Tuesday, 15 September 2020

A book review by Loring Knoblauch

BOOK REVIEW: Siu Ding, Not for a Second Did I Think of Backing Down 
By Loring Knoblauch / In Photobooks / September 2, 2020

Link: https://collectordaily.com/siu-ding-not-for-a-second-did-i-think-of-backing-down/ 

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2020 by Soft D Press (here). Softcover, 13×16 cm, 136 pages, with 115 black and white reproductions. Includes song lyrics (in Chinese/English) from various bands/songwriters. In handmade editions of 15, 50, 50, and 50. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Over the last half dozen years, Hong Kong has existed in an intermittent state of protest. As China’s efforts to exert further legal and political control over the former British colony have expanded, the forces supporting democracy, the “one country two systems” construct, and the autonomous rights of Hong Kong people have risen up to voice their opposition. In 2014, proposed changes to electoral procedures led to the Umbrella Revolution, and last year, proposed changes to the extradition laws (which would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to the mainland and charged under Chinese law) brought the people into the streets once again.

As the Anti-extradition Law Movement protests escalated in November of 2019, many of Hong Kong’s universities were occupied, and then surrounded by police, creating protracted and in some cases violent standoffs. Siu Ding’s photobook Not for a Second Did I Think of Backing Down brings us inside those events, providing first-hand witness evidence of the aftermath. Her images document the scene at four of Hong Kong’s most prominent universities (Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University, University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University), offering a compelling visual record of the specific flash point locations. The title of the photobook comes from a song by the Hong Kong band RubberBand, which was sung by the protesters at PolyU (and is reprinted at the beginning of the book).

Ding’s black and white photographs don’t capture the fervent action of the rallies, speeches, sieges, and confrontations, but instead memorialize what came immediately after. There are almost no people in her pictures, aside from a few stragglers and curious onlookers – her scenes are eerily quiet, documenting the zones of previous violence like a war photographer exploring scarred battlefields, which is exactly what these once mundane educational places have become. By day, a sense of crisp brightness exposes the once urgent but now subdued textures of the conflict; by night, the mood darkens and the ghosts emerge, the emptiness echoing through the pock marked streets.

Moving from campus to campus, Ding retraces the steps of the protests. Many of her images document improvised gathering spaces, like tennis courts, dry swimming pools, plazas, parking lots, walkways, and smaller connecting roads. It is here that hundreds of people once huddled together and built barricades and temporary walls out of whatever was at hand to protect themselves. The day after remnants scattered all over tell compelling stories: petrol bombs, empty gas canisters, plastic projectiles, piles of clothing, umbrellas, and countless bricks and uprooted paving stones, many splashed across the ground with obvious force. Overturned desks, chairs, and dorm furniture have been piled into defensive heaps, blocking access to entry areas or feeder roads. Brick walls and screens of bamboo scaffolding have been built, debris and netting have been used to block passageways and escalators, and junk has been thrown onto the nearby subway tracks. Inside the schools, cafeterias and lounges have been commandeered as staging grounds and improvised meeting places, the walls covered with signs and posters. The once tidy halls of academia have been transformed into an impromptu war zone.

Some of Ding’s most haunting photographs show us wide open spaces filled with small piles of bricks. Like Eleanor Antin’s black boots, they seem to represent hundreds of disembodied people, the bricks used as places to sit or stand for crowded protests (and ready as potential projectiles). In the aftermath, they remain, like totems or tombstones in the expansive plazas, scattered across the streets and into the distance, providing a sense of the scale of the crowds. *

Ding is also fascinated by graffiti, her pictures documenting words sprayed on walls, sidewalks, poles, stairways, overpasses, and countless other locations, including the barricades themselves. For those who don’t read Chinese, the message of most of the inscriptions and tags will be lost, but the sporadic English language contributions certainly provide a sense for the emotions of the moment: “All day all night we are gonna fight”, “freedom isn’t free”, “you can’t keep me quiet”, “Be aware or be next!”. Several have an endearingly academic tone: “Ideas are bulletproof”, “please treasure the book” (sprayed outside the library), and even an Albert Camus quote in French “Je me révoltedonc je suis”. As photographs, these marks (in whatever language) feel resolutely human, the urgent need to communicate covering nearly every available surface.

The success in Ding’s photographs lies in their emotional immediacy – we feel like we can see what the schools looked like at that time, and also feel the heightened tension, determination, and even anguish that filled the air in the aftermath. Not for a Second Did I Think of Backing Down is a powerful protest photobook, and the images resonate with that charged energy. While Lele Saveri’s photobook Barricades from 2017 (reviewed here) highlighted the abstract patterns found in some of the barriers built during the Umbrella Revolution, Ding’s photographs offer a more intimately melancholy and quietly resolute mood. Especially at night, her pictures of lone chairs, shadowy passageways, candle lit flower memorials, liberty statues, and empty battlegrounds echo with the sounds (and commitments) of passionate engagement. Ding stands a step back to thoughtfully (and artistically) frame the situation, but her heart is in full solidarity with the will of the people of Hong Kong.

In the end, the protesters were successful in creating enough pressure to have the extradition bill withdrawn, and so, in a sense, Ding’s photobook stands as both a memorial to that collective action, and as encouragement for those who will take on the next challenge. With a new national security law recently imposed by China, the legal and political situation in Hong Kong has gotten even more fraught in recent months, with protests and resistance continuing, even amid the virus pandemic. Ding’s empathetic photobook shows us one specific moment in the ongoing struggle, and offers hope for those that continue to fight.

Collector’s POV: Siu Ding does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).

 *The meaning of the piles of bricks

Tuesday, 25 August 2020



 盛夏,我又回到了日本,在 W n M 的田裡幫忙。這實在讓我很開心,自往年在這裡住了一星期以後,便打算每年來一趟。可借,他們也快要搬家了,幸好在他們離開前還可以再看看田裡的風景。 農忙完畢,我便四處走走,雖然村子很小,但仍有不少未走過的地方。 


三個女孩子和一個外國人男孩子 -- 我的朋友 -- 歡迎我來,我們一聊起上來,放映變成背景音樂。但我其實並不知道他們是誰,我心裡感到孤單,嘗試理清到底我是在哪裡和正在做甚麼。 




Echo by V: 

Great! I will be ready. With joy.... Here are some beginning thoughts According to Ernst Bloch, we are still capable of creating a new world from a utopia. Now we have to start. Life has been given into our hands. We should use our ability to think utopia, - against these vicious attacks on democracy. It seemed to be essential, including for Hannah Arendt, that people learned to believe in it at all and to remedy their grievances, that they would be able to create a better world. Like an intellectual General Staff we should act revolutionising this seemingly desperate reality towards a real, humane, civilised society that is sustainable for human beings. There is never enough tangible utopia! The counter concept to utopia – maybe is our sense of Home ? Not the home of origins, and not the home that must first come into existence, whose blurry, yearning images drives hope, like in Ernst Bloch's great illustrated book of utopias of all millennia and dimensions To make oneself at home, or "to land on this earth", means closing the gap in consciousness. But home as the reason and the network of relationships on which we depend, which - quite literally - keep us alive and inspired. Like Hannah Arendt speaks about the importance of her friends, that she loves them and not the one nation. We all need this kind of emotional stimulation, and the opportunity where and with whom we want to be?

Thursday, 13 August 2020








Tuesday, 30 June 2020





為 K 手製她的第一本小說,只是小學生的她已經開小說寫作,實在難得。


Thursday, 23 April 2020

活在真相中 living in truth


2019年尾,抗爭運動尚未結束,在沉重的心情下,我選取了在香港四所大學拍下最深刻的十四張相片,製成月曆,盼以這薄薄一冊的圖象,提示未來,銘記過去的反抗。我在理工畢業,對母校有很多情意結,於學校遊走之間既親密又陌生,當時百般思量未能處理好所有拍下的相片。到今年4月,終於圓滿地整理好整輯相片,製成小書《一秒從未想折返》Not for a Second Did I think of Backing Down,作為《浪漫是你的本性》You are Born to be Romantic的延續。




假若你和我同樣,決定留下來見証,我們便要有勇氣戰勝恐懼。試著多讀經典去提示自己應當做些甚麼,為未來在極權下的生活該如何應對做好準備。除了讀《動物農莊》(Animal Farm)、《1984》、《極權主義的起源》(The Origins of Totalitarianism)和《暴政》(On Tyranny),A還建議讀哈維爾的書:「哈維爾提出『活在真相中』(living in truth),乃一個持續尋找真相的過程,踐行自己所相信的事,有話直說,縱使只屬少數,也不向權貴低頭。」

讓我們一起 🔥 活在真相中 living in truth🔥


Thursday, 16 April 2020








想起不留心上歷史課的同學,或者根本沒有選歷史課的,藉口以後工作上用不到歷史學到的謀略與事件前因後果。我們以為帝王與屠殺、文字獄與坑儒,是遠古的故事,背誦只不過為了應付考試,卻沒有想過歷史可以重新包裝出現——在今日的香港出現。身處在極權臨近的時限中,我問 A 為甚麼不走?她說她去過柏林,但那裡像是生活在過去,能夠讓她取得更大的機會是留在香港,就算是廣州和北京她也相當喜歡,因為這些地方充滿了可能性,人們活在「真正的」現在。