I enjoy pacing through old districts in Hong Kong to discover buildings and shops that have remained unchanged for many decades. It provides me a glimpse of a bygone era I have never experienced in person, and it makes me feel nostalgic and comfortable during these times of uncertainty, a feeling shared by many of Hong Kong's younger generations. These spaces are a living remnant of local history, but as society moves on they may have lost their original importance, and most of these locations already have their fate set in stone to be redeveloped, or be gentrified into a tourist destination. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to see these places in their most authentic form, but at the same time, it feels helpless that there is not much you can do to keep them around, to know that soon they will disappear, and slowly fade into obscurity. This is why I feel a sense of mission to preserve and document them, in a way that is faithful to its physical appearance as well as being able to express the emotional value they hold for their surrounding communities. With the modern abundance of photography, we are now given the power to almost perfectly document the appearance of these spaces; but by integrating art into the process of cultural preservation, we can better convey the emotional value these spaces hold for their community.
This piece explores the concept of using digital media to virtually reincarnate now lost community spaces. Through photogrammetry, I was able to preserve snapshots of physical spaces that will be developed into detailed, explorable worlds. The technology is not perfect, and the digital point cloud produced at times contains fuzzy and grainy artifacts, yet these imperfections serve as a fitting representation of human memories, which are inherently incomplete images of the past. Some parts of the 3D environment were also manipulated to invoke the sense of reliving a memory, and to symbolise the impermanence of matter. The building that first inspired the project was the State Theatre in North Point, where I began 3D scanning and conducting interviews in early 2019. As I progressed further into the preservation project, I realized many other urban spaces in decay are also facing redevelopment and would greatly benefit from being documented in a similar format, incorporating immersive art experiences, 3D scans, and oral history interviews. As a result, this project has been formalised into a collaborative effort called The Lost Metropolis. We consist of a small but diverse team of university students, passionate about experimenting with an approach composed of art, technology, and journalism. While the project is still in its infancy, we plan to release new experiences regularly, and experiment with recreating locations that have been gone for many decades through historic photographs. Through bringing these experiences to the public, I hope to shine light on our collective connection with the past and promote a dialogue about the role of conservation in urban renewal planning.
Shiu Ka Heng is an emerging Hong Kong digital artist and computer graphics developer, currently an artificial intelligence major at the University of Edinburgh. Growing up as a digital native, he has developed a passion for experimental technology through the lens of art, and working with cross-disciplinary media, such as projection mapping sculptures, 3D renders, and virtual reality experiences. His recent works explore the visual identity of the Hong Kong cityscape, emphasizing on the diminishing local culture and heritage. By isolating patterns, objects and sites from their everyday context, he brings to light the personal and emotional value these objects and spaces hold, and recontextualizes them as artifacts that invokes a sense of reflection in the times of change and uncertainty.
SHIU KA HENG
邝霏飞 / 赵浩权
JOEL KWONG / EDWARD CHIU