Hong Kong Is Slowly Dimming Its Neon Glow
October 15, 2015 10:12 PM   Subscribe

"Since the mid-20th century, endless towers of flashing, throbbing neon have defined Hong Kong’s landscape as much as Victoria Harbor and the skyline of densely packed high-rises. 'When you think of Hong Kong and visual culture, one of the first things that comes to the fore is neon signs,' said Aric Chen, the design and architecture curator of M+, a museum that is collecting images of Hong Kong’s neon signs online and some of the signs themselves as they are retired, including the neon cow. The Hong Kong immortalized in the films of Wong Kar-wai, the director of 'In the Mood for Love' and 'Chungking Express,' is awash in neon, Mr. Chen said. 'If his representations of Hong Kong in the popular imaginations are seminal, which I think they are,' he said, 'you can’t separate that image from the neon ambient glow.' But the neon of Hong Kong’s streets is dimming." (Previously).
posted by SpacemanStix (16 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
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The neon lamps are going out all over Asia. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:08 PM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Since the mid-20th century, endless towers of flashing, throbbing neon have defined Hong Kong’s landscape..."

Er, no. Neon signs in Hong Kong were static until after the closure of Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon in 1998.
posted by Mister Bijou at 11:13 PM on October 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Hey, at least it will save some electricity. Those high voltage transformers are not very efficient. Neither are the tubes themselves, for that matter. Better than a bunch of incandescent bulbs, but not as good as LEDs in that respeft.

The aesthetics of a good neon sign are far better, though. There's something nice about the..analog..nature of the sculpted glass forms of the tubes.
posted by wierdo at 11:15 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


After reading the article, I realize a similar transformation is going on in Vegas; new LED displays are replacing the old neon signs.

I miss the past.
posted by el io at 11:27 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


And life went on beyond the Palisades.
posted by three blind mice at 1:24 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the post; I remember HK neon from my visit there in the '70s and am sorry it's vanishing.
posted by languagehat at 6:07 AM on October 16, 2015


I personally feel somewhat optimistic. I think LEDs have not achieved their full artistry yet, at scale, and I don't (necessarily) mean all of the animation options they have.

Someone's going to come along and make a beautiful, elegant, inexpensive installation with LEDs that won't be imitations or simulations of earlier lamp types, and it will be good.
posted by chimaera at 7:37 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Bay Lights installation on the Bay Bridge is a good example of the magic of LEDs. I'm sure as the price of LED lighting drops, there'll be much more of this type of thing.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 8:05 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


霓虹的製作 The Making of Neon Signs | NEONSIGNS.HK 探索霓虹 (video has English-language subtitles)
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Christ, at least our dystopian future used to have neon. Now it can't even have that.
posted by symbioid at 9:35 AM on October 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Then again - This is ever more probable
posted by symbioid at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


hrist, at least our dystopian future used to have neon. Now it can't even have that.

It will- it'll just be virtual. You'll be able to set your cybereyes to display the mandatory advertisements in neon mode.
posted by happyroach at 9:56 AM on October 16, 2015


As we start to lose artistry like this, it makes me feel like I'm losing a once-dependable connection to the aesthetic of my childhood.

I really hope Blade Runner 2 gets it right.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:13 AM on October 16, 2015


I really hope Blade Runner 2 gets it right.

Wow. While you seem like a huge fan of dystopias, you are also an unwavering optimist.*

*Spoiler: They won't get it right.

posted by el io at 1:33 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Someone's going to come along and make a beautiful, elegant, inexpensive installation with LEDs that won't be imitations or simulations of earlier lamp types, and it will be good.

The future is here and you can see it at Burning Man. You can buy cheap lighting effects on eBay now that would have taken months of engineering and cost tens of thousands of dollars just five or six years ago. It's to the point now that there's basically no reason to DIY LED hardware anymore. As this happens, people are shifting focus from "holy shit, we can do this!" over to "now, what could we do to make this more interesting?" and you're starting to see increasing subtlety and depth in the animation effects the LED hardware is actually displaying.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:07 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


> you are also an unwavering optimist. Spoiler: They won't get it right.

> "hope..."

*fingers crossed*
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:34 PM on October 16, 2015


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