“The Making of Neon Signs” is a short documentary presenting a visual history of how the famous neon lights in mainland China and Hong Kong are made, including captivating interviews with some of the oldest producers of neon signs in Hong Kong.
Artisans producing the signs in Hong Kong have seen a decline in businesses in the past 20 years, after the boom in the 1980s. As thousands of neon signs disappear each year from the streets of Hong Kong, so do their makers. The craft of creating neon signs might soon be lost in favor of the newer, cheaper and more environmentally friendly LED lights or posters as nowadays, signs are being taken down due to safety, efficiency or urban planning reasons.
Watch the movie for insight into neon sign making from some of the most experienced workers in the field and learn about the importance of calligraphy in Chinese architecture and what signage can say about a business.
You can also watch this on Youtube at a better resolution. [use VPN in mainland China]
The short film is produced by M+, of the West Kowloon Cultural District as part of the online exhibition “Mobile M+: NEONSIGNS.HK”; curated by Aric Chen (Curator, Design and Architecture) and Tobias Berger (Curator, Visual Art), with Shirley Surya (Assistant Curator, Design and Architecture) and Chloe Chow (Curatorial Assistant).
NEONSIGNS.HK also includes an interactive map where users can upload photos of their favorite neon signs in HK, short movie documentaries, a “Neon Timeline” that pinpoints the highlights in neon lights history and beautiful essays on the topic, updated weekly. On the offline side, M+ organizes walks and talks around Hong Kong.
M+ easily gets our credit for the best (online only so far) museum discovery of the month!
According to its curators, “from 21 March to 30 June, 2014, the NEONSIGNS.HK website will be actively updated with new content, ranging from essays and slideshows to videos, specially-commissioned projects and news about offline tours, talks and workshops. M+ has begun acquiring, for its permanent collection, notable Hong Kong neon signs that are otherwise at risk of being lost. As such, the aim of NEONSIGNS.HK is to enhance the understanding of these fast-disappearing and under-researched fixtures of the city’s urban landscape, while eliciting the public’s help in identifying and contributing knowledge about the neon signs that remain.”
We found their well-documented “Neon Timeline” extremely interesting, with multiple mentions of Shanghai as a forerunner in neon light signage, such as:
– 1926 – The first neon sign appears in China, advertising Royal typewriters in a window display at the Evan Book Company (伊文思圖書公司) on Nanjing East Road in Shanghai.
– 1927 – The bilingual neon sign installed at the Shanghai Central Hostel (上海中央大旅社) becomes the first sign produced in China. It’s made by the Shanghai Far East Chemistry Company (上海遠東化學製造廠). The same year, “Metropolis”, the classic German science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang, applies neon lighting effects to evoke a futuristic vision of the city. (Yeah, way before “Balde Runner”.)
Check all the Timeline entries here.
And here’s Christopher Doyle talking about his passion of filming neon lights and comparing them to whores:
Calligraphy, typography and architecture buffs rejoice; everyone else…bring on the “Blade Runner” allegories! (sigh..)
M+ is the new museum for visual culture in Hong Kong, as part of the West Kowloon Cultural District, encompassing 20th and 21st century art, design and architecture, and the moving image from Hong Kong, China, Asia and beyond. M+ has already embarked on a number of public programmes and exhibitions, and has begun to assemble its permanent collection, in the run-up to the planned 2017 opening of its 60,000 square-metre building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron with TFP Farrells and Ove Arup & Partners HK, overlooking Victoria Harbour.
The West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural developments worldwide. Its vision is to create a vibrant cultural quarter for the city, a vital platform for the local arts scene to interact, develop and collaborate, and major facilities to host and produce world-class exhibitions, performances and arts and cultural events. It will provide 23 hectares of public open space including ample green space, a green avenue and a harbor front promenade, and will be closely connected with the neighborhood.
By Andreea Dragut