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Video game still of a person sitting on a motorbike with their back towards us. In front of them is an urban landscape in a rainy, dusky atmosphere. The street is lit up by neon signs showing Chinese lettering, and a red Hong Kong taxi is seen driving.

Why is Hong Kong Such a Popular Video Game Location?

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The below article was written by Hugh Davies, games researcher and Postdoctoral Fellow in Design & Creative Practice at RMIT University, who is currently a Research Fellow with M+ and the Design Trust, researching Hong Kong architecture in video games.

There are around 140 video games set in Hong Kong. The final figure depends entirely on how you define ‘Hong Kong’ and ‘video games’ respectively, as both are contested territories. However, few can argue against the fact that the city looms large in visual culture—a culture that increasingly includes video games.

Yet with so few local developers creating games set in Hong Kong, how can the city’s international popularity in the ludic medium be adequately accounted for? Why do games feature Hong Kong so much? Through my work as a Research Fellow with M+ and the Design Trust exploring representations of Hong Kong in video games, I offer these overlapping explanations:

Cinematic History

A large robotic sculpture of a scorpion made out of black metal sits in a desert landscape under a bright blue sky.

The Curatorial Role: 'Participate, Don't Dominate'

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‘Viewpoints’ spotlights opinions on visual culture from voices inside and outside M+. Below, Ben Vickers, Chief Technology Officer at Serpentine Galleries, London, responds to the question, ‘How has the curatorial role expanded today?’

The internet and information technology have given rise to parallel art worlds that do not play by the rules of the dominant-art-world industrial complex. DIY maker culture is booming, more than 246 million pieces of art have been submitted to DeviantArt, the Nordic LARP scene is growing exponentially, and people at Burning Man are building industrial-scale kinetic works like this fire-breathing robot scorpion. All of this indicates the decentralisation of authority in the art world: traditional institutions and curators are no longer seen as purveyors of contemporary culture.

A person looks at a painting hanging on a white wall. The painting is of five men standing with their arms around each others’ shoulders underneath a rainbow. They all wear mask-like, laughing faces.

How to Look at Art, Even If You’re Not an Expert

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Here’s an open secret: you don’t need to be an expert to appreciate art.

Philip Yenawine is a pioneer of Visual Thinking Strategies or ‘VTS’, a way to look at art that empowers museum visitors to enjoy and make meaning from any artwork they see in front of them. He co-founded the education organisation Watershed Collaborative, and was formerly education director at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He recently spoke as part of M+’s Open Up: Museum Learning in the 21st Century talk series.

Below, Yenawine gives a short guide to VTS for our blog readers. You can use his practical tips at our upcoming show at the M+ Pavilion. Better still, bring your friends—VTS works best as a conversation!

How to Use VTS to Look at an Artwork

Close-up on a bespectacled, dark-haired man’s head and torso as he holds a microphone and speaks into it. In his other hand, he is holding a cardboard VHS cover with the words ‘LIVE AID’ emblazoned on top of an illustration in which the continent of Africa has been made to look like a guitar.

Wong Chi Chung: A Brief History of Charity Singles

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Last year, to accompany Samson Young: Songs for Disaster Relief, Hong Kong’s collateral event at the Venice Biennale 2017, M+ and the Hong Kong Arts Centre co-presented ‘We Are One?’, a programme of film screenings and conversations on the theme of charity efforts. With the current Hong Kong ‘tour’ of the exhibition Samson Young: Songs for Disaster Relief World Tour at the M+ Pavilion, closing on May 6, we invited veteran radio DJ and music critic Wong Chi Chung, a speaker in the ‘We Are One?’ programme, to write about charity singles from a historical perspective, as a response to the exhibition.

Wong Chi Chung:

On Sunday 11 March, at the gloriously sunny Freespace Happening, I wandered off to the Samson Young: Songs for Disaster Relief World Tour exhibition nearby at the M+ Pavilion and found that my thoughts took me back to an important period in my relationship to music: the time when I, a long-time music fan, became a radio DJ, in the 1980s.

The Christmas songs released in the early 1980s were mournfully beautiful, with many exceptionally romantic musicians writing moving pieces. The soundtrack for the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, which premiered in May 1983 at the Cannes Film Festival, was, for example, an unparalleled collaboration between David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto. In the year 1984, both Last Christmas by Wham! and Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? were heard throughout London and then around the world. While the former is a song about losing love, the latter was a charity song pioneer.