kong - there's double-decker buses, elevated walkways. But it's also to look down on someone and there's an experience of time and the ground as a universal common thing."

The free show, entitled "Looking Down", runs until Friday December 27 at the Cattle Depot artists' village, formerly a slaughterhouse.