The contemporary artist wanted to capture the nostalgia of traditional alleyway houses in Shanghai before they are lost to time

Former architect turned full-time artist Red Hong Yi recently opened her latest art installation at the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. Titled, My Alleyway Memories: Once Upon A Longtang, the work is made up of a 6m tall bamboo structure and eight hanging canvas artworks.

The installation offers visitors a glimpse at the disappearing tradition of alleyway houses in Shanghai, where Red lived for two years with her relatives.

The bamboo structure in My Alleyway Memories: Once Upon A Longtang replicates the bamboo scaffolding used for renovation works in Shanghai. Often they were held together using nylon string and without any nails, yet they remained sturdy.

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She was sad to hear that the area where alleyway houses she had stayed all those years ago was set to be demolished. With longtangs quickly disappearing in the face of modernity, the installation serves as a reminder of the impermanence of tradition and urbanisation.

“I wanted to use my art to tell more personal stories, and stories of places and people who are important to me,” said Red, who hails from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. “I wanted people to see and feel the relationships I had and maybe even experience the people and places that I love in a way that I love them.”

My Alleyway Memories: Once Upon A Longtang is showing at the National Art Gallery in Kuala Lumpur till March 22.

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