Hong Kong Skyline

CLOSE QUARTERS

It's very claustrophobic to live a life which is not really how you wanted to live. You are forcing yourself to be quiet and behave like someone you are not. -Taapsee Pannu

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Close Quarters is a work inspired by the experiences of people living in overcrowded public housing during global health crises. Our work specifically focuses on public housing in Hong Kong and the very real health risks posed by dangerous living situations that are not ideal for safe hygienic practices.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Hong Kong has dealt with a pandemic. The unfolding of the SARS in 2003 highlighted these very issues and COVID-19 presents as the second deadlier coming of an uncontrollable illness that will ravage public housing towers.

The current global health crisis surrounding COVID-19 is highlighting many issues in the world, one of the main ones being privilege. We want our audience walking away from our work considering the privilege they have to stay home, self isolate and make banana bread while others have very different realities. 

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Emilia Lau - Original Concept / Social Media Manager

Emilia was born and raised in Hong Kong before moving to Brisbane in 2018. She was living in a public housing flat in Kowloon Tong in her first 4 years of life. Growing up in a mid-high class family, Emilia was fortunate as land prices started to soar to an indefinite peak. She was living with her parents in a private apartment when living conditions in Hong Kong was becoming worse. Most citizens in Hong Kong were waiting to be allocated to a public housing unit desperately while Emilia was having a roof over her head. Emilia does not feel fully related to the Hong Kong housing scene, but according to the society's pressure and values, especially today's social unrest, she is feeling enthusiastic to share her experiences as well as facts about the real side of Hong Kong.

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Henriette Viljoen - Assistant Producer, 1st Assistant Director, Production Designer and Post-Production Supervisor

Henriette is a filmmaker based in Brisbane, Australia and has relocated in Canada. She was fascinated by the original idea of one being stuck in poor living conditions with a foreign culture as she decided to join the team. Working with Emilia, they have gone for an Asian food haul to take inspiration from Asian food labels, as well as creating a colour pallet from the photos of HongKongers living in cage houses for their set design.

David Hayes - Technical Producer / Original Concept

David was known as the technical rider in the university unit since he had a degree in IT. He was very passionate about teaching technical skills and assist the team with his knowledge. When he stepped into the team, he handled all the difficult parts of the project including arranging a Foley session, handling equipment and operating a 360 camera. David contributed a lot by engaging with the team as well as taking advice from other students and teachers and putting into practice.

Other Contributors

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Jacqueline Cantrel - Assistant Producer / Original Concept

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Isabella Palmer, Jacinta Pasco, Olivia Adams - Dancer & Choreographer

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Finbar Martinez-Bennett - Sound Engineer

Royce McCarthy - Animation and VFX

 

Sam L. Johnson - Production Assistant, BTS Photographer

This project could not have been made without the help of the QUT Garden’s Theatre.

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FULL VIDEO

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Behind The Scenes and WIP

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Audience Experience

Our work will be a five minute solo experience in which the audience will enter a room and become immersed in the home of someone living in a Hong Kong public housing apartment. Rather than telling the audience how people in these situations feel, we aim to make them feel the claustrophobia of a small highly dense living space.

 

Through the thin walls the audience will be able to see their neighbours behaviour and daily routines in silhouette. Actions such as doing the laundry, cooking, stretching will be portrayed and gestural interpretation of news clippings on updates of the SARS/ COVID-19 pandemic.

 

While viewing the lives around them they will also be increasingly introduced to the sounds of public housing occupied by thousands. A lot of the domestic aspects of the soundscape like walking, hitting walls, arguing, breathing will be live to increase the immersive experience.

 

To increase the feeling of claustrophobia we will use lighting techniques to making it seem as though the walls are closing in. Having performers literally pressing on the walls to give a classic horror movie effect.

The audience should walk away thinking about their privilege to not live in such dense and confined housing situations.

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Movement

As well as exploring every-day activities in the movement, the performers will explore feelings of discomfort and claustrophobia. Elements of tension and contraction in the body as well as the idea of exploring and breaking boundaries (as if they were trapped) will be explored. As the tension builds more and more in the installation and soundscape, the movement will reflect this to enhance the audience's feeling of unease. Additionally, the performers will interact with the scrim, pressing on it with their bodies to add to the illusion that the walls are closing in on the viewer.

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Soundscape

Starting off with meditative music, the audience will acknowledge that they are in their own isolated apartment. The audience will have the time to explore their surrounded environment until they slowly discover the sounds and actions from their neighbors and nearby streets. Soundtracks of daily activities will overlap and increase their volume until they come together being chaotic making the audience contemplate whether they could tolerate living in this cramped space.

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Set Design

Our performing space will be resembling public housing in Hong Kong. These are the generic images of a public housing unit. Common characteristics are: cramped, cluttered, old, unhygienic, and not aesthetically pleasing.

Instead of fully portraying a public housing unit in the performing space, we will pick some of the remarkable objects such as cans of preserved fried dace, Chinese styled-calendar, a fan, soft drinks, clothe hangers, a mattress etc. We will also focus on bringing these colours to the set to match the environment of an actual public housing.