When local poet Sarah Anne Harris abruptly left Hong Kong to spend time with her dying grandfather in England, she had mixed emotions for the city that both inspired her creativity and overwhelmed her senses. During her time abroad, Harris reflected on her life in our bustling city, focusing her artistic vision with the help of musician and video artist Sim Hutchins. The resulting video, a combination of her spoken word poetry and Instagram photography, is a somewhat unsettling visual journey through our all too often time-lapsed environment.
‘Last Days in Hong Kong’ originated as a poem, written by Harris as she walked to work from her Mong Kok apartment earlier this year. The narrative follows Harris’ path over the harbour and through Central, swinging between our city’s inviting nature and the crushing weight of expectations among one of the world’s financial centres. The poem accentuates the city’s underlying tension, swirling below superficiality, struggling to break through a public face.
Even with strained visual effects, Harris’ poem can at times alleviate the tension, showing Hong Kong as a magnet for imaginative travellers.Harris’ photos dive in and out of focus as a looping track plays well against her monotone reading, thanks to Hutchins skilful editing. “These still shots were subjected to a rigorous processing method via physical video camera manipulation and digital-analogue effects, the end product alluding to a kind of anti-hyper-realism animated video,” Hutchins told Localiiz.
“Dreams are achievable here. The rich and diverse community allows for amazing projects to be realised,” Harris said. “[Hong Kong is] a wonderful mix of people, exploring ways to develop their characters and personalities. One chance meeting in Hong Kong can change the course of your life forever.”
The perception of Hong Kong solely as a financial mecca is another subject Harris addresses in her film and during our interview. “People who have never been to Hong Kong have a perception that the city is sky scrapers and finance,” Harris told Localiiz. “But when people experience Hong Kong for the first time, they see and feel the diversity, the beauty and the opportunity.”
While Harris sees poetry as a tool to help Hong Kong’s residents to slow down and take stock of our surroundings, she has advice for our visitors. “Bring a camera, a notebook and turn off your phone. Get hopelessly lost, talk to new people, and never stop striving for the perfect picture and verse.”
Read “Last Days in Hong Kong” below.
Last Days in Hong Kong
by Sarah Anne Harris
You make a decision to come
You make a decision to leave; the city of dreams
You camp out in Mong Kok, and fall in love with Wan Chai
You hike and swim and sail and drink
Week after week after week
I arrived mid summer and gave it my all,br>I saw this city, unimaginable beauty.
Advice followed, flowing freely from everyone: “Quit while you are ahead,
But don’t give up ‘til your expectations are met”
Goals as high as the buildings around
You are only lost, until you can be found
We tried to be unique, and we desperately tried to fit in
We danced and suited up to hide the pain within
New friends appear in the night and you see Hong Kong from a new ethereal light
We brought colour back to every wall
We visited art galleries, went to the theatre and listened to music by the sea
We gallivanted under every city light
Night after night after night
You tell yourself independence is the most important thing
Your family arrives, you temporarily feel: SAFE, and then they leave
Suddenly nothing can replace the stain of absence, and guilt on your heartstring
You ache once again; sleepless night
In this mad metropolis of broken but achievable delight
Your days are numbered, and the mounting decisions dawn on you
Should you leave, stay, change or push through?
You fight for what you believe in,
You sit on a hundred year old tram through the city
You pinch yourself to remember where you are and who you will not be
This city of love, hate and every denied emotion in between
This city of unthinkable hostility
This city that changes everything about you
But refuses to accept the altered differences newly created in you
Darling, Lady; this city will make a man out of you
A million people pass you in a single second in the street
Thousands of eyes can see through your bedroom window at night
Escape isn’t easy in a city of every possibility
Volcanic demands; expectations, astronomically high
As high as the buildings that fill the sky
Grubby Hong Kong streets and the marble lined five star floors
The city of a million businesses hidden behind millions of city doors
You take the Star Ferry to work, across the harbour sea
You watch the skyline wake up with the departing morning fog
Time for another day, a long day in your dull soulless office job
You believe anything is possible but the surprise is too much to handle
You are tired of feeling exhausted and have burnt both ends of every damaged candle
How can you feel the decision was wrong?
When you have survived this city; Hong Kong