Art: Weapons of Hong Kong Protesters

In a caricature, the faces of Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong were broken into pieces: an eyeball fell from the eye socket and the flesh of the left chin was broken. Many protesters dressed in black shirts and yellow hard hats stood on her head. They hung a hanging banner on her forehead for Hong Kong and shouted loudly in her ear with the loudspeaker.

It was an image drawn by Elyse Leaf, a 26-year-old illustrator and designer, who vented his anger and frustration into the work. She completed it in July 2019, a month after the protests for democracy in Hong Kong broke out, stemming from the extradition bill that has now been withdrawn. She shared that she had never felt so angry at such a person in her life, and that it was Carrie Lam.

Elyse Leaf’s caricature is one of many examples of the creative cycle from online to real life in Hong Kong. Combining popular culture with art, these creative works are primarily intended to spread the ideology of digital protests. They are distributed via social networks, through encrypted messaging platforms such as Telegram, and Apple’s AirDrop.

Later, they became reality, becoming reactive artworks or street demonstrations, which turned public spaces into art galleries. The street image filled with these creative works has returned to cyberspace and has been spread even more strongly thanks to social media.

Intense creativity is needed for the protest movement to last. And the emergence of artistic creation is natural in this process. Artworks are associated with the protesters’ collective actions and give the movement additional strength.

Due to the ever-changing nature of the protests, the arts associated with that movement also need to be transformed. The artworks are created with digital technology to suit the needs of the above transformations. The art of protest, illustration, short animation and public posters created by anonymous artists have spread widely online.

Many artists have begun to respond to protests in their art form, but so far only a few have been introduced locally. When creators and protesters hide their identities, they together form a new identity, creating the feeling of a unified, rhythmic bloc that previously did not exist. The political movement is engaged in a battle to recreate Hong Kong’s identity and preserve the spirit of the city.