In Samson Chiu’s film Golden Chicken (2002), a warm-hearted sex worker, Kum, is trapped overnight in an ATM booth with a suicidal would-be robber. To distract him from despair, she shares her memories of Hong Kong popular life in the 1980s and 1990s. The fast sequel Golden Chicken 2 also narrates history in a liminal space and time; in 2046 on the 50th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, Ah Kum passes the day on a Tramway stop with a depressed young man, teaching him about SARS, financial crisis and the mass demonstrations of 2003.
Connecting directly to politics while linguistically wedged by Mandarin and English, Hong Kong Cantonese popular culture seems to offer a textbook case for Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the minor, in particular its emphases on the creativity of ‘cramped space’. Discussing this concept’s open-ended model of ‘becoming’ in relation to the anthropological concept of liminality—classically understood as the threshold stage in a ritual practised by small-scale societies--I will consider some Hong Kong popular responses to life on a threshold between an extreme liberal economy and the political illiberalism of British colonialism and now the PRC, between a turbulent present and concrete futures that are still being contested. I will suggest that while the uprising of the Hong Kong ‘Umbrella Movement’ in November-December 2014 had distinctive features it articulated new possibilities of imaginative action for the ‘minor’ conditions in which masses of people in many parts of the world now live.
Free Public Lecture
B117 Theatre, Melbourne School of Design