Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Dance of Life

This is a small extract (the first three paragraphs) of an essay I wrote for the MA course I did years ago. A recent post on Edvard Munch on Facebook compelled me to dig this out.
Dance of Life (Edvard Munch)

In the beginning of the 20th century in Western society, thinkers, writers and artists began to push the traditional boundaries of organizing knowledge and the arts. Together they radically re-defined, reshaped and recreated knowledge and various art forms. Whilst the Cubist painters analysed and re-assembled objects, aspects of which were depicted on canvas, Sigmund Freud (Ferrier & Pichon, 1988) was analysing the human psyche, re-assembling and appropriating ideas into a new body of language concerning the unconscious mind, the libido and the Oedipus complex etc. that were depicted in the dialogue of the psychoanalytic process, namely Psychoanalysis.

The concept of 'talking cure', the psychotherapy that was unheard of previously, typified the trend of the new wave of modernity where every aspect of existence was to be re-examined with new frames of reference. In Freud's case, he offered an argument for the existence of an unconscious mind where most of our behaviour is determined, a new frame of reference that was in direct opposition to positivism dominating Western thought in the 19th century. Freud's theories may have given explanations in terms of psychopathologic symptoms currently seen in people, which may have perhaps manifested in his time as socially and culturally induced symptoms. Of such people, Freud's contemporary, the Expressionist-Symbolist painter Edvard Munch (Ferrier & Pichon, 1999) inaugurated the 20th century with a painting called 'The Dance of Life' that ecapsulated the ambivalent souls of the time, whose despair hid behind the lifeless hedonistic occasion, the Messiah was at the background, fading away from people's consciousness.

This painting appropriately prophesied the psychotherapeutic destiny for the century to come. The simple formula such as 'repent+believe+be forgiven=eternal life' had been held valid for centuries for mending even the deepest grievances, the strongest regrets and the darkest despairs, was now overthrown by the trend of thought that man has the power to create, improve and to reshape their environment and life aided by new ideas, scientific knowledge and technology. Freud's Psychoanalysis came in season, or rather, it found meaning in the context of the particular culture and time of history. The Freudian language of psychotherapy provided new lexicons for the mind of the 20th century that  gave rise to new psychological concepts that laid the fundamental structure of most other psychotherapeutic approaches to come. Using the basic mode of treatement, scores of other approaches were gradually developed and continue to be so, though each has its own theoretical assumptions and epistemological stance that induces specific values reflecting the context of the societies and history from which they derive......

Ferrier, J.L. & Pichon, Y.L. (Eds), (1999), Art of the 20th Century, Borgaro: Editions du Chen.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

In Search of Nathan Road 彌敦道

Nathan Road, Shim Sha Tsui, 2010

Nathan Road on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong has probably been the main artery of roads since the early days of city development. It is a long road stretching from north to south that links several areas and ends at the southern most of Kowloon Peninsula in the area of Shim Sha Tsui, where Kowloon is shored up by Victoria Harbour from the Hong Kong Island. 

Victoria Harbour that shores up Kowloon from the Hong Kong Island. Taken from Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island, 2010

Nathan Road, Mongkok 2011
I have many fond memories connected to Nathan Road since many of my childhood activities took place there, i.e. shopping and dimsuming with parents, window shopping with friends, watching spectacular festival parades along its pavements, spending long summer holidays playing walking games on the pavements to see how far and fast one could walk etc. 

Nathan Road, Shimsha Tsui 2011
Nathan Road was not only my playground, it was also my window to the unrelenting changing fashion trends, and Hong Kong seemed/seems to be always 2 years ahead of Europe in high-street fashions. This was where I got inspirations from the enticing clothes shops big and small. However, as the possibility of buying clothes from those shops was slim, the near lack of options had prevented me from wanting further, instead I would settle for the cheaper versions from Nathan Road's backstreet shops and market stalls. 

Perhaps, this was how I developed my own fashion sense, that is, to mix and match with what is available. To the extent that, during my time as a student in London, not only did I find out that I was a fast walker,  I also brought with me the habit of mixing and matching items of clothing. So charity and  retro second hand shops that didn't (still don't) exist in Hong Kong instantly became my clothes shopping destinations where I picked up most unusual items, with which I could either adapt, cut, restitch and add to, to create a piece that I would finally be happy with. Almost expectedly, my engagement dress which was from the 1950s, was also bought in a retro-shop for under £10.

Back to Nathan Road, I literally went back to it a few times in recent years, each time hoping to see traces of past remnants that could refresh my image of Nathan Road. Disappointingly, all I saw were more trendy shops, taller and shinier buildings, more pedestrians, more vehicles and of course a more congested and vibrant atmosphere. The road that was responsible for instilling the then youth culture of Hong Kong in me has undoubtedly moved on with time, with the young people today. 

It hauntingly hits me that Nathan Road would only get younger and younger, she who tries to resume her past connection with Nathan Road is getting older and older, till one day she meets the same fate of the million souls who walked on it before her, she will no longer go back and walk on Nathan Road any more. 

Nathan Road 1926, the newly built Mongkok Police Station
Nathan Road 1967, the HK Riot, Mongkok Police Station is the brown old building in the centre
Nathan Road 2011, the Mongkok Police Station has been replaced by the tall shiny building