Detour 2011: Use-less or useless
DEC 4 — I spent Friday afternoon skulking along the corridors of the Police Married Quarters (PMQ) in Hollywood Road.
My friend enquired by text message if I had decided to surrender myself for overspending at the recently-opened Gap store nearby. I doubt the ghosts of police past would be interested in my misdemeanours but I bet my husband would be more than happy to lock up my credit card.
What I was doing there, however, was checking out the premises, curious about how folks would have lived there 60 years ago, from 1951 until 2000.
Only later that night while surfing the Net did I learn that the present Chief Executive Donald Tsang and his brother, a former police chief, grew up on the fourth floor of Block B.
The site itself was originally home to the Central School which relocated there in 1889 as the first government school to provide primary and secondary Western-style education to the public. The premises was destroyed during World War Two and demolished in 1948 to make way for the PMQ.
What I was less enthusiastic about was the ongoing annual design festival that was occupying the premises — but this was my chance to get inside.
So it was a pleasant surprise when I found myself intrigued by the design ideas exhibited inside each of the former flats.
Detour 2011, themed Use-less, is a brilliant collaboration — breathing life into historical space while educating the public about responsible consumerism.
The series of exhibitions, installations, workshops and performances takes the visitor away from sterile, white open gallery-like spaces to the musty rooms and dark corridors of the PMQ.
Initially targeted for redevelopment (read: tear down and build shiny skyscraper/ luxury apartment block), PMQ will, from 2014, become a design hub housing studios for artists and designers and retail space to showcase their products as well as public spaces.
I get a tingle imagining a similar fate for Pudu Jail, the National Art Museum and the former KTM Railway Station. If only.
At the festival, there is something to see everywhere you turn: wavy wrought iron windows, narrow kitchens separated from each flat by a corridor, a flat filled with a mountain of sawdust , another with drinking straws reached from floor to ceiling, like a spiderweb.
Some of the more interesting installations include a food cart pulled by a bicycle, titled Waste in a Wurst.
Trust my Malaysian eye to mistake it for an ice kacang cart but what it was was a sausage-making machine used to make sausages of compost derived from food waste (then stuffed into a cotton net, resembling a sausage).
Seeds are then sown on the top of the sausage. Designed by KaCaMA Design Lab, inspiration came in the form of the Currywurst sausage the three design graduates from Hong Kong Polytechnic University saw everywhere during the Design Exchange in Berlin.
There are also some fun workshops to attend. The Useless Cloth is to raise awareness on fabric wastage.
Participants are encouraged to bring in their old garments and will be taught to make tote bags and accessories.
The paper-folding pinhole camera workshop by artist Martin Cheung is bound to be a major attraction as he teaches participants — using just one piece of paper sans glue — to form a pinhole camera.
They will also be taught photo exposure techniques and how to develop their photos in a darkroom. I will leave you with photos of a few installations.
Do put Detour 2011 on your itinerary if you happen to be in town. Not only will the PMQ be worth your time but trawling the steep, narrow streets of Central after that will lead you to interesting boutiques, cafes and galleries.
Detour 2011 is on until Dec 11. Visit http://detour.hk/ for details.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.