Spanish graffiti artist Victoriano took over the sprawling space of California Tower’s airy Loft22 to present ‘Cash and Carrier’ from November 21-22, offering his creative observation of the power of luxury brands.
HONG KONG ART
Spanish graffiti artist Victoriano took over the sprawling space of California Tower’s airy Loft 22 to present ‘Cash & Carrier’ from November 21-22, offering his creative observation of the power of luxury brands. The exhibition relates the contemporary treatment of brands to artworks by the Old Masters, which traditionally depicted the most revered topics of the day– usually royalty or religion. The show offers Victoriano’s stoic observation of a world in which the power of the brand is absolute.
With a self-professed obsession with luxury iconography, Victoriano contemplates brands’ imagery and status, ‘hijacking’ their elite character and reflecting upon their meaning in culture. ‘Cash & Carrier’ embodies the artist’s response to ‘Brandalism,’ the critical subversion of corporate messaging popularized by Banksy and Shepard Fairey. Rather than continuing the hackneyed dialogue of overtly negative associations with branding begun in the 2000’s, Victoriano positively appropriates the carefully crafted character of the world’s most elite luxury brands. In a practice he calls ‘Uppertising’ or ‘Prada-ism,’ he lends brands’ elite qualities to himself to bring awareness to broader social behaviors. Victoriano’s work playfully imitates the common act of brand appropriation, which usurps a brand’s character to enhance a user, and explores notions of transforming a branded artifact (for instance, the shopping ‘carrier’ from a purchase) into the actual object of desire. When it comes to wearing luxury brands in contemporary society, Victoriano reminds us that we are all appropriators.
Graffitist and luxury creative
Victoriano is an artist who stands resolutely in two worlds; he is an illicit graffiti painter since his teenage years, yet also a former art director for luxury brands whose past clients include Louis Vuitton, DKNY, and Kenzo. Indeed, he seems uniquely qualified to comment on the contemporary use and meaning of luxury iconography. Instead of expressing criticism of brands, Victoriano’s work exudes awe of the achievements of the world’s haute design houses. To Victoriano, high brands have achieved the ultimate position as aspirational, cult-like deities of our day, and their appropriation is so insidious we don’t even see what’s in plain sight.
UrbanDNA shares her personal experience of Hong Kong’s postnatal recovery offerings, including hiring a pui yuet, traditional Indonesian Jamu massage, and caterpillar soup.
HONG KONG POSTNATAL RECOVERY
Some may have noticed UrbanDNA has been MIA for the past couple months. Indeed this street art stalker has been busy, but for good reason: to welcome a beautiful baby boy into the world! The experience of having a child in Hong Kong is something that I wanted to fully embrace, and I took advantage of every unique offering available in this special part of the world to relieve recovering mothers. After all, why not? Being quite open minded, I am happy to try anything that will help me feel my best after an experience as challenging as childbirth. This enthusiasm led me to encounters that mothers in Western countries may be unfamiliar with, and even many new mothers in Hong Kong may be unaware of.
Recovery Strategy #1: Get a Pui Yuet
While it may be common to hire a nanny upon the arrival of a baby in Western cultures, a pui yuet (confinement nanny) is the equivalent of hiring a nanny for the mother during the traditional postnatal confinement period. A pui yuet’s services are offered in packages for a family to choose from, and range from 24 hours a day (live-in), 12 hours a day (covering the night shift), or 8 hours during the day. I selected 8 hours during the day, as I wished to be present with my son at night, although I admit it has been a bleary-eyed challenge. The typical duration of a pui yuet’s stay with a family ranges from 4-8 weeks, throughout the desired confinement period when the new mother is less mobile, which depends upon the challenges particular to the individual recovering mother. Our pui yuet stayed with us for 6 weeks; I was sad to see her go, but also knew it was time to begin a fresh and exciting new chapter with our son.
Trained in the herbal healing arts, a good pui yuet has just the recipe to prevent mastitis (painful over-engorgement of the breasts for the breastfeeding mother), or conversely, encourage an adequate milk supply for the the new mother whose milk might be lacking. A confinement nanny primarily aims to rid the mother’s body of the ‘cold’ and ‘wind’ that Chinese medicine practitioners believe take up residence in the body after childbirth, and this is achieved through cooking lots of dishes with vinegar and ginger – especially ginger. My pui yuet even prepared buckets of dark-hued ginger water for me to bathe in, as is usual for postpartum recovery in the Chinese tradition. While I didn’t know what to expect from the pui yuet’s cooking, I was very pleasantly surprised. My husband even had food-envy, and began requesting 2 portions of the postnatal recovery dishes to be prepared so he could enjoy them as well. Luckily the herbal remedies are generally beneficial and healthful, so they were also suitable for him.
The most exotic ingredient in my meals was certainly the caterpillar cordyceps, a precious Chinese medicinal herb. In fact, these are caterpillars that host a certain fungi, which eventually mushrooms out of the head of the harboring insect in a long spindly horn. There are many different types of cordyceps- caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants – and all have different applications in Chinese medicine. For my postnatal recovery, the dried caterpillar cordyceps were cooked into black chicken soup that was served daily at teatime. Their taste is nondescript – they’re more of a texture, like a spongy noodle – and took on the flavor of the herby chicken and gogi berry soup.
Although a pui yuet is primarily occupied with preparing traditional medicinal meals for the mother, she is also specially certified in caring for a newborn. As a first-time mom, it was wonderful to have assistance from a professional in newborn care during those first shaky weeks. Having an extra pair of skilled hands – and the ability to take a mid-day nap – at such a delicate time for the entire household cannot be underestimated. Furthermore, a pui yuet can also train one’s helper in the more technical arts of caring for a baby, which gives everyone peace of mind. Indeed the extra TLC during such a delicate time helped me bounce back and feel like myself again (but even BETTER because we have our amazing baby!!!).
The biggest challenge as a Westerner in hiring a pui yuet is finding someone who speaks reasonable English, as this is a very traditional custom with very little Western clientele. My advice to non-Chinese speakers seeking a pui yuet is to begin your search early in the pregnancy. We signed a contract with our pui yuet when I was 5 months along, and still felt late in the game. We finally hired a lovely lady who was referred to us by word of mouth, but there are also the following agencies to help connect pui yuets with new mothers:
Recovery Strategy #2: Traditional Indonesian Jamu Massage
Jamu tummy-binding massage was key to getting myself feeling physically capable again, and I felt a definite difference in just the first few sessions. There are only a handful of Jamu practitioners in Hong Kong, as the method is native to Indonesia and Malaysia, where the knowledge is passed directly from elder women in families. In such traditions, a postpartum woman may not be considered to have properly completed her confinement period until she has had 60 consecutive days of Jamu massage. In Hong Kong, Jamu practitioners come to the mother’s home to administer the massage, and packages vary from 5-15 sessions carried out on consecutive weekdays. The massage is ideally performed within the first 12 weeks following delivery, and the earlier the better. After this vulnerable time the window for maximum benefit is lost.
A Jamu massage session consists of a 90 minute lymph draining body massage and tummy kneading, which helps to reposition the core organs and return them to their original placement. This is followed with the application of a ‘warming’ herbal paste to the tummy (mostly ginger, clove, fennel, and lemongrass – each practitioner’s recipe varies slightly) which is then sealed into a tight binding. The belly wrap can be compared to wearing a tight double corset from the hip to the upper abdomen, and is worn for at least 8 hours a day. It doesn’t restrict movement terribly, as I was able to do moderate cardio on an elliptical while wearing the bind, as well as meet friends for coffee. In addition to overall well being, a desirable benefit of Jamu is that it promotes fast slimming of the postnatal belly bulge. And although this method isn’t a miracle cure to remove excess weight, it does work to restore pre-pregnancy shape, energy, and vitality.
Be advised that Jamu can be difficult to book on short notice, so it’s best to plan ahead if you wish to secure a package. I was lucky to snag a spot with Anita at Postnatal Care, as she’s currently booked solid for the next 5 months. Anita is the only practitioner in Hong Kong who holds a formal training certificate in Jamu massage, which she earned in Singapore. She is a wonderfully gentle woman and a mother herself, and administers Jamu part-time due to her passion for aiding the recovery of new mothers. However, all of the Jamu practitioners are highly qualified and get together frequently to share and discuss their craft; the list of Jamu providers in Hong Kong is quite limited:
Hopefully other new moms will find this information useful, as I found the biggest challenge to organizing a smooth postnatal recovery in Hong Kong was simply locating service providers and knowing what’s available! Best of luck to all new moms and mothers-to-be out there, and take heart there’s plenty of wonderful support in Hong Kong to guide you through the delicate postpartum period.