In the capital of capitalism, is it possible to sell a ‘nothing’? During the 2006 New Year holidays I joined Phil and friends at the beach on Lamma, Hong Kong’s nearest outlying island. It was to become not only the greatest day trip ever spontaneously conceived but testament to the dumb crap that can occur when a group of young guys join forces. They said it couldn’t be done, but that day – as an experiment in ‘anti-real estate’ – we built and sold a hole. We also put a Buddhist monk in it, albeit briefly.
Upon arrival, and worried that building a sandcastle could damage our masculinity, we began digging a giant hole to emphasise our heterosexuality and perhaps trap a few small animals. We invested in a HK$25 bucket and spade and dug down to chest height in just under two hours.
Our first buyer was ‘Kevin’ who agreed a price of 20 cents – we wrote out a contract. He joyfully took photos in and around the hole with his friends blissfully unaware that he had been conned. Since we hadn’t furnished Kevin with a copy of the paperwork we were able to sell the hole again, half an hour later, to a frighteningly excited ‘Gary’. Gary agreed a price of 50 cents and proceeded to fit no less than 4 of his friends in the said cavity. We calculated a net loss of HK$24.30
Just as we were about to fill in the hole, for health and safety reasons, a Buddhist monk began to express an interest. We managed to coax him into the hole – and although initially reluctant, Gary helped us to translate that the hole was in fact ‘a void’. The monk leapt in and out of the ‘void’ with grace and dexterity and he inspired us to leave the word ‘deep’ at the bottom of the chasm just before filling it in and memorising the coordinates.
We then felt an urge to artistically share what we had learnt with as many Hong Kongers as possible. Choosing to express ourselves via the medium of poetry, we wrote down some ideas over fish and chips. After doing a dry run with a random thespian we spotted on the boat, we proceeded to the territory’s top arts venue, The Fringe Club. Calling ourselves ‘Phil-in-the-Void’, we told our story to a semi-disinterested and confused audience at the club’s monthly poetry evening. (see video below).