SAAL is a DIY live music venue which opened in its latest location in Hong Kong’s Kwun Tong area in 2016. It was one of the few smaller-scale spaces in Hong Kong in which local experimental musicians could cut their teeth, as well as a destination for like-minded artists visiting from abroad. There aren’t many such small places for experimental performance in Hong Kong, and so SAAL (taken from the German, meaning a small hall, room, or chamber) represented an important part of the underground music scene here. In 2020 the owners, Leo and William, placed SAAL on hiatus due to the COVID-19 situation as well for various other reasons, so in this interview I wanted to ask them about the development of SAAL, what the space represented for them, for the artists that made use of it, and for Hong Kong more generally, and why they closed the space and their plans for the future. Along the way they pay tribute to their colleague Albert Leung who passed away in 2019, and why noise music in particular needs live spaces to be experienced.
Date of original interview: 22 October 2021; UPDATED: February 2023
This interview with Steve Hui, aka Nerve, originally took place in October 2021, and was part of my PhD research into the live-streaming of experimental music in Hong Kong and Mainland China during the COVID-19 restrictions. Hui is an artist, educator, and co-founder of the Twenty Alpha live venue that has been situated in the Foo Tak Building in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district since March 2018. Twenty Alpha has become one of the main venues in Hong Kong for non-mainstream music and performance generally, and with the COVID-19 restrictions became a base for broadcasting events when audiences could not be invited in. This interview reviews Hui’s approaches to performance over this period, both the broadcasts from Twenty Alpha, as well as the group and solo performances he took part in the tunnels, walkways, and trams of Hong Kong, some of which were live-streamed.
In this text I will be arguing for the significance of silence or circumspection as a form of active disengagement. In particular I will be looking at this as an artistic tactic, focusing on sound art or experimental music practices that display such tactics as a matter of choice or necessity. These forms of practice will be related to historically situated practices that have taken various approaches to avoid confrontation while nevertheless asserting their presence in relation to specific social issues. I will be proposing that such practices institute new relationships between an artist and their audience that may open up the potential for new social and political effects.
For the second part of this three part series of posts touching on DIY/alternative cultural practices in Osaka, Japan, I spoke to artist Kaori Yoshikawa who set up Noooooooooooo Kitty last year with her teammate Snoo. Noooooooooooo Kitty is an artist-run gallery and events space that they opened following the closure of their previous space, named Bar Kitty. The latter was located in the suburbs south of Osaka, while Noooooooooooo Kitty is located in the Baika area in the west (around the corner from Go Tsushima’s home/studio, who I interviewed in the first part of this series). Over the past few years Baika and its surroundings have become popular for artists and musicians, and a number of small galleries and live venues are also located there. In this way a certain informal cultural community appears to have developed in this area, which Noooooooooooo Kitty is now part of and benefits from in various ways. In this interview Kaori goes into detail about their motivations for the move to Baika, and how Snoo and her artistic practices are reflected in their plans for Noooooooooooo Kitty.