December 18, 1994

Heman Chong

This is a travel story. They had been traveling for three weeks. It was the first time that they spent an uninterrupted amount of time together after a long span of being physically apart. The man, in his thirties, broken and exhausted from a failed career as an artist. The woman, in her forties, broken and exhausted from his failed career as an artist. A part of him failed to be moved by her presence, another part of him refused to let her go.

Early morning flights are exhausting, she said. I can't understand why we're always on them. I know, I'm sorry, I'll try and plan it better next time, he replied. You always say that, but you never do, she said, you always say but you never do. Yes, but, he said. Don't say but, she interrupted, I hate the word, but, it makes everything you say sound like an excuse. I'm not trying to make excuses here, he said, but. There it is again, the word but, she interrupted, again, angry and agitated. I can't explain myself without using the word, but, but I'll try, he said. Go ahead, try, she said. Wait a minute, I have to gather my thoughts, he said, scratching his nose. I hate it when you do that, when you scratch your nose, she said. I don't see the point of this conversation, he said. Fine, she said, let's not talk then. But, he said. There it is, again. But, she said. Do you still want to talk, he asked. Fine, let's talk, she replied, let's talk about your fucking work, it's the only thing you ever want to talk about. That's not true, he said, and turned away. Tell me a story, she said, you used to tell me about all sorts of things.

There is a man who claims that Kowloon belonged to his grandfather, he said, although nobody else could find any records to prove it. He starts walking around the city, marking its surfaces with claims that he is the 'King of Kowloon'. The words he paints usually contain his name, his title of 'King of Kowloon', his family tree, names of other Emperors of China, and the proclamation 'Down with the Queen of England!'. His distinctive calligraphy soon became a fixture in public spaces of Hong Kong. He uses a chinese brush and black ink and this really made his graffiti different from the graffiti that you would find, say, in Berlin or New York, where a lot of graffiti is produced with a spray-can. People started to notice and to wonder about these strange statements. Some people believed him, but most people just thought of him as a funny, possibly, mad old man. His wife left him because of his growing obsession with his writing. Huh, she said, how sad. Yes, it's sad, he said. Maybe we'll bump into him when we're here, she said. Maybe, he said.

This is the last photograph of them together. They look vaguely happy, as if relieved to be away from their cramped, humid apartment back home. He is wearing a blue short sleeved shirt with a pair of faded jeans. She is wearing a green knee length dress and a hat. They are seated at a bar with pink cocktails in their hands.

1994 started on a Saturday. In the Gregorian calendar, it was the 1994th year of the Common Era, or of Anno Domini; the 994th year of the 2nd millennium; the 94th year of the 20th century; and the 5th of the 1990s. On January 26, a man fired 2 blank shots at Charles, Prince of Wales in Sydney, Australia. On May 6, The Channel Tunnel, which took 15,000 workers over 7 years to complete, opened between England and France, enabling passengers to travel between the 2 countries in 35 minutes. On June 15, Israel and the Vatican established full diplomatic relations. On June 28, members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult executed the first sarin gas attack at Matsumoto, Japan, killing 7 and injuring 660. On July 20, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's Fragment Q1 hits Jupiter. On August 1, a fire destroyed the Norwich Central Library in the United Kingdom, including most of its historical records. On August 31, the Russian army left Estonia. On November 3, a French magazine published a photo of President François Mitterrand's secret daughter. On December 15, the first version of web browser Netscape Navigator is released.

On December 18, the police found their bodies three kilometers off the coast of the island. Their belongings and clothes were left on the beach. No suicide note was found.

In June 2013, acclaimed Dutch novelist Oscar van den Boogaard was invited to Spring Workshop in Hong Kong as Writer-in-Residence for 'A Fictional Residency'. During his residency, van den Boogaard met and worked with a group of Hong Kong-based practitioners including writer-journalist Doretta Lau, writer-director Enoch Cheng, artist-architectural duo MAP Office, visual artist Nadim Abbas and artist Heman Chong. In this installment of 'Moderation(s)', a program in collaboration between Spring Workshop and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, the encounters inspired a volume of short stories entitled A Fictional Residency to be published as a book at the end of the writing sessions.