Art and Visual Resistance As Political Correctives in Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal 13 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Daniel GARRETT, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Though visual traces of the unprecedented Umbrella Revolution in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) were feverishly expunged from the city’s urban fabric and erased from icons of state power by the local Chinese regime in 2014, the furtive, recurrent, and pervasive resurgence of subversive images of political defiance since then represent a symbolic visual nemesis and repudiation of hegemonic myths of the putative demise and failure of the non-violent civil disobedience movement referred to as, albeit imprecisely, Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP).   Though commonly deployed in accounts by local and international mainstream media, the overseas community, and by Chinese and HKSAR governments, OCLP – as a notion of new social movement civil disobedience in a Chinese city striving for genuine universal suffrage – was quickly overcome by events in late-September 2014 before Occupy’s scheduled commencement on China’s National Day.  Hongkongers’ spontaneous moral indignation and outrage at excessive HKSAR violence against peaceful demonstrators, instead, ultimately gave impetus to the preemptive emergence of the Hongkonger uprising.  Variously referred to as the Umbrella Movement or Revolution by participants, and vividly evident in the ubiquitous protest art and visuals situated throughout occupation encampments and subaltern online counterpublics, the popular groundswell tapped and visually expressed widespread latent cultural, economic, political and social tensions in society long obfuscated in official hegemonic discourses almost exclusively extolling ‘One Country, Two Systems’ (OCTS) success.  This repertoire of street and Internet-based insurgent images, is proffered as constituting a visual political corrective to the dominant forces’ narratives of success and harmony under Chinese sovereignty – as do their continued appearance across the city post-Umbrella.  Using on- and off-line participant observation and researcher and subject generated images, this paper investigates the new image politics of subaltern Hongkonger visual insurgency in the “era of [political] disobedience.”