"In Search of Nostalgia"
“In Search of Nostalgia”
“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.” William Faulkner1
Nostalgia is a word with a huge amount of surrounding perplexing emotions. For me it is ‘Brown Paper Bag’, from the 1997 album New Forms by Roni Size. For you it may be ‘Guns and Roses’ 1985 and denim jackets or Connie Chan Po-Chu’s ‘Black Rose’2 1965 and boys’ slicked back hair. We are all different but these technicalities to our personality and memories are what make us experience the powerful emotion – Nostalgia. Nostalgia does have its sorrowful side – it’s a bittersweet emotion – however the overall effect does make life seem more meaningful. When one speaks contemplatively of the past, they usually become more optimistic and inspired about the future.
Since the First Opium War, Hong Kong Island became a British Colony; she was soon transformed to become a hub of the West and East. In the 50’s, this dot on the world map was flooded with Hollywood and Western pop culture, a unique ‘Western-Canton’ style was born. People dressed up like movie stars, women in polka dot skirt and retro ‘Cat-eyes’ sunglasses while men in hats with brims down, as seen in ‘Sabrina’3 1954 when Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn) was reaching out and turning down the brim of Linus Homburg’s hat. Teaching him the chic style of Paris.
“Ding, Ding...” the tram bell rings along the Hennessey Road in today’s Hong Kong as you lean on a piece of glossy brown wood at the back of the tram, watching the traffic following the tram as it trails the track. Its slow speed and frequent stops allow the travellers to look closer at all the adjacent contemporary skyscrapers and ‘tong lau’. Passengers are piled inside the old-fashioned tram; a magic chamber taking their mindsets back to the 1950’s of Hong Kong. In ‘Rouge’4, Ruhua was wearing her beautiful ‘qipao’ on the tram to Shek Tong Tsui, attempting to look for her old lover in the modern 1980’s. In 1960 technicolour film ‘The World Of Suzie Wong5’, Mee Ling was talking about her lofty life in WanChai to the American painter Robert Lomax on the Star Ferry, where you could clearly see the whole Peak view behind the Victorian Harbour and the traditional red sails. In 1968, modern-comedy ‘Darling Stay At Home’6, the wife as a successful businesswoman getting out from her fancy car outside the Peninsula Hotel every morning. Nostalgia flies back to us when watching old movies with grandparents. Sharing their laughter and their good old times; walking along on the Hong Kong Island, passing under the old pawnshops with the vintage peel-off pillars, slowly we are all stuck into the limbo between the modern and the 50’s.
Nostalgia is usually depicted as developing from loneliness and anxiety. However, have you ever been in a situation where you have the opportunity to help someone, whether it is to give advise or a job maybe? And that decision has been made due to a memory of your younger years, someone taking time out for you. This reminiscence is what one searches for, the nostalgia that makes you more tolerant to outsiders. The happy look on a group of faces when sharing nostalgic memories. On cold days and in cold rooms people use nostalgia to literally feel warmer. Therefore, Nostalgia can be a power not a depression.
Harness the past memories with island6 and seek out your nostalgia in our new exhibition. ‘In search of Nostalgia’, transports the gallery as a time machine to carry us on a journey back to the 50’s Hong Kong. Artworks are windows through which we can be delivered back to our favorite moments, when life was about simple diligence and happiness. Let not we ask, “What is the use of dwelling in the past?” Let us step back from the busy, fast-spinning, suffocating life of 2013 Hong Kong, and go back to the dream-like 50’s conjured up by LiuDao, where we can seek the old-fashioned ‘qipao’, sip ‘yuanyang’ (coffee-with-milk tea) in the icehouse café and watch movies in the old theatres. LiuDao can engage you in the faded-away memories and dreams…
1 Source: Faulkner. W, 1918-1925, Thinking of home: William Faulkner letters to his Mother and Father, Norton and company.