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Hong Kong artist's gift-swap finds a friend in Denmark

For months, Joephy Wong, a Hongkongese art student, has travelled around Europe leaving small, anonymous gifts to strangers. She hopes to start an exchange with people who pick up her gifts. University Post found a dried piece of fruit that she had left in the library in Fiolstræde and decided to track her down

A red, dried piece of fruit with a small flag in it was left on my desk one morning when I came in to work on my thesis in the library in Fiolstræde in Copenhagen.

»Pick me up! Then send me an item from yours as exchange,« the flag said, followed by an address in Hong Kong.

I happened to be going to Hong Kong a few weeks later. So I decided to personally deliver a gift in exchange.

A daughter in Germany

»This is very far away, no tourists go there,« the concierge in my hotel told me when I showed him the address from the flag. But he gave me the directions and wrote me a note in Chinese that I could show people should I get lost.

An hour and a half later I stood in front of »Ka Keung Court,« one of Hong Kong’s thousands of high-rises. With me, I had the dried piece of fruit and the flag, along with a small box with Danish liquorice eggs that I would offer in exchange.

I found room 609 on the fourth floor and rang the bell. I rang again. Nobody answered, but the neighbour opened her door to ask if she could help me with anything. A family lived in the apartment, she told me. I showed her the fruit and the flag. »It must be their daughter. She is on exchange in Germany,« she said before closing the door.

I then left the box with the liquorice eggs and a note with my e-mail in front of the door.

The first one to reply

A few days after, I got an e-mail from Clun Wong: »I just found the eggs on my floor. But the dry fruit wasn’t from me, I guess it’s from my sister but she’s not in HK right now. Anyway, text me back if you really dropped by today or yesterday, it’s amazing!« he wrote.

Soon after, I managed to get a hold of his sister Joephy Wong. »I’ve put nearly one thousand items like the dry fruit with a memo in it around Europe. You are the first one to reply. Now I got the courage to continue. Thank you so much!« she e-mailed me.

Apart from Copenhagen, Joephy had travelled across the continent to leave her notes and try to swap gifts with strangers in Berlin, Stockholm, Bergen, Oslo, Land’s End, Cambridge, Coventry, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Rome, Venice, Florence, Paris, and Amsterdam.

Random locations

Joephy is a 22 year old student from Hong Kong. She studies Visual Art and has been on exchange in Germany since last October. Her project – titled »Pick me up!« – started in January in Berlin, Joephy tells me in our subsequent e-mail correspondence.

»At first, I wrote letters to people who have the most popular family name in different countries. 300 hand-written letters in total. But then I decided instead to create the printed memos,« she explains.

»I dropped the memos in bicycle baskets, letter boxes, benches, chairs, on lockers, notice boards in universities, public libraries, inside CDs and books, at hostels, in bookshops… Just random locations that I came across,« she says.

Interfering with people’s lives

Joephy sees the project as a form of interference that creates new relations. The dried piece of fruit is a gift, but it is also an encouragement to give:

»I am interfering with people’s personal timeline. Once they notice my gift, they have to decide either to pick it up, or to walk away. And if they pick it up, will they bring it home or throw it away? Are they willing to write me a letter and engage in some kind of dialogue with me? And finally, what items are people going to exchange with me? Their choice reflects their identity,« she says, before adding that the project is very much about chance.

When Joephy returns to her mailbox in Hong Kong in July, she will know how lucky she has been. But before that she doesn’t waste her time: Within the next month, she will travel to Venice, Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, Gdansk, Cracow, Edinburgh and Dublin to leave a few hundred more of her small gifts to strangers.

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