High Contrast

Parents Parents x HKwalls (Sham Shui Po 2016) (33 of 34)

When you arrive at Sham Shui Po at 9pm, you catch a neighborhood in transition. The rattle of the night market clinks at the close of tarped storefronts. Overtime workers inhale kitchen steam and BBQ pork in corner dumpling houses. Engines run cold until sunrise.

On Ki Lung St., a lone urban runner takes advantage of unobstructed roadway. He may have settled on his evening pace, but it slows to a half-jog, eyes craning to a closed shopping kiosk washed in white light. At either side of this immaculately green box, a young man and woman hiss an outline of a graffiti piece that would be complete in three hours.

For as long as the owner of this kiosk is satisfied with the artwork, Amson and Ysoo of local collective Parents Parents have added another exhibition to Hong Kong’s expanding street art gallery.

As for the jogger, or passing driver, or other curious local stopping by: what do they think?

Parents Parents x HKwalls (Sham Shui Po 2016) (29 of 34)

“There’s always someone who asks us what we’re doing,” recalls Amson.  “In such a public space as this, some people will come down the stairs and say ‘I don’t like this art, why do you destroy the walls?”

For Amson and Ysoo, nights like this, spaces like this, and moments like these aren’t confrontations, but opportunities to give locals an understanding that street art isn’t destruction, but expression. Tonight is a preview for Parents Parents’ offerings at this year’s installment of HKwalls, a weeklong urban campaign to spread the local art scene one district at a time.

Parents Parents x HKwalls (Sham Shui Po 2016) (6 of 34)

Chris Tuazon: What do you prefer: illegal work, or commissioned pieces like this?

Amson: Although this isn’t really like the original graffiti style — bombing and letters — I enjoy these projects.  We’re allowed a safe pace, so we have the time for preparation, sketching, and coloring. That way, we can make it correctly.

 

CT: How did you get into street art?

A: When I was in grade school, I was really into this band called LMF. I really liked the style of their album cover, and I figured I could try to create something like it. LMF was the first hip-hop band in Hong Kong, and it introduced me to hip-hop culture, and at that moment I chose that graffiti would be a part of . . . I don’t know whether to call it a career or hobby.

 

CT: What is Parent’s Parents’ particular style?

A: Since there’s four of us in this group, we work together using the best of our different styles.  For example, I like to draw my cartoon characters.  Ysoo likes more realistic drawings, and freehand writing. So we combine these together to make something interesting.

Parents Parents x HKwalls (Sham Shui Po 2016) (27 of 34)

CT: In this piece, “Time to Wake,” what are you trying to convey?

A: Since graffiti has a language, those who don’t know it can have trouble understanding and accepting what they see.  So in this piece, the ticking clock, the morning apple, the strong contrast, and the title is all about what everyone’s typical day is like here.

 

CT: If someone saw you doing this and said “Hey, how can I do this?”  What would you do?

A: I would let him know what the real culture is, and if he really wants to try it, I’d let him grab a can and go for it.

 

CT: So in other words, support the art.

A: HKwalls is really supportive of our local artists, and will bring guys from Europe to share their style and communicate with us.  We’ve met crews from Germany, and we’ve learned from them, and not just their art.

These guys are street artists full-time.  People in HK, like my family will say “If you do street art, you can’t get money.  You can’t get a house.  You can’t get anywhere.”  But these guys prove if you really want to do what you want, one day you can succeed, and show your passion worldwide.  For me, now I think about not just doing art within the HK scene, but out there.

 

CT: In the meantime, it seems that you feel pretty optimistic about the scene here.

A: It’s going up, because in the global culture more people are focused on the street art scene.  Galleries out in LA and New York showcase it more than ever before.  Maybe that will make the HK people welcome us and give the public more opportunity to really see the scene for what it is.  Maybe there’s kids here who only illustrate on paper, and don’t realize what they’re doing.  But at that moment they’re making street art.  They’re creating real art.

Parents Parents x HKwalls (Sham Shui Po 2016) (34 of 34)

“Time to Wake” can be found completed here.  This year, HKwalls has chose Sham Shui Po as the local area to bring street art from HK-based and international artists, who will use new & old spaces as public canvas.  Parents Parents are one of many to showcase their talents this March-April 2016.  Follow HKwalls for more information.

twenty fifteen

Honor Roll 2015 In Review

I started this article the same way I always do: staring into a blank wordpress draft, ghost-tapping the keyboard, hoping a writer’s muscle-memory would find a way to begin.  Then I’ll delete, and start the process again.

Writing’s tough, man.  Expecting my students to compose a compare and contrast essay never ceases to hit me back with a pang of guilt.  So as long as I assign writing, I’ll ask the same of myself.

But somewhere in the fifteen to ninety minutes in the trenches of writer’s block, I emerge with something worthwhile to share, and inspiration takes hold.  It is at this moment that I am full with what I made this site for: purpose.

2015 was the first complete year of the honor roll.  I’ve had the pleasure to meet and talk with unique artists, and the opportunity to contribute to their work, which I fully believe in.  And from the artists, their work, and the people who value them, I have learned.  And for that I am most grateful.

From this year I’ve selected twelve moments.  If you’re a frequent reader of the honor roll, please revisit these pieces.  If you’re new, I hope these stories will help you to understand why I love what I do.

Click on the photos to read the articles.  Enjoy.  Happy new year.

  • January - Why Good Shoes Matter
    January - Why Good Shoes Matter
    "There I was, grading papers in class, and I saw my shoes sweating. I rubbed the condensation off, when my thumb turned black. The layers of polish were flaking off the cheap leather and onto the ground. It was my Huffy all over again. Two hours of work and the feeling that I beat the system crumbled in a coal dandruff."
  • February - Snow Day in Hakone
    February - Snow Day in Hakone
    "Every cut and corner of tatami – the straw mats that compose its flooring – was precise to every centimeter of the space. The room was peacefully bare and quiet, save for the interval hawing of the heater. There were the required technologies to modernize the abode, but with the aroma of fresh wood and tea leaves, this was an escape."
  • March - Ring People
    March - Ring People
    "Any well-fitting suit begins and reveals its mettle at the neck to shoulder line. Why? Take a look at your buddies for a moment. From the bottom of their neck to the edge of their shoulder, notice the near-snowflake array of variation in slope, bulge, length, shape, and more. Any miscalculation can turn a smooth neck-to-shoulder- slope into an avalanche of bumps and breaks. Koroshi Eri is the technique in custom clothing to truly suit the customer’s neck-to-shoulder line. It is by their tailors’ dedication of applying this technique in ready-to-wear garments that Ring Jacket has solidified their place atop this market of suits."
  • April - 沈阳制造 | Made in Shenyang
    April - 沈阳制造 | Made in Shenyang
    Not a lot of people would pay attention to the inside stitch. On a finished pair, you see a single inseam stitch, but it takes a process to get here. After the sewing the jeans together at the edge, we run a single stitch to close the inseam while the jeans are inside-out. Then we turn out the pair, fold over the first track, and finish off with a single chain stitch. From the inside, you’ll see the first white stitch, and the parallel pair. But from the outside, you see one even, neat stitch, and you’d never know the hidden track underneath. But I do, and I love that.
  • May - Kelvin's Colors
    May - Kelvin's Colors
    "Kelvin laid out his fine and fraying brushes, bottles of dyes, and blank canvasses of calfskin, tied his apron, and began a layer, accompanied by curious onlookers and those like myself unloading with English and Cantonese questions. Answering left and right, in between and during edge marks, Kel seemed unfazed by these inquiries, begetting a reflexive memorization of the coloring lessons he learned in Paris when he began his apprenticeship."
  • June - Arte con Brio
    June - Arte con Brio
    "As a home is an extension of its owner, I’d have to assume that an experienced curator founded BRIO. The brands alone suggest discerning taste, with each handmade flourish and graceful imperfection shining under the house’s lights. The store also reserves many of its walls for enormous canvasses of fine art, sculptures, or antique tools of the trade; even the central table’s ebony undulations are something to behold."
  • July - Under the Brim
    July - Under the Brim
    "So when you receive a Nick Fouquet hat by Alberto Hernandez, understand that you get a piece of Rubin with it. The sweat that beaded on his temple after one more steam press to settle the felt just a bit more. The flecks of dust on his fingers, bending and pulling a stubborn brim. The proud Guanajuato tradition of making sombreros. The lessons from his father, who learned from his father, of how to make, wear, and completely own your hat."
  • August - Talking Totems: Chad and his Suits
    August - Talking Totems: Chad and his Suits
    "My father has made every (suit I own).' 'Do you remember the first one?' 'Yes, when I was a teenager. It was my high school graduation, and he made it just for that day. It was . . . gray, herringbone, three-button. A classic suit.' 'Was this kind of suit your idea?' Chad shakes his head, points to the elder Park, and smiles."
  • September - Fifteen Years of Take5
    September - Fifteen Years of Take5
    "It’s a point that I belabor, only because I admire – envy, now and again – these individuals. But if you have a genuine passion for something, and you can make a career out of it, then why don’t you? It’s an idea that I tend to oversimplify, but when it comes down to it, that’s what Benny did to make Take5 and get it where it is today. I’ve met too many gentlemen who’s storefronts are testaments to this belief, and it makes me think, why the hell not?"
  • October - Toasting for Five Past, to Five More
    October - Toasting for Five Past, to Five More
    "I, like many others in the Asian region, owe a lot of my self-discovery in the world of style to The Armoury. It’s difficult to place a finger at what exactly this store does that holds such an influence, and it’s just as difficult to think where I’d be without their guidance. In a city of fast and fused garments, the aptly-titled retailer uses a few hundred square meters of territory, holding strong in the battle for good clothing."
  • November - Things We Like, That You Should Too: Yellow Hook Neckties & Co.
    November - Things We Like, That You Should Too: Yellow Hook Neckties & Co.
    "Rob and Courtney started Yellow Hook Neckties & Co. as a labor of love, an outlet for their creativity. But it’s also their connection to their past. To Rob’s own great grandfather Leo and his Coney Island barber chair. To his great uncles Antonio and Vincenzo, outfitting the locals from their tailoring house on 18th and 86th. To his stoop on Bay Ridge, whose’s golden soil gave the town a different name."
  • December - Clockenflap: A Hong Kong Home
    December - Clockenflap: A Hong Kong Home
    "It took me three years, but last winter came to an understanding: for all the gargantuan acts that attract the masses to this part of the city, something else entirely keeps us there: community. Now, as a visitor – frequent that may be – I’m curious to see what Clockenflap actually does for the city of Hong Kong. Does the magic of the Harbour Flap Stage flicker out with the Sunday headliner, or does it linger just long enough to inspire real action?"

Clockenflap: A Hong Kong Home

Every year, thousands of Hong Kong residents, young and young at heart, take to the West Kowloon Cultural District for another glorious Clockenflap Festival.  The warm November air and bright city skyline stew together a weekend of celebrating music, art, and people.  The best of Hong Kong shines for seventy-two hours of light and sound, and I wonder: what now?

It took me three years, but last winter came to an understanding: for all the gargantuan acts that attract the masses to this part of the city, something else entirely keeps us there: community.  Now, as a visitor – frequent that may be – I’m curious to see what Clockenflap actually does for the city of Hong Kong.  Does the magic of the Harbour Flap Stage flicker out with the Sunday headliner, or does it linger just long enough to inspire real action?

Golden Rules

Golden Rules

English producer Paul White stood behind a table of controls and a bass, laying beats and crooning hooks. Not to be outdone, American MC Eric Biddines lay the flow on R&B and funk tones. Together, the duo known as Golden Rules shined for the Saturday afternoon crowd.
Low Bros

Low Bros

"These guys are really design-based graffiti work. We try to have balance, and we figured it's a good time to have theme here this weekend. After they're done, the public will understand what they've done."
HKwalls

HKwalls

"It's nothing too abstract, nothing too letter-based. Regular people can appreciate their design in an event like this; we just want people to understand, whether you're old or young, male or female, this art can appeal to everyone."
Pete Moser

Pete Moser

Clockenflap goes out of its way to make the kids feel welcome, from interactive art to a stage tailored just for them. Tykes have a habit of moving around, which one-man band Pete Moser welcomes with a foot race with his audience, accordion gasping for air with each stride.
Jing Wong

Jing Wong

"My way is to write Chinese songs now. My previous albums were in English, so this is my very first Chinese attempt. The music style; at least the first one, called 'Tango,' that one is totally unlike any Cantopop that’s like in the scene. I thought, 'Alright, I’ll write a Chinese song, but I won’t give people what they normally listen to.' So I hope I could somehow instill some kind of alternative energy into the scene."
Mantung

Mantung

One gets accustomed to Hong Kong's rapid-fire street crossings and platform queues. On the other hand, groups of Clockenflappers made deliberate their snail's pace to set meditation with every barefoot step through the floor path.
Campfire Kit

Campfire Kit

"This atmosphere is so electric, supportive, creative, inspiring; why not dress up like something or someone - some element - to get people excited about visual representation? Everyone here is excited about music, but I want people to tap into the visual aspect of it. Is that too deep? I love disposable art. HK is small; I like creating costumes, but I don't have the space in my apartment to keep them. I want to create something beautiful and magical that can be worn for a weekend, and not feel bad about throwing away recycled cardboard papier mache."
The Fire Nation

The Fire Nation

"We've got about 20 people dressed up as different interpretations of fire. And I'm the campfire. Come by and sing 'Kumbayah' with me!"
Titeretú

Titeretú

Among the interactive art works, kids naturally set base camp at Spanish artists Itinerania's metal marionettes, whose interactively moving parts challenges its young puppeteer to manipulate carefully.
Finbarr Bermingham

Finbarr Bermingham

"A lot of people - even me before I moved here - have preconceptions and misconceptions of Hong Kong, so this has been a good opportunity for me. I didn't really understand the protests at first. This is a pretty affluent place, and I thought the protests wouldn't last. I think in order for a protest to succeed, you almost need to have people struggling. But [the Occupy Central movement] really made me change my tune on that note. I first couldn't understand why these young, rich Hong Kongers were so angry, but researching and speaking to the people involved, it's so straight-forward: democracy. I admire them greatly, since they're willing to put their own future on the line in order for Hong Kong to have one."
Shugo Tokumaru

Shugo Tokumaru

With suitcases' worth of playtime musical instruments, Shugo whipped the crowd into the cutest pop frenzy. If this thirty-minute set proved anything, it's that a child-like approach to any activity is often the most worthwhile.
BOOMSHACK

BOOMSHACK

"Boomshack was founded on American food truck culture, but it's illegal to have a food truck in Hong Kong. So we decided to take that culture and distribute it to the world. There's a law proposed this year to allow food trucks, but it seems it will be heavily regulated. There would be so many rules that it wouldn't actually be a food truck, but rather a pop-up store. But as soon as it's legal, we are there!
Silent Disco with Dad

Silent Disco with Dad

An annual mainstay of the festival, The Silent Disco is always a spectator sport for passers-by. Which makes it a perfect opportunity for parents to embarrass their own.
Mystery Parade

Mystery Parade

As the Harbor sky grew pink with the setting sun, a commotion followed as a neo-tribal band of color guards marched a slithering path of gold flag into the festival crowd. I was never able to determine the purpose of this display, but to echo Campfire Kit's sentiments, it was a memorable use of visual representation.
King Ly Chee

King Ly Chee

"In Hong Kong, the problem is while that while we have Clockenflap, it's a wonderful event that goes on once a year. Sixty thousand people don't show up anytime else. What about all the other shows? There's so many here, and people need to come, not only to this one."
King Ly Chee

King Ly Chee

"In Asia in general, Indonesia is the biggest market for hardcore music, but no one will know because it's all local. We're the guest band, and five to six hundred kids, twelve to thirteen, are losing their minds. All those shows are huge, because the local kids came together and made something great."
Cliff

Cliff

"Some people think that Clockenflap is some sort of 鬼佬 gweilo (foreigner) event, you know. But how do you really define Hong Kong? It’s this. This belongs to us. It’s our music, our people, and I’m really proud of it."
Cosmic Caravan

Cosmic Caravan

Summoning the curious to sit on the evening knoll, these cosmic consultants use a charming approach and spinning disc to induce mystic visions and spread the festival's spirit of love.
Potato Sack Race

Potato Sack Race

Now, what's a festival without your classic potato sack race?
Saul Williams

Saul Williams

"I don't think about my presence with the audience. I’m aware of it, but I relate it to my theatre, and I’m working with that openly. It’s a workshop. I’m workshopping an idea, and I’m ritualizing with music, with interpretation. And so I’m aware of my presence, which I see as an acting thing."
Broods

Broods

NZ siblings Broods took the Atum Stage by storm with synth grooves and relaxed dance moves.
A Weekend for Friends

A Weekend for Friends

The reason I've made it four years in a row.
The Family that Skas together

The Family that Skas together

"This is our fourth time here, and being able to bring the family is our favorite part. We can come together, and it's a great opportunity to teach the boys about music. I wanted to make sure we got to see the Skatalites because I grew up listening to them. I even used to be in a ska band in one point in my life!"
The Family that Skas together

The Family that Skas together

"I think Clockenflap is a big community. I've lived here for 11 years, and I think HK can be flaky and pretend in a lot of ways, but this is an event where everyone actually comes together and no one's too worried about anything except for the lines in the porta-Johns. And I love that it's the weekend of Thanksgiving."

HKwalls: Laying a Foundation

In between the main stage and the rest of the festival grounds, Clockenflappers must cross a grated steel footbridge. Back turned to the Central skyline, as you descend the end of the bridge four shipping containers are stacked two by two ahead. Upon this makeshift canvas lay the outlines of a large mural, currently indeterminable. Aerosol cans hiss and spurt morse code against a rumbling loudspeaker.  Colors and lines take shape.

In a black and white letterman jacket, Stan Wu, co-founder of HKwalls, watches on, snapping pictures and explaining the work in progress to passers by.

HKwalls (4 of 9)

Christopher Tuazon: What is HKwalls?

Stan Wu: HKwalls is an annual event in which we choose a district in Hong Kong, and we ask local and foreign artists to paint over public spaces within a weekend or two. In between that main event, we do smaller ones like this.  These guys, Low Bros, came from Germany, and we flew them here this weekend to share some fresh ideas with the audience.

We want to bring more art that we love — street art, graffiti, exterior, urban, whatever you want to call it — to Hong Kong, because it’s dead right now.

KING LY CHEE 荔枝王: Common Language

King Ly Chee (11 of 20)

Adolescence in California lends a steady diet of local music to ignite a fire inside the youth. From the first NOFX Oy! Oy! to last TERROR two-step, punk and hardcore music armed kids like me with something to make us feel alive. For many of us in the West Coast, this music is at the very least is the soundtrack to our angst, and at-times the crucible that forged an identity.

To watch a punk rock scene, then, is to take an honest look at what the local kids are fighting for and against, and what language it speaks.

So what’s the Hong Kong flavor of this genre? If you’re going to ask anyone here, it’s King Ly Chee, a band who, sixteen years strong, has undoubtedly formed what anyone could recognize as the HK hardcore scene.

Jing Wong: Tangled Up, Tango On

With his new ep, 生活的小偷, singer-songwriter Jing Wong offers a take on classic Cantopop, imbued with his jazz and Britpop upbringing.  These parts create a whole message for his Hong Kong.  On a surprisingly warm November noon behind the Clockenflap main stage, Jing lays out inspirations from and aspirations for a city he doesn’t wish to see leave so soon.

Jing Wong (2 of 4)

Christopher Tuazon: On any given Jing Wong tune, you play around with different genres.  What’s your musical foundation?

Jing Wong: When I went to university in London, my friends and I would mostly play a lot of Beatles covers. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to go to there. I love Britpop.  Radiohead, Blur, Suede. Plus, when you’re in art school, you get to listen to a lot of weird shit, like Sun Ra.

CT: Pop and jazz definitely come through in your music.

JW: On my own, I’m more of a folk player.  But I love laying jazz riffs with the guys on saxophone and harmonica.  The connection is irreplaceable. Without words, we know where we’re going, and we go there together. It’s amazing. That’s what’s beautiful about Clockenflap, too.

Toasting for Five Past, to Five More

I, like many others in the Asian region, owe a lot of my self-discovery in the world of style to The Armoury.  It’s difficult to place a finger at what exactly this store does that holds such an influence, and it’s just as difficult to think where I’d be without their guidance.  In a city of fast and fused garments, the aptly-titled retailer uses a few hundred square meters of territory, holding strong in the battle for good clothing.

Now in their fifth year, The Armoury’s sphere of influence has expanded into New York, instantly becoming a hit to an America that is poised for a return to form – at least, so I hope.  In the meantime, we toast to friendships, success, and not spilling too much on a good suit.

  • The details of a Tailor Caid tweed jacket. Precise adherence to 60s Ivy style, perfectly executed through Japanese craftsmanship.
  • Another Tailor Caid: a heavy, chunky overcoat. An essential shield against fierce winters Hong Kong is lucky to avoid.
  • David Pan, Editor-in-Chief of Taiwans Weeknight Magazine, giving props to The Armoury with its Justo Gimeno teba.
  • Aside from the requisite champagne, new local jazz bar poured their own specialty cocktails sugary and strong.
  • Jerry of Ascot Chang embracing color and pattern beneath his safari jacket.
  • The ladies of The Armoury, styled ever-so-sweetly in their own tebas.
  • Mr. Johnson's very special Patek Philippe.
  • The gentlemen of Ring Jacket arriving most elegantly, as usual. Here, Mr. Hiroshi Tomioka admires a customer's jacket.
  • Halfway through the evening's barrel, a db tobacco linen finds itself lounging atop a counter, legs crossed as if it were ready for story time.
  • Arnold Wong, ready to tell a few tales himself.
  • Armoury Co-founder Alan See.
  • Justin of Ascot Chang catching up with Arnold and Patrick of WW Chan.
  • For a store like The Armoury, a cocktail party is the ideal event to don classically chic, hearkening back to the golden age of mens clothing, when the gentleman earned the title not only for wardrobe, but for conduct.
  • Once the mixtures of the house drinks were empty, we found ourselves venturing into more inspired cocktails. Sam giving it a go.
  • Tailor Caid's founder, Yuhei Yamamoto, effortlessly owning his house style.
  • The evening settling down.
  • Even during the party, Armoury co-founder Mark Cho is focused on the task at hand: fitting a customer for a last-minute chance to order from Tailor Caid.
  • Ring Jacket president Kunichi Fukushima, and Manager Hidetoshi Sasamoto
  • The pattern of the jacket, cummerbund, and tie is a collage of every Ring Jacket logo in its sixty year history. Sasamoto-san, killing the room in his own eccentric way.

Ordinary Heroes

Kuya (1 of 1)

Below is a birthday greeting I posted to my larger-than-life big brother, Luiz.  I never told this story before today, and I get a good chuckle out of this one of many moments I tried to be like him.  And for all you little siblings out there: that’s totally ok.  

When I was a freshman in high school, I tried to run for class treasurer. I had no desire or knowledge of handling money, but my big brother had the position with his alma mater.

I was severely uncool in my first few weeks, but I had to present a campaign speech to the class of 2003 anyway. My big brother offered his speech totem: an orange hazard vest with the motto C.R.E.A.M. taped on the back. I didn’t know what whipped dairy had to do with managing accounts, but he helped me plan a speech and rehearse. 

Came speech day, I grabbed the mic from my opponent, and I said the words “CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME,” in the most suburban of inflections.

And the class of 2003 went wild.

I used to get a lot of shit for trying to copy my big brother, but first of all, IT’S LUIZ; everyone wants to be him. But most of all, because everybody has a hero.

Fifteen Years of Take5

IMG_3158Last Saturday marked the fifteenth anniversary of Hong Kong’s premier denim outfitter, Take5.  In between diminishing rations at the open bar, I wasn’t able to capture much.  Nevertheless, the evening did teach me Benny Seki’s impact on the Asian denim scene.

Where Uniqlo undershirts and high-twists are a godsend for my suiting options, I’ve yet to crack the code on surviving May-September in jeans.  But this is a denim party, dammit!

IMG_3252