Before Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 the British colonial government and the Chinese government both promised ‘stability and prosperity’ for Hong Kong after the handover. We were supposed to see the appearance of ever taller skyscrapers as evidence of progress, and to believe that shiny new consumer products would offer us a happier future. Democracy would not be necessary to effect this improvement in our lives, and we shouldn’t worry our heads about such an irrelevant matter.
Just after the handover came the Asian economic crisis, and Hong Kong’s economy was in recession for a long time after that. Progress seems slow coming on both the economic front and the political front. Despite demonstrations by half a million people on 1 July 2003 and 1 July 2004, there is still no timetable for introducing fully democratic elections for either the legislature or the executive.
Slow Progress was born in this time when forward motion seems hard to discern, and when even the appearance of progress often turns out to be illusory. We appear to move forward, but never seem to get anywhere – although it may take a bit of viewing time to notice that. After noticing the lack of progress the viewer’s attention may shift from the images of transit (viewed as if through a window in a black wall) to the film itself as film. The grainy low resolution images, with their shifting viewpoint which echoes the spontaneous shifts of the human gaze more than the steady vision of a film camera, may be interrogated for signs of editing. The puzzle is not so difficult to solve, in fact, but still it takes up some time.