“Remembering the 60s” examines the ‘double legacy’ of the 60s and the notion of criticality it has engendered in contemporary life. This will be shown through examples such as the cinema of Wong Kar Wai. There are many different 60’s, each with its own set of defining events. In the USA—one main source of imagery for the 60’s—it was the protest movement against the Vietnam War, the fight against sexism and racism, the celebration of youth culture, and the spread of ecological awareness. Bob Dylan captured the ethos in lyrics like ‘Because something is happening but you don’t know what it is/ Do you Mr. Jones?’ In Europe, it was the Beatles and street fashion from the UK, while in France, it was the resistance to consumerism and the ‘society of the spectacle’, together with the attempt to ‘re-invent subjectivity’, that culminated in the events of May ’68 in Paris. In China, it was the Cultural Revolution and the Hong Kong riots of 1966 and 1967 inspired by it.
Yet more than half a century later, we find that in spite of the diverse and indispensable critiques of the 60’s, war, racism, gender inequality, ecological crisis, and many forms of social injustice are still very much with us, as virulent as ever. However, even if some of the hopes of the 60’s have been disappointed, it does not mean that the 60’s has failed us. Rather, its cultural legacy can be understood as a ‘double legacy’. First, its critiques of various issues showed us that ‘politics’ is very much a part of everyday life, and not something separate from it. This is its main critical legacy. At the same time, it showed us something else perhaps even more important, but something that we could see only in hindsight: that critique itself can be appropriated and turned into a form of orthodoxy or coercion, and hence critique itself has to be critiqued and not simply ‘applied’. This is its meta-critical legacy.
Ackbar Abbas is a professor of comparative literature at the University of California, Irvine/USA. Previously he was chair of comparative literature at the University of Hong Kong, China and also co-director of the Centre for the Study of Globalization and Cultures. His research interests include globalization, Hong Kong and Chinese culture, architecture, cinema, postcolonialism, and critical theory. His book “Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance” was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 1997. He previously served as a Contributing Editor to Public Culture, an academic journal published by Duke University Press.
This talk is organised by Melissa Karmen Lee and Jacqueline Liu.
Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please RSVP by clicking the “Book Now” button on this webpage or via the Tai Kwun App. Lectures will be conducted in English with Cantonese interpretation available.
Summer Institute is an inaugural programme offered by Tai Kwun Contemporary. This year, four distinguished scholars will lead seminars and public lectures on the theme of Labour and Privilege, explored through art historical and contemporary art case studies. This will take place between July 30 and August 10 in A Hall and JC Cube. Summer Institute is organised and conceived by Melissa Karmen Lee and Joan Kee.