In memory of Anna Chim: experimental video artist, rapper, and Hong Kong’s ‘magic girl’

anna chim
Saying goodbye to the quietly prolific artist and her soft-spoken, intimate rap.

On a cool winter’s day in December 2017, underground music collective Absurd Creation and rap duo Cooking Bitchess hosted an ambitious but low-key gig that packed video showcases and live performances by experimental artists into one Saturday. At the slaughterhouse-turned-artist village of Cattle Depot, the turnout for “The Ǝnd of 2017: VidƎo Cypher 5201314” was low as usual, but there was a grunge edge and intimacy among the attendees, most of whom were familiar faces in the scene. 

The beat-dropping abruptly paused, and enter Anna Chim, videomaker and member of the Cooking Bitchess. She wore a cute black hat and a blue coat—the outfit that she was ultimately cremated in, I later realised. Anna timidly explained her video cypher project to the crowd: the freestyle rap battles it was inspired by, and the GIFs shared among her friends that formed the project’s backbone. She then introduced each of the participating artists and their pieces, which were shown on analog televisions. The collage wall flashed continuously in the background, illuminating our faces.

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Video Cypher installation @ Videotage. Photo: Harry You @yukwo
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Anna (right) hosting the video cypher screening session. Photo: Kylie Lee

The crowd then broke up into smaller groups, and Anna came over to say hi. She thanked me for being there; I thanked her for the interesting project. It hit me now that she always noticed those who appreciated her work, and I wish I had been more outwardly supportive.

Anna passed away of acute heart failure this March. Her sudden death shook the scene, and when the tributes poured in—first online, then at her funeral, where she was showered with flowers, stuffed toys and souvenirs from her favourite anime—it was clear how many lives she had touched.

Anna – s/t – OUT NOW – 7/8/2018 ༞ Stream: https://goo.gl/SJczJv ༞ FREE Download/ Cassette: https://goo.gl/vLPRKU ༞ 生於1994年, Anna Chim (@anna00000000000000000 ) 是一位香港獨立音樂人、新媒體藝術家。曾於2017年與好友Laiki (@fotanlaiki ) 組成實驗嘻哈組合 Cooking Bitchess (@cookingbitchess ),同年開始以「Anna」的個人名義創作,風格上則以實驗流行/嘻哈為依歸。本專輯是Anna在2018年逝世後,由香港獨立廠牌Absurd TRAX (@absurdtrax ) 及一眾親密夥伴,透過收集她已完成及未完成的曲目,重新混音後推出的作品結集。(Text by Phaedrus Lam (@phaedruslam)) ༞ All songs performed by Anna / Lyrics by Anna / Original Artwork by Anna/ Cassette Artwork by Suze Chan (@shealwaysappears) Mastering by Alexmalism (@alexmalism ) ༞ 📸 by Suze Chan (@shealwaysappears)

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Even before Videotage, Anna was bringing together artists: back in 2016, she and fellow videomakers released their work at the now-closed underground club XXX, at a free screening ahead of Mexican producer Macross 82-99’s first vaporwave night in Hong Kong. As for her music, she garnered attention for being the skinhead-half of Cooking Bitchess with local trap rising star Fotan LaikiShe also performed as a solo artist at 一夜限定 at the former Cafe Hillywood, as well as the Chinese New Year showcase at cha charn teng/occasional music venue 永發茶餐廳. 

Later when she moved away from the public eye, she remained active on social media, posting on topics close to her heart such as cosmic forces and Japanese idols. Many remember her for her bold, stream-of-consciousness statements on her artistic process, and her unconditional support towards her friends’ creative pursuits.

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一夜限定 @Cafe Hillywood, Dec 2017. Photo: Harry You @yukwo

Anna’s friends channeled their grief into ensuring the world will see her legacy: by digging up WhatsApp messages and recordings she made on her iPhone and remixing the demos. Given the number of unreleased demos found, she proved herself to be a prolific artist. Earlier this month, Absurd Trax released a posthumous mixtape of Anna’s works shortly after her birthday, when she would have turned 24.

The first track on the mixtape is “INTRO Anna”, which spelled out Anna’s sadness at receiving few likes on her posts, or being unfriended on Facebook. The raw confession is followed by a live recording of her performance at 永發茶餐廳, concluding with her lonesome yet festive “chrismas”.

Rarely do we see a rapper with such a soft-spoken style, almost inviting pity. In a sense it was refreshing: as Absurd Creation’s Sam Chan says, “She was the only one who could use 唉 and 好慘 as ad-libs… and could blurt out 食煙, 急屎, like post—such minute details of everyday life—and blend it in her songs so effortlessly.”

Listening to Anna’s tracks on loop could leave you with a sense of helplessness and exhaustion with life. And yet, it is so relatable because it makes you realise you are not alone. That she evokes such potent feelings with her work is perhaps why her friends and followers call her “the magic girl.” As deejay ASJ said, this is probably the “boldest, most organic” mixtape project ever.

She had so much talent to offer, and had life not been so unfair to deprive her of more time, she could have continued to shake up our dull lives. This is a loss that will be collectively felt by all of us: her friends, this scene, and our generation.

anna chim city u scm grad show 2017
Anna Chim. School of Creative Media Graduation Show 2017, City University Hong Kong. Photo: Harry You @yukwo.

Banner photo by Abdela Igmirien. Editing by Still / Loud’s Karen Cheung.