Urban Islands

Cross-disciplinary, collaborative pop-up installation and performance
February – March 2016

It is a cross-disciplinary exploration of the threshold as creative inspiration. A group of English creative writing students co-wrote a narrative “The Owl” about the liminal experience of arrival to the HKU Centennial Campus through the elevator. The narrative would serve as the design brief for landscape architects to render the story into a simulated elevator installation.

I remember ice cream-smeared roller-coaster rides with my mother in amusement parks: that thrill of rising and not daring to look, that disorientedness. As I am pulled upwards, my body caves in, for a moment becoming elongated. My nimble neck doesn’t seem to hold the heavy skull any more and my dangling arms feel like they are falling apart. Vertigo is wobbliness, dizziness and breathlessness all at once; I wonder if I die little by little on each elevator ride. The machinery of movement reminds me how little my frail body can contain. Is it just me or do others feel the same? Everyone seems absorbed in thought, wallowing in their own confusions and loneliness. Here I am in this box of contingent intimacy with strangers, I almost see their anxieties projected into mid-air and bounce between the reflective walls, like how air particles collide fiercely in compressed space.

With professional actors and theatre workers, we developed a live performance in and around the installation, with our narrative playing in the background as voiceover, to be performed as part of the “Island Cities and Urban Archipelagos” conference.

Exhibition and performance: 11 March 2016 / HKU Black Box, Pokfulam