I should credit whichever blog pointed me at the work of Michael Wolf but it was a few days ago and now I can’t remember where I read about him. Wolf was born in Germany, raised in the US, and now lives and works in China. His various projects, which you can browse on his website, document life in Hong Kong. Front Door/Back Door, published in book form explores the way space is used in Hong Kong:
Most Hong Kong people do not have enough private space for their needs, therefore public space becomes private space. Private acts happen in public places: laundry, even vegetables are dried on fences surrounding the housing estates, house plants are raised in back alleys, shoes are jammed under outside water pipes because there is no space inside for them, washed gloves are hug to dry on barbed wire. If there is no more space inside, something must go out: mops, shovels, pots and pans are hung on hooks on the walls outside of apartments. In order to survive in this dense environment, one must be able to adapt. In comparison to the ordered and well planned European cities, Hong Kong is almost like a plant – it grows organically, making space for itself wherever possible.
Sitting in China records the way useful objects are adapted and created out of discarded materials, with a focus on utility rather than beauty, though I think I’d argue that these objects have an aesthetic all their own:
But of all Wolf’s projects the one that really took my breath away was Architecture of Density in which he presents a completely alien landscape, dizzying in its scale and abstractly beautiful.
There is nothing human in many of these picture, just pattern and colour
Even the closer shots that do show people and their colonisation of the spaces still construct an architecture that is too large to make sense on a human scale. This looks to me like an alien landscape within which the humans are living in the interstices, making manageable spaces for themselves.
Of course, by filling the frame with these shots, Wolf creates buildings that appear to extend in all directions without limitation, challenging the viewer to comprehend both the real crowded Hong Kong and the even more densely populated spaces of our possible futures.