Nov 3 2019
Guy Fawkes masks are ubiquitous in the HK mvmt. We look at protest art to see how its embrace has been less abt an engagement w/ the politics of the source materials, & more abt the legacy HKers want to leave to history.
The 1st Guy Fawkes mask I cld trace appeared mid-Sep - a clever riff on the movie’s poster, w/ the injured first aider taking the place of Evey, the HK skyline replacing London’s, & the V symbol a cry for our ‘5 Demands’. It was dystopian, sure, but not outright angry yet.
The mood turned ugly going into Oct 1 as we saw police brutality escalate- the old get pepper-sprayed, the young assaulted, the very young arrested. When those who’re suppose to protect you are the ones who abuse you- wouldn’t you want a hero? Wouldn’t you want vengeance?
The rage in the Guy Fawkes art from that pt was palpable, ominous. The mask is drenched in blood & quotes from ‘Vendetta’ remind us of what we’re up against. It’s like V himself has taken over our art, saying, ‘there is something terribly wrong w/ this country, isn’t there?’
[Aside: ‘V’ touches on anarchism, but it’s hard to find strong sympathies for it in mvmt’s 5 Demands. HKers just aren’t consistent w/ politics of the film, often interpreting Norsefire’s problematic ‘Strength through unity’ line as inspirational. Don’t think too much abt it.]
No healthy society shld see themselves in the neo-fascist police-state in ‘Vendetta’, yet HKers looked around them & saw their gilded cage for what it was. We took up V’s call - in our art, everyone now bears the same face, the face of an idea that refuses to die.
The mask is the idea of resistance, tracing back to V, Evey & Valerie in ‘Vendetta’ & ofc Guy Fawkes himself. Like the mask, the idea isn’t pretty-how many uprisings are w/out violence or bloodshed? But for a ppl on the brink, what other solutions are still available?
It’s hard to ignore the fatalism in HKers’ embrace of V. The line from ‘Vendetta’, ‘…ideas are bulletproof…’ appears often post Oct 1, both a ref. to HKPF shooting a teenager in the chest & to the city’s hardened stance - our art says, we are ready, bring it on.
But it’s not just desperation attached to the mask, there’s hope too. At end of the ‘Vendetta’ film, Britons rise up, masks on, & watch the seat of govt go up in flames. After the mask ban on 5 Oct, our art dreams of such a scene for HKers - together, defiant, victorious.
We know it is just a dream - our fave anthems & icons are all of failed revolutionaries. But that’s the thing, ‘Vendetta’ has taught us symbols are given power by the ppl, that if enough of us believe in them, they hv the chance to live beyond us, to truly change the world.
HKPF can arrest our ppl. They can burn us, blind us, tear off our ear lobes. We may fail, but the idea of the HK Freedom Fighter, representing our fathers, our mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, you, me… that idea of the ideal is out there, small spark in the dark.
HKers know this fight is more than just abt us. There’re others rising up. There’ll be more to come. The mask is our hope that when ppl of the world hv forgotten our names, our city…they’ll still remember & be inspired- power lies w/ the people & we will fight to be free.
“I hope that whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better… even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you. I love you. With all my heart, I love you.”