Detour 2013

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Detour is an ever-bold, always innovative and increasingly popular 10-day art and design festival across the city. As it returns to the city for a fifth time, Anna Cummins takes a look at what’s in store

Already a mainstay of Hong Kong’s design industry calendar, in just eight years Detour has spawned from a ‘mere’ side-project of older-brother Business of Design Week into an eclectic and exuberant celebration of our local design talent. Previous Detours have involved a pop-up beach in Central, as well as exhibitions at heritage locations such as Wan Chai Police Station, Victoria Prison and the Former Police Married Quarters (PMQ). This year, Detour is using a mixture of public spaces, buildings and trams to engage the public with workshops, performances, exhibitions and the first ever Detour fashion show. Several of the works this year involve Belgian artists, incorporating the ‘Belgian Spirit’ theme of 2013’s Business of Design Week.

The PMQ returns as one of the festival’s five locations this year, alongside the Shau Kei Wan tram terminus, Oi! Gallery in North Point, The Hennessy in Wan Chai and the Central Oasis Gallery, which all host exhibits on the theme of ‘Detour Matters: From Microtopias to Social Innovation’.  

However, Detour 2013’s pièce de résistance is the commandeering of four trams, which are roving the island throughout the festival; neatly linking up the five sites and hosting a variety of interesting events on board. What’s even better? Pretty much everything at Detour is free. This fest is a detour worth going out of your way for. 

Detour Tram 
These four trams have been curated by designer Linny Sze and are filled with plenty of Detour magic. They are going up and down the island from Shek Tong Tsui to Shau Kei Wan, and to get on board you just need to pre-reserve a slot on Detour’s website. Everything is free, apart from the fundraising dinners on Detour Eatery. 

Detour Eatery
While, for practical reasons, there won’t be an actual kitchen onboard, this tram is designated as Detour’s very own restaurant for the festival. “It’s difficult to manage the logistics!” laughs Sze, pointing out the catering companies only have one minute at the tram stop to bring food on board. “We want to promote the concept of slow eating; of time and displacement,” she continues. “You aren’t allowed to eat on the public transport system in Hong Kong, but now it’s different – you are allowed to eat on the tram, with tables, chairs and ambient lighting… it will be cool!” Detour Eatery is serving breakfast for underprivileged groups as well as lunch, afternoon tea, and fundraising dinners in the evening.  

Detour Classroom
“This tram is like a library, plus a classroom, plus a lab,” says Sze. The classroom is all about sharing – so this tram has all its unnecessary facing removed, making it as ‘transparent and fluid as possible’. “We are working with book shops in Hong Kong to supply us with design books for our library
[on the tram] – we will invite people to come to a Detour book club, and for publishers to come and share their books,” she explains. 

As well as the library, located on the upper deck of the tram, the Detour Classroom holds a gallery that takes you through the history of the tram system. Heading downstairs, you’ll find storytellers from the Tram Friends (the city’s tram enthusiasts club) and the Hong Kong History Museum, imparting tales and memories about our city’s beloved public transport system.    

Detour Music Box
This tram brings the music to the people. “We are using one of the maintenance trams – it has an open corner which we can use as a stage,” says Sze. The tram is set to travel around the island, with various bands and DJs performing on the ‘stage’. The full line-up isn’t confirmed yet, but there should be 10 artists taking part, with interviews and performances going out on local radio.  

Detour Black Box
The Black Box tram is completely covered with reflective material, enclosing the audience within a dark box. It aims to offer passengers a new perspective on the city in a 20 minute journey. “It’s an experimental envelope and experimental experience,” says Sze. “Around 10 people will get onto the tram; first they will stay on the lower deck and listen to an audio guide. Then, they all go up to the upper deck and sit down. There are some visuals and projections there that reflect the city – it brings the outside, inside. It’s totally an urban experience that has never happened [before]. After that, the audience will go downstairs for a debriefing and sharing session.”

Central Oasis
The long corridor of the Oasis Gallery holds a mix of exhibitions displaying work from both Belgian and local creatives. It’s a good place to start your Detour experience, as there are opportunities to find more about each site, pick up a guidebook and to reserve your tickets.  

PMQ
The opening ceremony of Detour is held at PMQ on November 29, with the champagne flowing before the four trams all set off from on their inaugural ride. For the remainder of the festival, PMQ hosts a selection of art exhibits within this unique Hong Kong heritage setting.

The Hennessy 
This building on Wan Chai’s Hennessy Road is hosting an innovative ‘Detour marathon’ on  November 30 – a slew of people, from designers and architects to those with something interesting to share, have been invited to take part in an eight-hour, non-stop session of open discussion and intellectual exchange. On all the other days of the festival, check out Detour Pop Up; a series of pop-up design stores, with different designers showcasing and selling their products. 

Oi! Gallery
The artspace at Oi! hosts a large variety of workshops; head here to make a key holder, a vacuum-form photo frame or try some fingertip painting – many of the workshops are suitable for kids. The closing party is going down at Oi!, as well as a special fashion show on December 7, curated by local fashion designer Six Lee. 

The first Detour fashion show promises to be a step away from the ordinary, with audio-visual performances pumping up the atmosphere. We’re even promised that the models aren’t necessarily walking in the way we’d expect. Intriguing. Lee tells us that the theme of the show is Mix and Match, with nine local talents joining with five Belgian designers to showcase 40 pieces, culminating in various pieces being, well, mixed and matched.    

Shau Kei Wan Tram Terminus
The unusual use of the terminus as an art location encompasses the spirit of Detour.  This site features a selection of outdoor performances. On December 1, there’s a 30-minute performance by Alessandro Carboni, entitled Learning Curves/ Rescaling Urban Rivers  – described as a ‘mental geographic reconstruction of places, perceptions, fragments, bodies, urban transformation and tensions that animate social change’. There are also performances from Belgian dance theatre collective Whooshing Machine on November 29, 30 and December 1. Until the festival kicks off, the show is under wraps, but we’re mysteriously promised plenty of clapping. 


Alessandro Carboni's Learning Curves/ Rescaling Urban Rivers
 

Fest Fact File

In a nutshell: 
Streets, buildings and public spaces across Hong Kong Island become one big art and design party.  

Started: 
2006.

Recommended for: 
Those who crave creativity or who prefer art without the gallery.

Fun fact: 
During Detour 2010, a whole floor of the exhibition was briefly closed after a guerilla art exhibit, entitled No Freedom in Tibet was secretly placed alongside the official works. It remained there for 24 hours before anyone realised.

Details: 
Nov 29-Dec 8 Various locations, 3793 8406; detour.hk. Free (except dinner on the Detour Eatery). Pre-register online for workshops and the Detour trams. 

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