Public Art Project: Where the Hearts Meet, HKBZG (15 Jan – 9 July 2021)

15 Jan- 30 Jun 2021 at Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens

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Artist Statement

The year of 2021 marks the 150th Anniversary of the Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Gardens, which has been an escape for people who enjoy nature. The recent strolls that I made through the area were full of exciting encounters with the locals, children, domestic helpers, expatriates, and tourists. These enchanted visitors vitalized the air with their bliss. The Gardens, an ideal setting for both social and solitary life, has become a true celebration of the diverse communities and cultures that have converged throughout its history.

My childhood recollection of the Gardens consisted of nothing more than the huge aviary and primitive sounds from the wildlife. However, my repeated visits have confirmed that it is a unique and timeless place. For this exhibition I deviated from my long-standing photographic style of limited human presence, and created a series of people-centric images entitled Where the Hearts Meet. They explore the remarkable geographical settings of this urban oasis and its special connection with visitors. I believe that the intrinsic value of the Gardens lies in its power to nurture different lives and relationships, generation after generation. This project honors the Gardens, an essential part of Hong Kong, which provides all that is needed to connect our hearts.

About the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens was the site of the government house during the city’s early development. It was officially opened to the public in 1871 and is the oldest garden in the territory.

The Gardens occupies an area of 5.6 hectares (14 acres). At the southern entrance is a memorial arch and a granite arch dedicated to the Chinese who died assisting the Allies during the two world wars. A bronze statue of King George VI was erected in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of British colonial rule over Hong Kong.

Apart from housing century-old historic monuments, old and valuable trees and other exotic flora, the Gardens is also the home to various endangered species of birds, mammals, and reptiles.

About the Project

For the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens the Art Promotion Office launched a yearlong public art project, ‘Hi! Flora, Fauna’ to celebrate the event.

The artist, Gretchen So, was commissioned to explore stories about the Gardens and the relationship between humans and nature. The result of her work is a series of photographs, most of which are displayed on both sides of the steps leading to the Bronze Statue of King George VI, creating a spectacular outdoor gallery. The remaining works are nested in different trails where the landscape of the photos intertwines with that of the surrounding environment, allowing visitors to roam freely between the imagery and reality during their leisurely strolls.

This project began just before the early outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the following year, many visitors flocked to the Gardens because of the closures of many businesses. People from all walks of life engaged in various unusual activities, which were captured in the artist’s photographs.

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