I wrote recently about a special exhibition staged inside Hong Kong airport, and how nice it was that the airport authorities actually made an effort to provide distractions for the passengers passing through. It wasn’t a great exhibition, if the truth be told; but the fact is they made an effort and that, in my book, counts for something.
Well I was passing through HK yet again and guess what…. Yes, there’s another exhibition just a little bit further down the terminal from the previous one (which is still there, by the way).
This one is called “More than just food” and, according to the blurb provided, “Hong Kong Heritage Museum invited local ceramic artists some years ago to showcase their imaginative and artistic table settings. The artists came up with some appetising menus specially designed for each month of the year, and designed some delightfully imaginative table ware in which to serve them.”
On show is a selection of over 12 sets of the original exhibits, accompanied by artist statements expressing their sentiments towards the menus. (Maybe they had nowhere else to store these exhibiots and, rather than let then collect dust in some dingy cellar, someone had the brainwave of using some of the “spare” space in the airport. Who knows?
Some of the scribblings of the artists are, one has to admit, banal in the extreme. Take the 'In and Out Face-giving Party' by artist Tsang Cheung-shing as an example: “There are no festivals in November, so there are no restrictions. I can express myself any way I wish. To be ‘in’ means that you reside in a paradise of endless bliss, and there will be constant song and dance. Everybody loves each other, everything functions in harmony, and to make ‘outsiders’ envious, you have all the privileges and benefits you crave for.”
Any idea what he’s on about? No, me neither. But I rather like his design, albeit that I’m not sure I would want to eat off someone’s face every day…
One that rather catches the eye is by Ho Tai-kwan. He calls it ‘Labour Day Feast’.
"Chinese people have their own unique ways regarding food, eating and all the accompanying rituals," he writes. "Eating is an art form and as Dr Sun Yat-sen put it, tastes that are considered pleasurable to the palate should be like paintings and music, and be treated as art.”
He recalls how when he was 19, during the Cultural Revolution, he went into the countryside and laboured in the rural areas. "During the busiest seasons, I was always assigned the role of the big chef, which refined my cooking skills. I can still remember the times when the entire village gathered in front of the ancestral hall, talking freely about matters of the nation as well as family affairs and the harvest, while tucking into the traditional dishes served in huge bowls and basins. Those were the happy days I wish to share and this project is an attempt to imitate the dining wares used in those days."
Law Hon-wah's ‘Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth (The Five Culinary Elements)’ presents the idea of the five elements with the dining wares taking on the physical form of water, whereas the menu is determined according to the five tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, hot and salty.
There’ a whole load of gobbledegook provided about the internal organs and how they relate to the five elements; but I was happy enough simply looking at the way the artist has conveyed the shape of water in the designs.
Some of the sets are nice just because they are… well, nice. This rendition of ‘Union of Blissful Wares’ by Leung Koon-ming, for instance, "attempts to cater for the tastes of both Northerners and Southerners. They are designed to highlight the characters of each individual dishes, so that when dining there will be extra pleasures in both the visual and tactile sense". Yes, well… It’s still quite nice though, you have to admit!
Other exhibits are, frankly tacky. This one – ‘ Pun Choi' by Ho Tai-kwan – definitely takes the wooden spoon award as far as I’m concerned.
But there again, there’s no denying that art is very personal and no doubt some of my biggest blog fans will be scratching their heads, as they read this, saying what IS he on about?
Actually I don’t particularly like any of the remaining table sets, if the truth be known. But maybe that’s a reflection on your favourite blogger’s lack of artistic imagination, rather than anything else.
Finally there is also a ‘Dai Pai Dong’ – an open stall which was once very popular in the HK of the 1950s-70s. They have in the main been replaced by fast food; but this represents a throw-back to a bygone age.
So, not a mind-blowingly earth-shattering display, but if you have ten minutes to kill before your next flight when going through HK, I can think of worse ways to pass the time.