“This is a Utopia,” Yuen says, adding that people can now go for a walk, have a chat, or make and eat some snacks on the street. It has broadened people’s imagination of what life can be like. Yuen would say imagination tells people life can be different. For example, Hong Kong has long suffered from air pollution. Yuen sees an occupied site and imagines a giant who hates cars on the road snatching them away to cleanse the polluted air. This may seem fantastical but it coheres strangely with the improved air quality in the occupied areas.
He sees other stories and connections in fragments of remembered details. When the Hung Hom Cross-Harbour Tunnel started operating in 1972, there were news reports about an old man who walked through the tunnel and was fined because the tunnel was only for vehicles. Yuen takes on the story from there – the man argues that a tunnel is designed to let people go from one end to another and this echoes what is happening in Hong Kong today. “Occupiers seem to block the traffic. But they tell us we can walk from one side to the other in life,” Yuen says. He says it is the government that is blocking society’s arteries and making peoples’ lives difficult.
Yuen has the insight and vision to make his fictional stories come alive. He shares the essence of a good story – creation is about building imagination over observation of reality. “The way to make jam rigid is to spread it on a slice of bread,” he explains. The bread is reality and jam is imagination.
Passers-by always walk into Yuen’s stories. For instance, he is inspired when he sees a middle-aged man on the MTR wearing two watches. Yuen strikes up an imaginary conversation with this man. The man tells him his little daughter suggested he wear an extra watch to gain more time. It takes a long time to build a factory so workers produce watches to compensate for the time lost. Yuen asks the man if the strategy is effective. The man answers, “It is, otherwise why I would talk to a stranger for so long?”
“Creating stories is using a brand new perspective to view the some routines. Create a new space for yourself,” Yuen says, “I don’t create stories. Stories come to me. They have life.”
Edited by Tracy Chan