Hong Kong

Latest travel distraction is the world capital of the technocommercialists. Of course, it’s a city that I adore to the edge of brain-stem seizure. Just seeing the Kowloon container port is almost enough to persuade one that the process on this planet is actually going OK.

Naively, I had expected that Mandarin would have made some obvious inroads since the last time I was here (roughly six years ago). No sign of that, though. It’s quite stunning how much English there is here, and the extent to which English remains the default alternative to Cantonese. That has to have important implications in respect to the cultural foundations of Hong Kong autonomy.

Expeditionary inertialization due to exhausted children prevented exploration getting off the ground today. Nothing too adventurous is likely to happen, but I’ll try to record a few sporadic notes here. Hong Kong is an iconic city, with an exceptional intensity of sociopolitical meaning,  so it should be possible to discuss — and even argue about — it.

I’m only here (with family) for a few days, then returning to Shanghai for six weeks of solitary, extremely high-intensity production. After Thursday, if anybody has extravagant demands to make, it’s the time to make them. Whatever is ever going to be possible should be possible soon. Most likely, I’ll learn some crushing lessons about project feasibility, because all my excuses will be gone.

ADDED: Hong Kong has to be a critically important example for the development of the sovereignty discussion. It’s almost certainly the freest society in the world, whilst quite clearly under the sovereignty of a nation that, even to its its most ardent defenders, equally certainly isn’t. Perhaps this doesn’t rise to the level of a paradox. After all, up until 1997, when it served (retrospectively) as a crucial case of the neoreactionary thesis — distinguishing liberty and democracy with extreme clarity — the structure was not altogether different. Even then, the colonial metropolis was evidently pitched at a far lower level of liberty than its comparatively small, powerless, and insultingly disposable possession. Given the international image of the PRC, however, it would surely be hard to argue that the peculiarity had not been exacerbated.

In Hong Kong, the PRC ‘oversees’  an outpost that operates as a zone of uninhibited reflection upon its ideologically hyper-sensitive motherland. There are many ways to explore this. It connects with the larger issue of Cantonese ethnic self-consciousness —  a topic of truly immense significance for China’s medium-term future. It has important academic and media dimensions. It also shapes the concrete reality of China’s engagement with the world, especially in its most ‘deterritorialized’  or cosmo-capitalist dimension.

On this trip, the area which brought it most into focus was the visual arts. Most particularly, a fascinating exhibition at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center called Light before Dawn: Unofficial Chinese Art 1974-1985. This show covered material that might have been found in Shanghai today, except what would have been explored approximately, cautiously, and with nervous cunning in Shanghai, was brought together brazenly and (for anyone habituated to mainland cultural norms) provocatively in Kong Kong. The message of the exhibition was stark: Socialist Realism was benighted, and the cultural escape from the command economy era was a liberation from totalitarian night. The three decades from 1949-79 were a horror story, from which China has been released. It scarcely needs to be said that this is not a narrative in conformity with the ‘official’ PRC storyline of Reform and Opening, and its historical meaning.

Setting aside the details of the show, for the moment, the questions it raises concern Hong Kong, China, sovereignty, and cultural autonomy. Does China surreptitiously appreciate this offshore zone of critical leverage? Does it merely tolerate Hong Kong’s role as gadfly, due to the preeminence of other factors, and interests? (Chinese mainland capitalism clearly makes massive use of the ‘One Country Two Systems’ arrangement, in many different ways.) How functional is a peripheral zone of exorbitant freedom, considered abstractly, as an appendage to large-scale authoritarian social structures in general? Could this be the way that a rational apparatus of power realistically discriminates, eagerly seizing upon an invaluable exemption from impractical universalism? That is what Outside in suspects.

June 29, 2013admin 52 Comments »
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52 Responses to this entry

  • Scharlach Says:

    I don’t suppose you brought a camera with you, did you?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Afraid not. There must be some good image sources out there — but I’ve been stunned by the amazing new buildings that I hadn’t heard or seen the slightest hint about (not that I’ve really been paying attention).

    [Reply]

    Olof Reply:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/26706225@N08

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Thanks. A far more well-rounded portrait than I’d have put together.

    [Reply]

    Posted on June 29th, 2013 at 11:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • John Hannon Says:

    What’s the music scene like in HK these days? Does any particular genre predominate? And how does it compare to Shanghai in this regard?
    (assuming you’re able to park the kids and hit the clubs occasionally)

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    … an assumption, I’m afraid, that would be completely unfounded.

    [Reply]

    John Hannon Reply:

    Pity.
    To expand the question – consider how many cities have a specific musical genre associated with them, for instance –
    New Orleans – Jazz
    Nashville – Country and Western
    Chicago – Urban Blues
    Philadelphia – Soul
    Detroit – Techno
    Seattle – Grunge
    Liverpool – Merseybeat
    Coventry – 2 Tone
    Bristol – Trip Hop
    London – Acid Techno and Dubstep
    Birmingham – Heavy Metal and Grindcore
    Rotterdam – Gabba
    Tallin – Techstep
    Here musical form becomes an integral facet of a city’s identity.
    What then of Hong Kong?
    Maybe it’s simply too busy to cultivate a sonic identity.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    It’s a fascinating line of questioning, and not easy to respond to quickly or with confidence. For one thing, ‘sonic (urban) identity’ seems to be something of a lagging indicator, arriving late in the sequence of a city’s achievements (perhaps with more than a slight trace of decadence). Consider Tokyo, which is huge, and comparatively mature for an East Asian capitalist-hub metropolis — what does it have as a distinctive, internationally distinctive sonic identity? Not nothing, for sure, but equally, not anything very easy to pin down.
    In any case, the more than slightly revolting idea of me going clubbing doesn’t have much to do with moving this conundrum forwards to partial resolution. ‘Sonic identity’ — by its very nature — should make a splash, in cyberspace, and elsewhere. If it needs tracking down on foot, it isn’t happening.

    spandrell Reply:

    Obviously Hong Kong’s trademark style is Cantopop. What else can it be.

    Posted on June 30th, 2013 at 3:49 am Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    “Obviously Hong Kong’s trademark style is Cantopop.” — Yes, Anna was insisting on that as the only imaginable answer. Yet, when wandering around the place, with music bleeding out of venues of various kinds, Cantopop doesn’t seem to be very obviously represented. As far as my own prejudices are concerned, it’s way too vacuously saccharine to be the sonic emissary of what is happening here (but that isn’t really an argument).

    [Reply]

    spandrell Reply:

    What Hong Kong youth care about is banksta rap. Little sonic emissions I’m afraid.

    [Reply]

    The Lorax Reply:

    What music does Outside In prefer? Your name always comes up in relation to Jungle, but as far as I know you’ve never written anything about it specifically.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    I tend to like anything that’s high energy, dark, technologically edgy, and inhumane

    [Reply]

    raptros_ Reply:

    the monolith deathcult. what do you think of them?

    nydwracu Reply:

    You won’t hear gogo or emo music in DC unless you go looking for it. And yet…

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 1st, 2013 at 10:08 am Reply | Quote
  • John Hannon Says:

    Tokyo has a strong association with extreme Cybergrind, as exemplified by the wonderfully deranged producer and performer Maruosa.
    (Check out his track “Muscle Spark” on YouTube. You’ll be glad you did)

    [Reply]

    spandrell Reply:

    You gotta be kidding.

    [Reply]

    Mark Warburton Reply:

    I prefer bands like ‘Envy’, ‘Nitro Mega Prayer’, and ‘Heaven in her Arms’. The Japanese love the cross-over cultural influences of western, alternative sub-genres and that whole epic romanticism you find in some anime.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “(Check out his track “Muscle Spark” on YouTube. You’ll be glad you did)” — that’s getting there …

    [Reply]

    nydwracu Reply:

    How much Japanoise is from Tokyo?

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 1st, 2013 at 11:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    Envy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kknh0HJrkTA

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    A bit too much gentle plinking for my taste

    [Reply]

    Mark Warburton Reply:

    Have heart, tin man!

    [Reply]

    John Hannon Reply:

    Human, all too human – and using old-fashioned conventional rock instruments too.
    Maruosa, on the other hand, creates his inhumanly-fast, sensory-overloaded blasts of cyborg spazz-out entirely on his laptop.

    [Reply]

    Mark Warburton Reply:

    “Human, all too human” – granted – I guess this is where I wave the white flag: anti-humanistic music ain’t my thang.

    [Reply]

    nydwracu Reply:

    Venetian Snares? Although you’d probably prefer Frog Pocket.

    Re: epic metal romanticism, Americans can do it too.

    Posted on July 2nd, 2013 at 12:07 pm Reply | Quote
  • John Hannon Says:

    @John Hannon

    “… the more than slightly revolting idea of me going clubbing…”

    Don’t believe a word of Admin’s false modesty –
    I bet Nick (still) looks good on the dancefloor,
    Dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984.

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    yeah, typical british modesty — internationally renowned renaissance man holds court nightly at finest clubs on the planet where twenty-somethings throw digits at him like a ticker-tape parade.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    I should probably blame myself for the course this thread is taking …

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    The common denominator in all of your wayward threads is you.

    Posted on July 2nd, 2013 at 5:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    “The common denominator in all of your wayward threads is you.” — Last Psychiatrist riffs are always welcome (and telling).

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 3rd, 2013 at 10:24 am Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    “monolith deathcult” — kind of retro (but that’s OK,right?)
    If the tone here turns a little odd over the next few days, you can probably put it down to TMDC growling in the background. (Still have to work out whether you can do fundamental ontology to it.)

    (It ‘helps’ that, unlike most multimedia-heavy content, their site lances effortlessly through the Great Firewall like Xiong Nu armed with stripped-neutron incisors)

    [Reply]

    raptros_ Reply:

    the stuff on their website ranges over TMDC’s entire career. their latest album (Tetragrammaton) is amazing, though.

    also if you want ultra-aggressive heaviness, I don’t think it gets much further out there than bands like Wormed (their latest album, Exodromos, is a monster).

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “if you want ultra-aggressive heaviness” — speedy and sinister is normally more my thing (but I’m enjoying the metal gulfs tour)

    The Exodromos cover image is seriously awesome — you could launch a conspiracy for world domination with that font.

    [Reply]

    nydwracu Reply:

    Y’all have the exact opposite taste in metal from me, I see. My vision of the end of the world is a suburban one: we don’t get armies of Lovecraftian demons from the Furthest Ring, we just crush ourselves with asphalt under a purple sky and everyone gives up living. And the only thing to do with a crushing expanse of undifferentiated asphalt is to crush back harder. I like bands like Pyha, Csejthe, and Wreck of the Hesperus… and Swans, of course.

    I suspect I’ll start appreciating death metal more once I move to a city…

    Posted on July 7th, 2013 at 2:06 am Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    @ nydrwracu
    I greatly appreciate the pointers. (Also the irony that your nic sounds like a death metal outfit)

    [Reply]

    John Hannon Reply:

    If blastbeats do it for you, I’ve experimentally combined them with TB-303 acid riffs to produce a hybrid genre I call SpeedAcid. I’ve posted 3 rough examples on YouTube (search SpeedAcid).

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Well that chilled me out …

    [Reply]

    John Hannon Reply:

    You’re a funny man Nick.

    Posted on July 7th, 2013 at 11:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    @

    Yeah, not my thing. Guitars almost always have to feature. My sister is into VS, for sure. Speaking of which, here she is : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzqWRPNxeDI

    I’m more into the philosophy-core of Locktender:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFHs1n4oHww

    or the post-black metal/screamo of Deaf Heaven: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWyVhIBmdGw

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Can you listen to this [a], and seriously tell me you need a guitar in there? (I realize you guys were still in diapers when all this [b] was happening.)

    My links are getting repeatedly screwed — don’t know why … I’m going to try:
    [a] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0KiAx6229A
    [b] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKlgqPaGEAs

    [Reply]

    fotrkd Reply:

    Anything that’s over nine minutes long needs at least one guitar (or xylophone) solo and some (human) vocals. (I’ll walk myself out).

    [Reply]

    fotrkd Reply:

    A chaos patch with a narrative driven by songs would be one way to battle this out. A dominant neo-reactionary sound would emerge from out of the fragments. We’d possibly need some rules (or arbitration) and a ‘neutral’ tune to set out from. Of course, everyone may have more important things to do…

    Thales Reply:

    Though his mind is not for rent to any god or government — always hopeful, yet discontent.
    He knows no change is permanent, but change is.

    “Battle of the Bands” might prove to be an evergreen thread, easily eclipsing any previous or subsequent OI comment thread, inclusive of other Chaos Patches…

    Mark Warburton Reply:

    @Nick

    D n’ B never infected my brain. Never got into the associated drugs? It was a real in-group music at school?

    In retrospect, stand-alone, it’s ok. I can see where you’re coming from: cyber-dark-edgy etc.

    What about dark-shoe-gaze? Probably the closest I get to your zone. ‘Have a Nice Life’ released ‘Death Consciousness’ a few years ago. Think it is just one guy(!).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEsbcLOeVCw

    And I’m surprised no one has mentioned ‘The Dillinger Escape Plan’. That is the machine speaking right there! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv8b6RPbnAc

    @fotrkd

    Minus the vocals, I really like that.

    Here’s a list of bands I think you might like:

    Maserati
    The Mercury Program
    Russian Circles
    Grails
    The Appleseed Cast
    The Black Heart Rebellion
    Circle Takes The Square
    Explosions In The Sky…

    Haha. More to come if they float your boat!

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “More to come” — fotrkd has triggered a new zone just for this.

    j. ont. Reply:

    Not to say too much about what I do IRL, but I actually know Dan (one half of Have a Nice Life). I organized a release for them a few years ago (did the artwork, the mixing and mastering). Nice guys, and I really like what they do. Not sure how that stuff fits into what’s going on here; they put a huge emphasis on that home recording, DIY aesthetic, witha spoonful off blackletter for good measure.

    Posted on July 8th, 2013 at 10:10 am Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    @ fotrkd — OK, done.

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 8th, 2013 at 4:15 pm Reply | Quote
  • Artxell Knaphni Says:

    Alien Chase on Arabian Desert by Al Di Meola – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oZEOEyMf_Y

    Al Di Meola – Dinner Music of the Gods – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQuurMVuKB0

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 8th, 2013 at 6:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    @

    Small world!

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 8th, 2013 at 11:15 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    @

    Good find – like this Harvey Milk.

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 8th, 2013 at 11:17 pm Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    @ Nydrwracu
    Were marketing professionals involved when they settled on the genre label “depressive black metal”?

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 9th, 2013 at 1:04 pm Reply | Quote

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