top of page

Notes on Encountering the Best Thing You Never Found




Google search images of Hong Kong, and one immediately gets images after images of its spectacular evening skyline, or its busy streets filled midair with hanging techni-color advertising signs.  They are the jewels of this prosperous and bustling city, signs of its hard working citizens’ aspiring dreams and wishes. 


So when facing with a street labourer pushing towards you a beautifully shining neon sign on a trolley, in an evening of Central, the CBD of Hong Kong, you almost think your own dreams are finally being delivered to you, in person, after one long workday.  Only in close encounter do you see through the brightness that says THE BEST THING WE NEVER FOUND.  Then just when you start wondering what that “thing” could be, it switches to THE BEST THING WE NEVER DID.   The last word an alarming red “DID”.  Could this sign be referring to the holiday break you did not take last winter, or your still missing ideal man?


During this year’s ArtWalk, the annual one-night charity “gallery-crawl”, the artist Yuk King Tan presents another trolley-pushing performance artwork, Open Secret.  While her earlier work Scavenger (2008) employs a cardboard-made HSBC lion sculpture to signal money power and the majesty of capitalist strength, Open Secret turns another iconic symbol of Hong Kong, the neon advertising sign, to reflect upon another type of power force, the brilliancy of consumer desire.  Specifically made for and as part of ArtWalk Extra where arts happen outside the galleries, Open Secret travels along the path where art lovers and patrons stroll from one gallery to the next, mingling amongst pedestrians, traffics and real delivery trolley-men.  Here in this event-specific performance, the contradictory and parallel are multi-faceted and spectacular.  How extraordinary to have a neon sign switched on while it is being delivered on a trolley!  Wait a minute, what power fuels that moving shimmering neon sign, and what drives us to endlessly trying to find?   Is the text talking about the art piece I luckily did not buy or one I regrettably did not buy? How would one know if it is the best thing we never found if we have not even come across it?  Is this trolley-man an artistic performer or another nameless street labourer, and what about the guy pushing another trolley behind him?  What does this trolley-man think of this art performance he is being part of, and what do we think of our city life and its economic system of which we are a part?


From a distance, looking at the little trolley-man maneuvering his heavy, high voltage cargo across pebble steps while struggling up the steep Aberdeen Road at the end of his performance, one cannot not have empathy towards his labourious endeavour.  It is unlikely, however, that those wine drinking onlookers outside art galleries are contemplating what it means to be part of “alienated labour”- a reflection that requires a moment of soberness.  Like the citizens living in this city, most of time we are too intoxicated in chasing dreams we do not aware what it takes to fuel this neon brilliance.  For how often are we reminded that our fetishism of commodities and status – the best things we could have, is quietly supported by a population of anonymous manual workers?  On the other hand, if for just one moment we do have empathy for our trolley-man, we probably could do with some for ourselves since we are all part of the same system.


May be, what open secret Tan refers to is not that winter holiday we have missed after all, but the parallel universe that runs along and below our spectacular skyline.



© 2023 TIK YU artist all rights reserved

bottom of page