M+ keeps up its exposure with cinema show of urban-themed films and video

M+ Screenings: Visible Places is a series of 13 works that focus on the moving image and how imagination shapes our environment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 January, 2016, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 January, 2016, 5:55pm

The countdown to the scheduled opening of M+ in 2019 requires its curators to put together a busy schedule of off-site cultural programmes to help shape public perception of the future museum for visual culture.

Following the warm reception for its March and April showcase “Mobile M+: Moving Images”, and just weeks after “Mobile M+: Live Art” (an ambitious array of multidiscipline performances and exhibitions), the museum will roll out “M+ Screenings”, a new series of programmes that again seek to highlight moving images as one of its major focuses.

Curator Yung Ma says the inaugural programme of 13 works, running from January 15 to 17 at Broadway Cinematheque in Yau Ma Tei, comes under the title “Visible Places” in homage to Italo Calvino’s postmodern novel Invisible Cities, in which Marco Polo charms a war-wearied Kublai Khan with his magical, and mostly made-up, evocation of the places he has visited.

According to Ma, associate curator of moving image at M+, his chosen feature films, documentaries and experimental films are all visual examples of how our imagination reshapes our environments.

Bookending the three-day programme are a pair of 1990s fantasy films that evoked the fear and anxiety prevalent in the city dwellers.

Mak Tai-kit’s Wicked City (1992), a Blade Runner-like thriller produced by Tsui Hark’s Film Workshop, transcends its Japanese anime source to mirror the absurd transformation of Hong Kong’s pre-handover identity.

Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 animated feature Ghost in the Shell is an undisputed classic that contemplates the essence of the soul in a reconfigured Hong Kong cityscape.

The close connection between people and the rapidly transforming countries they live in provides a tenuous link between the two other features in this programme: Jia Zhangke’s 24 City (2008) and Christian Petzold’s Yella (2007).

In the former, the Chinese auteur traces the collective memory of a former Chengdu munitions factory through a fascinating hybrid of fiction and non-fiction, narrated by actual workers and actors. In Yella, the Berlin-based director relates a haunting tale of a divorcee (played by Nina Hoss) who struggles to start anew after moving from East to West Germany.

The exploration of the city by an individual is the common subject of two artist films. While the eight-minute She Said Why Me (1989) by Hong Kong’s May Fung follows a blindfolded woman around the city, Manon de Boer’s Sylvia Kristel – Paris (2003) juxtaposes the titular actress of Emmanuelle fame with scenes of the French capital.

Alongside the fictitious reality created in artist Cao Fei’s 2014 video La Town, the programme also features a diverse selection of videos that distil actual sights of various cities into near-psychological portraits. The most ambitious is probably the crowd-sourced documentary Bitter, Sweet, Seoul (2014), which made use of 141 – out of 11,852 – clips it received from the Korean public.

While relatively modest in scale, the overall programming strikes a nice balance between the popular and the esoteric and gives a taste of the museum’s deliberately eclectic approach to this particular genre of visual culture.

M+ has been actively sourcing screen-based works to add to its permanent collection, Ma says, including everything from online music videos to television programmes. It will not be competing with the Hong Kong Film Archive because M+ is not going to focus on feature films, he adds.

The Herzog & de Meuron-designed building, part of the West Kowloon Cultural District, will feature a permanent moving images section, including three cinemas with seating for 45 to 180 people, and a lounge where visitors can sit in front of interactive screens and call up videos from the M+ collection.

The biggest challenge for the museum is film preservation, a still-new discipline where there are few definite solutions, says Ma.

“Museums around the world only started collecting moving images in the mid-1990s and everyone is grappling with the same problems. How do we know if any of the formats we are using today, or the companies behind them, will exist in 50 years time? How do we digitise films and avoid distorting the colours and the tone? We hope to be a big part of this global conversation for years to come,” he says.

M+ Screenings: Visible Places Jan15-17, Broadway Cinematheque, 3 Public Square Street, Yau Ma Tei. Details: westkowloon.hk/mplusscreenings