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Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Show overview and $$$

 This is Stanley Wong also known as anothermountainman, who has given us graphic design, book design and website design, all for free as his contribution to the show.

Ok, this is a boring one but worth a quick update for my own benefit, just a quick round up of where i'm at and may prove useful to new viewers of this blog:

As you may or may not know i am taking over a 20,000sq ft Swire properties space in April this year.
For 2 months it will house the biggest art installation in HK history; Hope and Glory.
It is something like the experience of Alice in wonderland, a completely immersive and experiential exhibition.
The audience wander through the space surrounded by large sculptures, performers, cinema screens and installations.

The show lasts for 2 months from April and is open to the public free of charge, there is no income from the show at all.

Swire, the property company that control Island East and the Artistree space that is the venue for the show, have been incredibly supportive, giving us the space for free, it would cost anyone else $4,000,000 to rent the space for the same period. It also shows a great deal of trust and faith and risk exposure to allow an independent artist to run riot in the place. The team here are really lovely and great to work with. The people who I deal with day to day, have been just so generous with their time and attention.The show is a pioneering effort and I do have support in other ways.
Many people who I know personally have chipped in where they can.
Other artists have given their time to help with production, famous actors appearing in the films at no charge, architects doing all the technical drawings for a free painting or two, musicians composing works just for the fun of it. It's very encouraging and touching that people, the  real people who don't have much money, do want to contribute.
This is James Lavelle of UNKLE and Mo Wax fame who is producing music for many of the films in the show. No charge.

It's generated a huge amount of enthusiasm amongst such people who, can't help with money, but give themselves for no reward other than the fun of being involved in such a monumental effort. At the weekend I had a full studio of friends just getting their hands dirty helping to build stuff. I had 2 different friends both offer to produce the entire book for the exhibition for free! I have another friend who has been calling around and trying to convince people who could support the show. Amazing. Lucky monkey that I am.

This effort and endeavor has been recognised formally by HK University who, in an unprecedented move, have endorsed the show and are running forum, tours and lectures at the show, commenting on it's example as being cultural significant, the synergy of the project specifically, and the endeavor of it's creation in this particular consumer and commodity driven environment. Literally hundreds of young doctors and humanities students will be dragged around the show to engage with it.
This is Eric Hu who is producing an entire film for Hope and Glory. Just for fun.

It's worth re-iterating the significance of this as it's a first in education in HK, for our largest learning institution to be involved in such a project in such a way. It's about as out of the box as they've ever been. The repercussions of this will be reported on around the world.

Luckily Louis Vuitton have come in with the support necessary to manage this part of the exhibition and further to that both Diesel and Shanghai Tang will manage the opening and closing events of the exhibition and the PR necessary. There are a number of other companies who have contributed in whatever way they can, like Xook who are doing free PR work and ADM Capital Foundation who lent us a pile of laptops.

More synergy. It is a real first in HK to have commercial, corporate, artists, creative industries and education and NGO's all involved in the same project. It's quite overwhelming. Organisations like HK Youth Arts Foundation and HK Cancer fund also are involved in supporting the exposure of the show and during the show's run, Sotheby's and Christies both have their spring auctions and may have VIP tours of the show for collectors, as well as 145 international galleries all taking part in the ArtHK international art fair, who's main outside party event is at Hope and Glory.
This is Andy Lee who is managing the building of a skate ramp for the show at no charge.

Even though I'm rapidly descending into debt to finance the show on my credit cards, I was prepared for this and I'm not complaining at all. I'm honestly grateful to be in a place where I have the opportunity to build this thing, the support that I've got so far, and the resources and freedoms of such an amazing city like Hong Kong, however broke I am at the end of it.

This is Daniel Wu, a Hong Kong actor, and Lisa S, a supermodel, who are acting in some of the films for no fee, the dog wanted paying so he got cut out.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The 12

Back in the studio with Florian who's editing film on the sofa as I go through images and drawings for the book as well as the shots from the weekends work, here's a couple of previews.

Big Errol looking large and soft:

Trying out different head options:

Finally we liked this one the most:
We also had Kim Haslam come in. Kim is awesome, she's been modelling for my paintings over the last year, most of my last show was paintings of her. She's very patient and happy to roll around the studio all day for the fun of it. She photographs really well and has an amazing singing voice. She can act too! She's pretty multi-talented. Very lucky that she's happy to help so much.
So, back to work....

Peace out.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Sunday was a typical day. Up while still dark and cold. Here in HK it gets cold only for a month or so every year so nobody bothers with central heating. So I stagger out of bed wrapped up in anything available that's thick and warm.
Quick cup of tea and check through emails that came through while i was sleeping. These are always from overseas or from the HK late nighters, like Florian who seems to get up at noon and go to bed at 5am. that used to be me but now I'm up at dawn and in bed before midnight.
The emails get my mind spinning even faster than it was when my eyes first opened, scanning through the never ending list of things to do. It roughly reads:
Neon signs, overdue commissioned work, chinese translations, mannequins, meetings with possible sponsors, connecting with arts organisations, Crass, board game, comic book, trailer, flipbook, crusade, pressure plate, logo use......and on and on...

This project is so big. When I've done a single exhibition it's taken maybe a year to prepare but this show is 21 exhibitions at all at once and every part needs a years worth of management and consideration. Everyday my mind flips from one part to another and back again.

So, today the first thing is re-checking the press release a few times, making sure not to have forgotten any contributors. Then I start re-ordering my files of images into separate banks in preparation for the book we'll have to produce of the show. Inspiration images, pre-production shots, etc.
I flick over to iMovie and carry on editing 2 of the films for the show. This is a slow and painstaking process. I do an hour or two every day at the moment.
All these activities lead me to write other emails. Direction for people working on the other films, meeting management, a lot of back and forth with curator Valerie about the forum series and with Dr Peckham about plans for our foundation. Thoughts on graphic design is another main concern, for the book, the poster, invite and website. I'm constantly sending emails to try and fine tune direction on this.

A few hours later and I head off to the studio. Today I have a couple of volunteers in. Elia and Sana. These are random people who offered their help for free. It's a really nice thing to have happened, that people have heard about the show and just want to get involved. These guys are young HK artists so it's really encouraging to see that drive and creative energy.
I get them started on tasks with Alvina, who is always in before me and always in a good mood, making more costume stuff.
Then I have to review early soundtrack examples from James Lavelle. With UNKLE he's just finished a new album and I have the pre-release version, it's awesome and there are elements that we will modify for parts of the show.

Then  I head off to meet Stanley Wong, anothermountainman, who is one of HK's leading artists and all round amazingly talented guy. he produced the skull image for the show and we talk about solutions for the other graphic design elements necessary. The skull is awesome but it's a bit cliche. I've seen one too many skulls and it also doesn't completely articulate the show...or does it, i can't quite decide. Stanley also wants to get involved in the book and we throw ideas around for some time. My friends at Absolute Creative have also offered to handle the book, ideally I'd like to get them both on it. Will try and discuss with them Monday.

While I'm there I bump into one of the Louis Vuitton guys who reminds me about the dinner on coming Friday. It's the HK Cancer Fund ball. I'm a big supporter of theirs and Sally, who runs the charity, has invited me to sit with her at dinner. Louis Vuitton asked me to sit at their table too and somehow I got my wires crossed and I've said yes to them both. So I tell the LV guy, hey i'm sorry I messed up but I guess I'm obliged to sit with the head of the charity and he was like, 'yeh that's cool'....but I'm not sure if it was cool. I think he may have been a bit offended that I would chose to sit somewhere other than the LV table.

Anyway, I digress. So after being given a monumental amount of work to collect information for the book and other graphic design I leave the meeting with another long 'to do' list.
then I pick up my bro Errol. He's a very old and good friend. We actually used to work as bouncers together at a night club when i first came to HK. He's helping out today by modeling one of the larger alien costumes. he's the nicest guy you'll ever me. He brings his 10 year old son with him who already speaks fluent canto as well as english.
So we get Errol dressed up and film him as the sun goes down. He's very patient.
Filming takes an hour or two and then we're back to the studio to undress. Florian has turned up too so we have a quick discussion about the plan for the week ahead. Then another discussion about some further costume design.
Then, having not eaten all day, I zip over to dinner at a friends place and then back to the office where I get back on the mac for more editing and then I look up and it's midnight already.
And now it's 6.23 am and I'm writing this blog on a Monday morning. here we go again....

Friday, 19 February 2010


At 3m tall and 30m long, definitely the biggest piece of art i've ever attempted. It's being built up in China and with only 6 weeks to opening I really hope they're getting it done....!
The colour choice is very specific. The letters needed to reflect post war optimism of the 1950's so I looked at cars from that period, which I was obsessed with as a kid, along with Marilyn Monroe.
The colours of that period were really beautiful and vague. I stole the palette from 2 particular cars, a 1950 Oldsmobile and a 1961 Lincoln Continental. The reason being, Jackson Pollock died in the Olds. and JFK died in the Lincoln.

Myself and Gigi from Paul Kember's office (the architect responsible for much of the design work) sat and played with the combinations for over a week to get it right! You'll have to wait until the show opens to see which one we chose.

Press release.

Valerie, the exhibition curator, wrote our press release this week, so here it is, which also gives you all the basics about the show.....

Hope & Glory --- A Conceptual Circus
Simon Birch

Hong Kong artist Simon Birch has created Hope and Glory, perhaps the most ambitious multi-media art project ever undertaken in Hong Kong.

The unprecedented scale of the show, which will fill the 20,000sq ft ArtisTree exhibition space in Taikoo Shing, will challenge established paradigms in art presentation and construction to bring its audience on a fascinating and immersive adventure through a metaphorical world - a conceptual circus - created by the artist.

A series of interlinked multi-media installations will transform the vast space into a mythological labyrinth, where cultural and personal histories merge, provoking the audience to consider their own relationship with the past, the present and the future.

Just as the archetypal circus brought together spectacular “sideshows” from all over the world to create an multi-sensory allegory of foreign adventure, in Hope and Glory Birch has brought together artists, designers, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, actors, gaming wizards, and architects from Hong Kong and abroad in an unprecedented collaboration - each contributing their own particular vision to Hope and Glory’s conceptual world of spectacle and wonder.

Birch’s monumental show explores a number of major themes that recur in the artist’s work: the idea of art as a spectacle; the fascination with circuses and fairgrounds, science fiction and mythologies; as well as a preoccupation with traditions of craftsmanship and labour in art production.

Hope and Glory is deeply informed by the structure of the ‘hero myth’ that appears in different guises throughout history and across cultures, from the Odyssey of Ancient Greece to modern science fiction films such as Star Wars and Blade Runner. The narrative that unfolds in Hope and Glory is a retelling - through film, sculpture, music, video, painting, gaming and live performance - of archetypal themes, such as the duality of human existence, the relationship between suffering and redemption, the journey from darkness into light, and the leap from adversity into transcendence. By entering into its all-immersive environment the audience becomes part of this unfolding experience.

The title of the project, ‘Hope and Glory’, is an appropriation of the title of a British patriotic song from the close of the Victorian era, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, an anthem that hopes for a mightier and more powerful empire. The use of the title here is both ironic and meaningful, referring to the hope and glory that are relative to individual human experience, as well as to the negatives which burden imperial dreams.

One of Birch’s intentions in conceiving this monumental installation is the creation of an all-enveloping artistic space that echoes the function of the circus in traditional culture: offering within the frenetic urban environment a temporary place of other-worldly respite and the experience of a communal sense of wonder.

A series of four innovative Forums exploring topics and questions generated by the Hope and Glory project will be held during the exhibition period.

More Information: 
Simon Birch & collaborators:
Valerie Doran, Daniel Wu, Paul Kember, Stanley Wong, Kacey Wong, James Lavelle and UNKLE, Gary Gunn, Lucy Mcrae, Florian Ma, Alvina Lee, Prodip, Robert Peckham, Prodip, Lisa S, Terence Yin, Tony Magnetic, CB Fresh, Laura Thomas, Clive Kirsten, Douglas Young , Cang Xin, Wing Shya 

Funded by:
The Birch Foundation

Supported by:
Swire Properties, Diesel, Louis Vuitton, HKU centre for medical humanities, Xook PR, Shanghai Tang, Zuma Restaurant, ArtHK, Hong Kong Cancer Fund, 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, G.O.D., Sovereign Art Foundation. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Every circus needs a freakshow

There's a large part of the Hope and glory installation that is a freakshow of sorts. Literally a dozen or more people who sit around the exhibition who look like bizarre creatures.
This came about originally when I came across the work of Lucy McRae, an incredibly talanted creative Australian girl working in Holland. I asked her to get involved in the show and she generated a number of initial concepts.

Lucy's work can be seen here:

From that point I've been working with Alvina Lee who works at the HKAPA in the costume department and Florian Ma, a HK artist who's joined the project as full time assistant.
So we've been testing and experimenting with new textures and designs and basically dressing Florian up and taking him out on to the street to film him looking like an alien. Much fun.

We'll find out any day if we get government funding, and of that happens we'll be able to bring Lucy back in to do something very unique. She would produce a new one off special creature that we would then film using the latest hologram technology. This hologram would then be played inside the exhibition. A first for HK. I went to London to negotiate with the hologram guys who were extremely helpful and gave us an incredible deal so I'm extremely excited at the possibility of pulling it off. It's still very expensive so unfortunately if we don't get government support, we're screwed.

Fingers crossed.

The multi-talented Florian Ma.

This is Alvina.

One of Lucy's early tests.

And a more recent one.

This is one of our test from the last few days.

And this is one of Lucy's works which we've developed further.

And another of our new tests.

Will upload more and some film when time allows.

Peace, out.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

tiger tiger....

So, it's quiet here in Hong Kong. It's chinese new year, the year of the tiger, and HK is pretty much shut down for the next week.
it's a little stressful because there's so much work to do right now on production, especially on the large sculptures, but we're on hold until the factories in China re-open.
But am taking advantage of the peace and quiet to get my head down and fine tune some of the last details necessary for the show.

Anyway, in the meantime, happy new year to my blog followers and here's a few shots from my tiger film. It originally showed at HK Museum of Art last year, on 4 screens that surrounded the viewer, each screen being 8mx5m.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Rick Lucy, cool as fuck.

So this one is about Gary Gunn and randomness.

Last year I agreed to do an exhibition in Miami. I have a sketchy friend called Tony Magnetic who tells me he has a friend in Miami called Max who wants to open a gallery in the design district. Max really likes my work and asks me if I'd like to show some paintings.
I get a good vibe off Max even though it's his first venture into the art world. So I agree and the stage is set.
The space is called AE District and I crate up the work and send it over by boat, it arrives a few days before the show is due to open. All good. around 15 new works.
Of course, this is at the worst possible time as America was totally crushed by the financial crisis.
But whatever, spirit of adventure, I figure it'll be dope to go check out Miami and I can call in on my Los Angeles friends, Corey, Conan, Brento and Marco on the way through.

The trip is most entertaining. In LA we roll straight out on the town and get hammered. Too hammered for me in fact and I bail at 3am back to Corey's place as the jetlag kicks in big time. An hour later I'm awoken with a flashlight and a shotgun pointed at my face.
I get dragged outta bed and into the living room where there are more lights and guns and noise. The whole house is full of SWAT. Marco and Corey, now cuffed and on their knees, had rolled in drunk and couldn't wake sleeping beauty so, Marco being Marco, kicked the door down. The neighbours heard the ruckus and called 5-0. It took some time to convince the cops we weren't gangbangers.

Nice first night in LA.

Anyway, from there I went on to Miami and met Max and his team. Max is a super nice guy with a good heart. The opening of the show was busy with cool kids but no sales unfortunately. I guess they're not hooked up in the art collector world yet and the financial meltdown wouldn't have helped. Nonetheless they look after me well.

At the opening party there's a band from NYC. Rick Lucy.

It's a loose collective organised by Gary Gunn and this is the first time the band has actually played together even though they just made an album.
They are awesome. We all hang out, get drunk and sit on Miami's main beach swapping stories (they wouldn't let us in to the cool night club because we were too scruffy ..... well, Gary was).
So I say, 'you should do some audio for my exhibition'. Gary says, ok, and here we are a year later and from that one real life meeting he's actually coming through with the goods. Turns out his day job is movie soundtracks and I just happen to be making a shit load of video art that needs soundtracks.
I fucking love it when shit like that happens.

And so it goes.

The sad end to the story is that 2 of the friends at the beginning of the story, Brento and Marco, were hijacked in Rio a couple of months back. brento took a couple of 9mm in the guts and is ok but Marco took 2 in the head and 2 in the chest and is stone cold dead. So wherever you are my friend, you'll be missed.

One of the soundtracks in the show will be about loss, it'll be for Marco, by Gary Gunn.

Friday, 5 February 2010


This week I got arrested, not a new experience I'm sorry to say. This time it was lame because it was just unpaid fines. As usual it relates to my motorcycle which in this instance I'd fallen off after some idiot pulled out in front of me. I lay in the dirt and the guy never even got out the van to help me out. No broken bones thankfully but when the cops showed up they checked over my bike and found out the license had expired so gave me a thousand bucks worth of tickets.
Anyway, I never got around to paying the ticket and eventually they put a warrant out and turned up at 11pm when i was in a nice hot bath and put the cuffs on me and bundled me into a police truck. I fully looked like a major criminal. How ridiculous.
Now, having experienced what dicks the cops here can be, very over zealous, i called a lwyer friend. AJ Halkes. He raced down and bailed me out. Good job too because my next day was full on with meetings, a lecture and a very expensive film shoot.
We shot a white horse, at night in 3D! yep, 3D! Pretty cool.
The final film is part of Hope and Glory.
Anyway, the point of it all is, I forgot to organise a photographer to document the filming but it just so happens that AJ Halkes is also a very talented photographer so he hopped on board and joining us out in Yuen Long and became our boy.
Strange how things turn out. Police+Lawyer+Horse=art.

Here's a couple of AJ's shots.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


A couple of previews for different graphic design experiments for the Hope and Glory show.

This one by Calvin Ho.

These 3 are all by the amazing, multi-award winning Stanley Wong, better known as Anothermountainman.

Monday, 1 February 2010

more $$$

Busy week.
I'm artist in residence at a school here in HK called CIS (Chinese International School). It's a very privileged school for HK's elite. I didn't realise that when a teacher friend asked me to come hang out and it's only later I realised it's stuffed full of rich kids.
I can be a reverse snob sometimes, coming from a less than privileged background, but I've really enjoyed the experience. I come here at 9am and just paint in a large and light studio. Every now and again kids roll in and watch me work or chat and I do the same, watching them work too. There's no real structure to my being here other than maybe doing a talk at some point.
On the whole they're an articulate and confident bunch, they all work really hard, not like the school I went to where kids were just trying punch each other and I spent most of my time sneaking out and getting drunk in the park.

Hope and Glory work is never ending. Will be meeting the skate ramp builders tonight to discuss that part of the installation. We're then on set tomorrow to shoot our 3D film. Out in the middle of nowhere we're taking a white horse and shit load of lights and a big fuck off 3D camera and shooting this thing galloping around at night. Thursday I'll be spending time with Douglas (G.O.D.) to work out his part of the installation.

I'm still editing a ton of film to go into Douglas' area for the 2 big screens. Editing is fun but, man, it takes a long time. Lucky I now have Florian Ma helping, he's working on the trpaeze film.
Meanwhile Alvina is hard at work testing more costume variations for the freakshow part of the exhibition.
Graphic design is my biggest problem right now, Diesel's guy is busy and now I got another couple of people on it but it's moving slowly.
Mimi was building spaceships but she's been off sick. Goose had a meltdown and quit!
Trying to squeeze in the Shanghai Tang work too but just too stretched right now. Did a good deal with KplusK to help take the pressure off the sculptural work that needs to be done for Shanghai.

Go go go.

The government continue to ask or more information so I spent a couple of long nights re-organising accounts and clarifying various aspects of the show. It's content, the marketing, the contributors. It's very drainign but useful for me also to be very clear about what I'm doing and how. I'll share with you an anecdote that was included in my cover letter where I was explaining how come Swire, Louis Vuitton, Diesel, Daniel Wu, Lisa S, Stanley Wong, Douglas Young, HKU, etc are all supporting the show.

"Ultimately it is the productive and positive relationships that I have
built up over the years in Hong Kong that has given me access to so
much support. Working as an artist has allowed me these wonderful
opportunities and somehow my ambition, enthusiasm and belief in the
positive impact of art has attracted many people to this project.

When I was preparing the paperwork for the mega fund application I
needed to do a better job on the accounting side, so I employed an
accountant, Stephen Chan, who I've known for some time. He took all my
notes away and came back a day later with the finished excel
I asked him how much the bill was for his time. He said, 'no charge'.
I asked him why and he said 'To produce these accounts I read the
proposal you had made to the government for funding. I understand what
you are trying to do, something powerful and inspiring for Hong Kong
people, for us to be proud of. I wish I could be an artist and be
involved in some way. My father always pushed me to be an accountant
and I'm good at it even though it's not my dream job. So, I may not be
able to contribute to your project in a creative way but I would like
to contribute, so please accept my work on these accounts for free.
And good luck, I really hope you can make it a reality, I can't wait
to see it.'

It is this spirit, this reaction, this enthusiasm I have encountered
again and again when discussing the project, whether to the kids at
CIS where I'm artist in residence, or to the guy in the printing shop
when I needed copies of the PDF for the application, or the Professors
up at the HK University. Everyone seems energised to be involved or just
to see something that is so homegrown but so spectacular. That is not
about commerce but about art."