Skip to content

Twelve Hundred Miles Apart

Twelve Hundred Miles Apart
(Koo Ming Kown Gallery, Hong Kong, 2015)

Curatorial Essay:

Twelve Hundred Miles Apart
千里之遙 似曾相識

June 2015

The movement of bodies is contingent on infrastructure. Urbanity rests on this classic assumption; without architecture, bridges, flyovers, motorways, subways, and skyscrapers, urban space is indefinite, haphazard, and limitless. The metropolis is, in other words, laden with contingencies. Hence, there is no guarantee of security, much less permanence, when urban space is merely designed to channel and control bodies whose ‘wayward forces of desire’ shape the metropolis itself (Tadiar 2004: 111). And what better way to picture the contingent metropolis than to lay eyes on Beijing, the mother (Gk. mētr-; mi̱téra) state, 1,228 miles away from Hong Kong, the city(Gk. póli̱; póli̱s) state? Or perhaps the other way around.

Twelve Hundred Miles Apart (千里之遙 似曾相識) imagines the reciprocity between the body-space analytic/aesthetic, including its concomitant body-to-body and space-to-space exchanges, whether neutral or political. Through experimental film, archival video, sound bites and transcription, these reciprocities are reconstructed in a makeshift exhibition space — a virtual environment made perceptible via transmedia storytelling, on digital devices and displays, as well as projections and installations. Hence, the experience is not only immersive but also conscious. Here the body bears witness to a historic urban space, only that space no longer exists in situ. Its existence is contingent on the return of bodies reclaiming the city and transforming it into a place of potential: We Will Be Back, in bold. Therefore, the contingent is also emergent, when ‘the sayable’ is tantamount to ‘the visible’ (Rancière 2007, p7).

Thematically linked together by the ‘Umbrella Movement’, the works offer witnesses a return to the hitherto imagined utopia of urban space, a temporal and spatial logic that is never unfamiliar. Each work, however, does not only acknowledge the existence of the idealistic urban imaginary but also testify to the enforced disappearance of independent bodies and free spaces. If the movement of bodies is contingent on the spaces they occupy, and if the transformation of spaces occupied is determined by the movement of bodies, is it not possible that the metropolis acknowledges this reciprocity? What reciprocity does the metropolis want twelve hundred miles apart from its citizens?



Rancière, J., (2007). The Future of the Image. Translated by Gregory Elliott. London: Verso.

Tadiar, N. X., (2004). Fantasy-Production: Sexual Economies and Other Philippine Consequences for the New World Order. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.