PREMIERE: Black Mannequin delivers visually stunning ‘Liffeysider’ video

Almost twelve months ago, political unrest erupted in Hong Kong when civilians took matters into their own hands. Predominantly protesting their government’s proposed legislation of the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill, hundreds of thousands Hongkongers took to the streets across many protests to make their message heard. As the protests escalated, the amount of incidents of destruction of public property and violence also grew, changing the country in many ways for good.

Prior to the protests, Brisbane’s BLACK MANNEQUIN visited a friend, videographer Maria Bui, in Hong Kong, and together while on their explorations they began to be inspired by the stunning modernist architecture throughout the city, particularly in the Metro Stations. Sharing a deep creative bond, the pair captured a lot of footage of the stations while together late at night when the stations -normally filled with people- were completely empty. When the pair got around to revisiting the footage they had captured, the protests were just starting to break out in Hong Kong, and they began to realise the beautiful stations they had captured had now been smashed to bits. One of the stations in particular was Prince Edward (pink station), and was the site for what is now known as Incident 831.

After much deliberation, Black Mannequin and Bui decided to release the footage in the form of a music video for Black Mannequin‘s ‘Liffeysider’, which Purple Sneakers has the honour of premiering today. Taken from his Zero/Sum EP, the sparse ambiance of the track adds a level of poignancy to the footage as we now know what happened just months later. In ‘Liffeysider’, Black Mannequin creates another world, using space to bring life to the few elements he chooses to work with on the track. With heavy atmospherics, the track is at once ominous and forboding as it is inviting, and when paired with the visually stunning footage captured in Hong Kong, ‘Liffeysider’ evolves from just a track to a full-bodied experience. Through tunnels and dark stairwells, long beautiful mosaic tiled walls and empty halls within the station, the intensity of Black Mannequin‘s music is brought to life to create an utterly captivating two minutes that stays with you long after its finished. Speaking to Purple Sneakers about the influence this kind of architecture has on his music, Black Mannequin said, “My music takes great inspiration from post-war modernist architecture. Brutalism in particular – I grew up around it. It’s visually disfavoured by many, maybe in the same way that electronic music doesn’t appeal to everyone. But it has purpose, and within it lies the immeasurable; complex, individual experience.”

Going onto explain the specific influence this particular location had on him, Black Mannequin told us, “I love underground, urban systems. Hong Kong’s MTR, however, really spoke to me. The mosaic tiles, the monochromatic colours. We went in at night when the stations were all but empty. They were enormous and so silent. Beautiful. It’s difficult to see them like that now though, but we hope return to that peaceful state.”

Black Mannequin also said, “Commuting through Hong Kong for the first time, the monochromatic aesthetic of the underground was of instant appeal. Each station visually epitomised the sonic architecture of electronic music; raw, urban, mechanical, yet truly defined by its inherent human quality. We endeavoured to capture this sentiment. Yet, the subsequent violence surrounding Hong Kong’s MTR outweighed our own artistic conceptions. Two years ago, we could not foresee such stunning sites would ultimately host the darker side of human nature. These events have rendered the footage uncanny. We felt, then, that the video should adopt a different purpose.”

“Initially a snapshot of human expression, experience and tranquility, the footage now represents the struggle to keep such qualities. The escalation of oppression sees the decline of individual expression. Our efforts are meagre, yet through art, we hope to offer support to suppressed voices.

Art has always been intrinsically tied to politics, both to unify and to provide commentary or perspective. In times of unrest, we look to artists to provide solace or reprieve just as much as we look to them to provide motivation or our voice, and its this that Black Mannequin taps into alongside Maria Bui. As the world continues to descend into chaos, we can of course expect more destruction from the unrest, but we will also continue to see people coming together to rebuild. When this happens, its important to not erase the past but be able to look back and learn while preserving the beauty of things that once were, and ‘Liffeyside’ provides exactly this. It’s a stark, intense reminder of the darker side of humanity, but by being so respectful in the way its been captured and treated, it also offers support to those who have been suppressed. To accompany the video, Black Mannequin has also shared some photos taken during the capturing of the footage, which you can see below.

Tin Hau Station, Hong Kong

Fortress Hill Station, Hong Kong

‘Liffeysider’ is out now via Pocketmoth.
Words by Emma Jones
Main image by Daniel Grima; All other images by Iti Memon

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Three-time uni dropout who just can’t stop telling people about this great new song she’s found.