City Mobilization: BYOB (Bring Your Own Biennale)
Marisa Yiu
‘Bring Your Own Biennale’ (BYOB) is a catchphrase, framework, and approach envisioned to stimulate our collective role in the creation of an innovative Bi-City Biennale between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. It calls for individual participation and networked collaboration – working within and outside boundaries to generate unexpected results. BYOB makes the process of cultural production transparent, an approach that relies on the citizens and the city’s infrastructure for our Bi-City engagement. It is at once contextual but also reflective, a unique opportunity to speculate on what our impact on the metropolis could be.

Our Biennale’s central location in the future West Kowloon Cultural District provides an open platform for dialogue. By inviting inventive practices into the site, we will build upon people’s interest and their participation to formulate this Biennale. Our Biennale is not a frozen, definitive statement comprised of vacant representations of architecture –but alive with debate, events, and activity inspired from performative practices. The Hong Kong component of the Bi-City Biennale is about creating fresh tools, new ways of working, designing intelligence, and appropriating mechanisms that deal with direct feedback to engage the public. This ‘public’ is diverse and we embrace this diversity in the ownership of space- where public good, public space and the public domain can be re-conceptualized. Diversity within cities and the creation of cultural capital is complex, as exemplified by Sharon Zukin’s critique on the ‘representations of culture in public space’ in parks, art museums, and city streets. Thus BYOB asks: how is public culture defined? Who has the right to experience, conceptualize and control culture? In essence we are publishing a real-time ‘Users Manual’ for this diversity, where the West Kowloon promenade site becomes a backdrop for creative speculation and dynamic ingenuity. We learn from people, from nature, from our daily interactions, and we are inspired by everyday practices, appreciate the informality and spontaneity that rubs up against the rigid, the formal and the planned. Here we create ephemera and use weblogs as social levellers to share and exchange information in order to generate new models and paradigms which fully embraces the creative cultural practice of architecture, art and urbanism.

We seek to examine the issue of sustainability not only from a material vantage point but also from a social one. Respecting sensitive ecologies we not only look towards the organic farm, the wind farm, the solar farm, and the compost heap, but we intend to utilize our modest gains appropriately by generating socially sustainable practices of working. Construction for Shigeru Ban’s paper tube shelters involves his overseas students teaching local students, spreading the knowledge laterally –but we then encourage the local students to invite their own professors, to teach them in order to ensure the continued distribution of the knowledge. Onsite mobility is supplied by way of an organic lunch for the energy source and a bicycle to provide a slight mechanical advantage. Once we have generated modest amounts of electricity we utilize energy-saving LED lights to power the art and illuminate the paths. Interdisciplinary design competitions seek out enduring self-sufficient systems which develop architectural prototypes as instruments to drive further engagement with a renewed focus on socially progressive models. By dynamically engaging the public we hope to learn directly from our own community, discover conscientious models of design, and showcase the collection of exemplars.

We ask you to help envision a new model metropolis that uses social capital as the main driving force. Whilst celebrating the 60th National anniversary, the 30th anniversary of Shenzhen as a Special Economic Zone, and the dynamic of the East Asian games this December, we seek more interaction. We believe the Pearl River Delta is a potential ‘model’, always testing and speculating its future. Hong Kong operates with efficiency, mediates, connects, it is at once global yet local. Yet, as a Biennale we will provoke and question our past to aspire for a unique future. How can Hong Kong develop further as a ‘model’ city- what is the ‘next’ Hong Kong after 2046? What happens when the border of the Frontier Closed Area reopens again next year? How will the relationship between Hong Kong and Shenzhen alter the entire region? Will Hong Kong’s uniqueness accelerate further and be redefined once more? What visions can we produce that embrace the individual and the greater metropolis?

Our mode of operation is to condense information instead of only dispersing it. We want YOU to bring the qualities of Hong Kong and Shenzhen on to the site, to highlight the power of creative activism. We want YOU to contribute, speak-out and make your future cultural metropolis between Hong Kong and Shenzhen what you want it to be. This Biennale will form this speculation and use chatter, online ‘twitter’, exchange and dialogue to bring more to the site and more to the contemporary discourse of architecture, art and urbanism in the making of our cultural and social landscape. Most significant is the critical role of the individual, our voice and our independence as designers, curators, pedagogues and creative citizens. This biennale is about observing the subtle details in our urban environment: rediscovering the harbour’s edge, redesigning the park, encouraging more street activity, recalling the significance of the sidewalk and the growth of grass. How does the individual and the collective relate to each other? How can we debate the social and cultural value of the ‘city’, the ‘urban plan’, ‘architecture’, ‘artefacts’ and ‘product’ in this complex negotiation? How can architecture and the making of cities highlight the nuances of elitism and populism? Can low and high culture be used proactively? Architecture must communicate openness, transparency and perform as active social registers. This Biennale aspires to celebrate ownership and make oneself accountable in the design of your very own Biennale.

We believe that sincere process, creates stronger diverse provocations. We have many questions still to ask, that remain to be answered. As such, we warmly invite everyone to make an imprint on the public cultural landscape of Hong Kong.

2009 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism \ Architecture: Bring Your Own Biennale asks you to help envision a new model metropolis that uses social capital as the main driving force.
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