On a quaint corner of Wing Hing Street in Peng Chau, the scent of Vietnamese coffee dripping through metal filters and freshly made waffles pervades the air, outside the newly finished multipurpose space, Wut Tung Sat.

Georgia is brewing while Myriem bakes; they are a duo from Ho Chi Minh City, and they’ve brought arabica beans from Saigon as a means of drawing attention to their work at Wut Tung Sat, where they are the first artists in residence of the new multipurpose space.

Photo: Christopher Taber.

Their collaboration, Mu’croom, started six months ago in Saigon. “We are both like little children” says Myriem, “we see something in the street or hear a sound that is different and we want to know the origin, so we go looking.”

Their upcoming show, “hem hem”, meaning alleyway in Vietnamese, is a means to explore the vernacular of Saigon through the sounds of the Binh Thanh district. With “hem hem”, artist Georgia Golebiowski’s work has expanded to include video, sound, and performance.

With a background in political science and design, Myriem Alnet’s understanding of urban space and its impact on quality of life is a lifeforce of the exhibition. In Ho Chi Minh, Myriem created the organization An Ordinary City, to bring attention to the ways urban design and architecture influence the very core of a city.

The design for Wut Tung Sat itself comes from Geraldine Borio, the co-founder of Hong Kong architecture firm Parallel Lab, where she has taken on public space projects like Stag chairs – small backpack chairs that bring convenient comfort to public spaces.

Photo: Christopher Taber.

Borio and her current partner Jae Lim originally remodeled the Wing Hing street flat to be a multifunctional office and event space. While remodeling the space over the past eight months, Borio and Lim have hosted seven events, including Jup Yeah’s sustainable clothing swap and a Peng Chau co-farming kitchen exhibition.

Borio says the artist in residency element of the space was secondary: “we had a friend stay in the small nook we built, we replaced the table with a mattress, and he really liked sleeping there, so we thought, why don’t we have people come and stay and produce work?”

The materials Borio and Lim used in their redesign amplify the natural light; the small window in the bathroom lights up the entire room via the corrugated plastic wall-lining that refracts light onto the rest of the bare concrete walls.

Photo: Christopher Taber.

The space is intentionally minimal, says Borio, “it was designed to be a project in process that will keep changing with the artists who stay here. We wanted to use what was already here when we could and to leave room for the space to evolve.”

Lim, who is a lecturer in the Department of Architecture at Hong Kong University, moved from Cheung Chau to Peng Chau to start the remodel and open a new office with Borio.

One of the goals with Wut Tung Sat, says Lim, “is to relate to the content of what Peng Chau has to offer, the existence of community here. In Kowloon and Hong Kong there is a separateness to society, the outlying islands seem to be more linked. You tend to know what’s going on around here intuitively.”

Photo: Christopher Taber.

Wut Tung Sat, meaning activity room in Cantonese, will be true to its name. Borio and Lim will continue to use the space as their architecture and design office, while their artists in residence make coffee and create new work. “Part of the reason we are making coffee,” says Myriem, “is that it is a medium of interaction, people sit out in the sun, like this, and they talk.”

“We will be open when it’s light out,” says Myriem, “and if the door isn’t open, then knock and we’ll make some coffee. Part of the reason we are making coffee is that it is a medium of interaction, people sit out in the sun, like this, and they talk.”

Photo: Christopher Taber.

Georgia and Myriem say that they do not intend to focus on the rest of Hong Kong as they produce new work these next three months. “We want to our work to be location specific to Peng Chau” says Georgia, “but at the same time, to create content that is relatable anywhere.”

In Saigon, the concept of exploring the cityscape through sound started with the honk of a ship coming into the harbour. “From there,” says Myriem, “I started paying more attention to how the city’s varied murmurs influence our representation of the city, our mood, our health and the city’s livability in general.”

Photo: Christopher Taber.

Myriem and Georgia agreed that their first days in Hong Kong have given them the impression that Hong Kong is a methodical city. “Hong Kong seems quieter than I expected,” says Myriem. “There is a lot of noise, but it is all on a similar octave, like there is an order to it. In Saigon, the soundscape is more chaotic. You can hear the density.”

Viola Gaskell

Viola Gaskell is a photojournalist from Hawaii, where she got her start freelancing for the Maui News and generating content for non-profits. Now based in Hong Kong, Viola’s work focuses on the nuances and contradictions of Hong Kong culture. Her photography and writing can be seen routinely on Rice Media and Zolima City Magazine.