Fragrant Little Haven

“A mile or so away, at the top of terraced rice-fields, stood (and still stands) the little village of Hong Kong Wai
- the village of the Fragrant Lagoon...It is easy to see ... how finally, as steam succeeded sail, the fragrant little
haven on the south yielded to the great harbour over the hill.”    
                        ------- Hong Kong, 1841-1862 Birth, Adolescence and Coming of Age by Geoffrey Robley Sayer

Fragrant Little Haven takes a description from Geoffrey Robley Sayer. Hong Kong, means fragrant harbour
in Chinese, was only a name of a village at the south of Hong Kong Island before the English came. It was a
harbour for transporting the luxury Aquilaria sinensis trees, which produces agarwood, a valuable fragrant
wood used for incense and medicine. One and half centuries have past, the artist found out that at least 180
streets in Hong Kong were named after plants.

Hong Kong is no longer the name of a village, the once prosperous habitat for vegetation now replaced by
concrete jungle, with only the names on street signs reminding the passers-by of its forgotten past, past with
colonial histories that are heavy, hard to imagine, meanwhile romantic. These hundreds of streets shared the
same beautiful and romantic street names, becoming Hong Kong, becoming the history of Hong Kong.

Seeing into the cracks and the crevices, the hidden elements of the city, the forgotten paths, rubble of a past
that now only leaves enough for us to linger and ponder its mystery and violence. We forget that this city used
to be a dense jungle populated by plants and flowers. What green, what fragrance, aromas, density and
vastness have been lost in little more than one and a half centuries? Over her 5 years in Hong Kong, Vvzela
has been drawn to the contradicting practice of representing life through infrastructure and urbanisation, a
systematic removal of life itself. In a name, “Maple Street”, “The Phoenix”, “Hollywood Road”, and “Lyndhurst
Terrace”, what information is contained and how much is permanently concealed.

Fragrant Little Haven is drawn from Geoffrey Robley Sayer’s historical account of the city in the mid-19th century
(the setting up of the British Colonial empire). What is he, a colonial representative, running from? Does he
disagree with the violence, or is home a threat? If one reads Sayer’s biography one senses that he struggled
with the demands of the colonial government – questioned for his policies, taking considerable periods of time
off, returning to Hong Kong, only to encounter criticism again. If the Fragrant Harbour, with its mysterious islands
and dense forests was a place of protection then why alter the Haven and its fragrance, only to mirror the very
place he is running from?

Translated, Hong Kong means “incense harbour” or “fragrant harbour”. The relationship between agarwood
and the history of Hong Kong is intertwined. These trees were planted in Hong Kong and incense traders
would make them into incense and exported them into Asia; The Phoenix tree was introduced to Hong Kong
from Madagascar in the early 20th century. Known for its fiery red blossoms, that at full bloom illuminate the sky
in hues of reds, oranges and vermillion, city planners brought the Phoenix as part of its plan to expand the urban
areas, masking the violence of the process. Some historical documents say that the area where the British took
Possession of the island, a street between Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Poon, was once lined with Holly trees. The
mundane, and likely story is that the street was named after the then Governor Davis’ home in Bristol ‘Hollywood
Tower’. Because, in fact, the Holly tree had no traces in Hong Kong during that time.

Vvzela cultivates a museum for us that begins to tell the stories of Agarwood, The Phoenix and Holly. Within
the museum a world is created: one embarks a ship traversing waters and islands from lands before and after
the Fragrant Harbour. One must follow mythical maps that journeys through imagine past and futures. On our
excursion, we capture scented oils of agar wood and holly, and over time, our memories are organically marked
by the fragrance of this mysterious harbour.

Specimen I: Phoenix Tree

Laser-engraved acrylic panel, 3D printed PLA,
LED light bulb
56cm x 50cm x 35cm

Specimen II: Aquilaria sinensis

Hand-made soap (Apricot Kernel Oil, Coconut Oil,
Shea Butter, Rice Bran Oil, Sunflower Oil, Water,
Sodium Hydroxide, Mica powder in various colours),
glass specimen dome.
26cm x 36cm x 26cm

Specimen III: Hollywood

3D printed resin and clear resin in a hollowed book
(香港地理 山海依舊風物在 [trans.Hong Kong
Geography] Commercial Press, Hong Kong: 2015),
LED light bulb, 3D printed PLA, 3M Glass Finishes
DF Chill sticker
52cm x 32.5cm

A Travel to Hung Heung Loo in Dream

Watercolour, watercolour pencil and pencil on paper
158cm x 67cm

This painting results from Vvzela Kook’s research project “Fragrant Little Haven,” which
investigates the streets in Hong Kong named after plants and their respective histories.
The composition includes 180 streets that Kook recorded over the past four years, each
named after plants for its ecological, agricultural or horticultural history. Drawn as a map,
the reference to cartography speaks to Hong Kong’s maritime history as a trading port
and British colony. The title refers to Hong Kong by another colloquial name, “Hung
Heung Loo,” which literally translates as “red incense burner.” This unofficial name
appears on maps of Hong Kong dated as early as the mid-Qing dynasty, and it takes
after an actual mountain peak on northern Hong Kong Island, as well as folklore related
to the sea goddess Tin Hau. By conflating different time and space, this painting takes
one on a journey across a fictional Hong Kong that intertwines official historical
narratives and vernacular stories.

Fragrant Little Haven

Video with stereo sound, 4 mins 15 secs,
with audio track of (We're Bound For) Botany Bay
by Trad.Arr P.M.Adamson

曲淵澈 | Vvzela KOOK

Vvzela Kook is a new media artist who mainly works in audiovisual mediums, including performance, theatre, computer graphics and drawing. Kook’s
video works combine technology with her artistic practice to reproduce and convert urban cityscapes into an integrated virtual experience, guiding the
audience on a cybernetic journey. The condensed textures in her works connect with multiple sensual levels in our perception and reintroduce the
unexplored potential of video as a medium.The narrative plays an important role in her work, the transmedia storytelling is part of the artistic concept.
Especially the mixing of delicate drawings, 3D printing and video game optics in her videos show the wide range of media and materials the artist uses
to visually translate her research-based projects.

Kook has participated and shown her works in C-Lab Taipei (2019), MoCA Taipei (2019), Asia Society Hong Kong Centre (2019), Tai Kwun (2019),
Microwave International Media Festival in Hong Kong (2018, 2016), PuSh Performing Art Festival in Vancouver(2017), Centre for Heritage Arts and
Textile (2017), K11 Shanghai (2016), Hong Kong Arts Festival (2015), and “89+”program (2012) co-curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets.

Solo exhibition/project
. 2019.11    "Everything is alive in the mess we made", Konfuzius-Institut Nürnberg-Erlangen, Germany

. 2019.03    "Fragrant Little Haven"​, Tomorrow Maybe, Eaton Hotel, Hong Kong

. 2017.11    "Any dimension you like",Edmond Gallery, Berlin, Germany

. 2017.06    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times", duo solo exhibition with Lee Cheng, Mana Contemporary, Chicago, USA

. 2017.02    "Watermark", media walk, Vancouver, Canada

Selected Group exhibitions and performanes:
. 2019.12    "Borrowed scenery"​, Jockey Club Arts New Power, Hong Kong

. 2019.10    "INSTRUMENTA#2: Machine/Magic"​, National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta,Indonesia

. 2019.10    "City Flip-Flop"​, Taiwan Contemporary Cultural Lab, Taiwan

. 2019.07    "To See the Forest and the Trees"​, Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Hong Kong

. 2019.05    "​Play.Ground II: Video Game Art From Hong Kong",​ VGA Gallery, Chicago, USA

. 2019.04    "​Mercurial Boundaries: Imagining Future Memory​", Museum of National Taipei University of Education, Taipei

. 2019.04    "​Where Have All the Flowers Gone-TheseFlowers", ​Musical Memory & Art Exhibition, MoCA, Taipei

. 2019.04    "Sound Forms, multichannel sound festival", Contemporary Musiking Hong Kong, Hong Kong

. 2019.03    "​Hactivate Yourself​", 1a Space, Hong Kong

. 2019.01    "​Art After Hours:Hong Kong Visions with Contemporary Musiking HK",Tai Kwun, Hong Kong

. 2018.11    "​Much Ado About Everything"​, Microwave New Media Art Festival, Hong Kong

. 2018.04    "42", multimedia concert, Blackbox Studio, Goethe Institute, Hong Kong

. 2018.03    "On the Road: Young Media Artist in China", City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

. 2017.11    "On the Road", Guanshanyue Art Museum, Shenzhen, China

. 2017.09    "The Garden", K11, Hong Kong

. 2017.03    "Dialogue of Trees", media concert tour in Norway

. 2017.02    PuSh Performing Arts festival, Vancouver, Canada.

. 2016.11    "You are not alone", Oi! Street Art Space


. 2016.11    UnStumm, audiovisual collaborative project. New Music Ensemble, Hong Kong

. 2016.10    Hong Kong Artist books of Sketches, DreamLikeBubble, Hong Kong

. 2016.05    VISAURAL, audio-visual performance, Microwave International New Media Festival, Hong Kong

. 2016.03    WE: A Community of Chinese Contemporary Artists, K11 Shanghai, Shanghai

· 2015.11    Cinema Silenzio, Clockenflap. West Kowloon Culture District, Hong Kong

· 2015.11    Multimedia concert Dialogue of Trees-Hong Kong & Norway. Y Studio, Youth Square, Hong Kong

· 2015.11    “jolt touring festival”, collaborate with Dj Sniff and Chin King.

· 2015.11    “Fleeing by Night”. Intermedia dance theater, visual design, ,Guangdong Contemporary Dance Festival, Guangzhou

· 2015.09    “All in one”. Sound and light show for Open Sky Campus. International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong

· 2015.03    "Fleeing by Night",Intermedia dance theater,Visual Design, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Contemporary Dance Series

· 2014.12    RPM: Sound Art China, City University of Hong Kong

· 2014.11    "Fleeing by Night", Intermedia dance theater,Visual Design,YINZI Theater, Chong Qing

· 2014.09    "A Study on Geometry", Sonic Anchor #18 - Virtuosic Electronica, McAulay Studio, Hong Kong Arts Centre

· 2013.12    "DOOR", Creative Media Centre, City University of Hong Kong

· 2013.03    "Revolution Per Minute: Sound Art China", Colgate University, NY,USA

· 2012.12    “DLD Conference, 89+panel”,Curated by hans Ulrich Orbist & Simon Castets,Munich,German

· 2012.01    “Virtual Mancer”, NEW ASDICON Group, Opening ceremony of Green Box exhibition

· 2012.12    "ART In DIGITAL REALMS", Wuhan K11 Art Space

· 2012.12    Frischzelle Live Performance Workshop, China Academy of Art

· 2012.12    "RAM Sound: Adjustable disordered",Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum

· 2012.09    Frischzelle Festival and Dusseldorf Festival, Cologne and Dusseldorf

· 2012.08    Six Channel Sound Installation "Reincarnation", Vvzela Qu, Lijie Tan. Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria

· 2012.12    Bauhaus Theater+Hangzhou Sonart 4.4, Hangzhou Sonart Club

· 2011.12    "ASDICON3.0" ASDICON group, UFO Media Theater

· 2011.11    ASDICON2.0 "Happy Shall He Be" ASDICON group, Hangzhou Sonart 4.3, Hangzhou Sonart Club

· 2011.06    ASDICON1.0 "Machinery Induction" ASDICON group, Hangzhou Sonart 4.2, Hangzhou Sonart Club

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Image credit:Eugene Cheng