“The whole concept of the street art movement is that we advocate the joy of making art and non-commercial art,” explains Ho. “Ordinary people can make art and have good taste too. So we decided to put the whole thing on the street.”
Having practised graffiti before, both Ho and Poon were underwhelmed by the quality of graffiti in Hong Kong. “Jessica had an idea: let’s find a wall and put our own stuff on it, and then tell our friends to come, treat them to egg tarts and stuff, and have a show together,” Ho recalls.
Having experienced different cultures when she studied visual arts in the US and Italy, Ho realised street art could be both popular and acclaimed, whereas in Hong Kong, it is unappreciated. “Street art is not important in Hong Kong, but it should be,” she says.
By comparison, Hong Kong seemed staid and lacking in the spontaneity and eclecticism she had encountered abroad. Ho and Poon called themselves Street Art Movement or Sze Fut Hang in Cantonese. It is a play on a Cantonese phrase that literally translates as “itchy bum”, which means “troublemaker” in Chinese, ”We are troublemakers,” explains Ho. “If even your ass can do it, everybody can do it.” They now also call themselves House for the Bum.
The troublemakers put their plan into action after they found an alley in Mongkok. They spent two weeks covering the walls of the alley with artwork and their first event, a graffiti street art exhibition was born.The exhibition was a send-up of the commercial, high-art world, complete with a gallery opening. They gathered artists on Facebook and invited them to come. Artists designed T-shirts for an auction and bidders had to think of creative ways to win the T-shirt they wanted.
“You could tell a story, sing a song or do upside down push-ups,” explains Ho. “It was more like a game where everyone could gather together and have fun.” There was even a live band, which drew passers-by who were curious to find out what was going on. Some were amazed to find a hidden enclave of graffiti. What had started as an idea shared between two friends grew and gathered like-minded young people who agreed with Ho and Poon’s mission statement: “We’re poor but we have taste!”