Space of disobedience: a visual document of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong
As a university student in Hong Kong, I joined myHong Kong friends to the protests that began in September 2014. During my four years of living in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), surrounded by many activist friends, I have observed and participated (by being on-site) in various demonstrations, albeit at a distance. The distance may be due to my lack of knowledge of the local context, or the emotional distance of an outsider, or the inability to understand the language in a speech/slogan dominated demonstration. However, during the protest that took place in the latter months of 2014—quoted the “Umbrella Movement” —I felt for the first time that “being on-site”, walking, sitting, sleeping, and observing, was the crucial act of participation. Overnight, the most expensive, private, inaccessible parts of Hong Kong were made public space. Spaces normally defined by their function and exclusive users were suddenly available for unbounded appropriation. Tracing my own experience as one of the many who explored and lodged on the streets, I describe here how the reinterpretation and tactical uses of space during the occupation became a central aspect of the movement. I also visually explore how this spatial engagement has potentially transformed the passive participants of protests into active agents. By “walking in the city”, figuratively in De Certeau’s sense, we participated in the making of a new landscape, and collectively our act made a profoundly different way of experiencing Hong Kong.
Eunsoo Lee is an MPhil student in Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. Since moving to Hong Kong from Seoul in 2010, she has taken up photography as a way to explore and find a sense of belonging in the city.