⟨ Reading Corner ⟩

Mosses

Words / Phaedrus Lam
Illustration / Lokz Phoenix
Translation / Nicole Go

每次拜訪一家書店,看書,看人以及看書店本身。店主準備怎樣的書籍予客人,客人如何從藏書和擺設,讀出店主本身的個人品味。書店裡佈滿人們活動的軌跡,是觀察人類的最佳場所。

A visit to the bookshop is not only about looking at books, it is also about looking at the other customers, staff, and the bookshop itself. The kind of books the bookshop sells and how it is decorated tells you something about the shopkeeper’s personal taste. With so many people coming and going, and so many personal stories being created day and night, a bookshop is one of the best places to observe the lives of others.

迄今為止,我已訪問過Mosses不下三次,而每次話題都離不開「祭壇」,「狂歡」和「死亡」這幾個環節。像這次訪問聊沒多久,我跟店長黃思哲扯到Mosses如果要搬家,可以搬到什麼地方時,我倆竟不期然地提出了紅磡和樂富,然後忍不住發出了惡作劇般的咯咯笑聲。

要怎麼介紹Mosses這間店呢?它位於灣仔這個老城區,開在一條通往死路的坡道上,並與一間藝廊相連著。如果想走正門,就要在坡上快爬到頂端前,找到那一面橘面底色的塗鴉牆,再穿過旁邊的黑色柵欄,順著階梯往下走幾級,就能找到Mosses那昏暗的店面。特別寫明它昏暗,是因為店裡真的只有不到六盞黃燈。每次在閱讀之前,你都要先調整好站姿,以及拿書的角度;而雖然說,這可能加深了閱讀的儀式感,但也讓你看起來更像一個標準的書呆子。

絕版的攝影集和繪本,自然是店裡不能少的品項,但透過觀察Mosses代理哪些出版社,似乎更能反映出他們的行事作風;像是專門出版離經叛道的學術、藝術書籍的Primary Information;世上第一家專營ZINE出版業務的Nieves;只出版Rave Party、次文化有關書籍的Ditto,以及光開本就達到70×50公分,探索不同「平面國」的《PLETHORA MAGAZINE》等;勾勒出書店輪廓的同時,也隱約顯現出藏在店面背後,書店主理人那朦朧卻實在的身影。

I have interviewed the bookshop MOSSES more than three times. Somehow, we are always talking about “altar”, “revelry”, and “death”. Early in our conversation this time, I asked Wong Sze-chit, co-founder of MOSSES, where he would go if he should move his shop (rent in Hong Kong is notorious). We blurted Hung Hom and Lok Fu together – and cracked up at the secretive coincidence.

How does one describe MOSSES? Nestled in Wan Chai, the bookshop shares a space with an art gallery on St. Francis Street. To find its front entrance, you have to climb to the top of the slope and arrive at an orange graffiti wall and black fencing, where you then follow the steps down to the dimly lit store. The shop is small and dotted by six yellow lights. When one reads, one has to adjust their posture and angle their book to make the most of the light – a fitting ritual that sanctifies them as a nerd.

MOSSES houses a select range of limited edition art books and photo collections. What’s more interesting, though, is the way that their lineup of niche publishers reflects their personality and style. Primary Information, a non-profit publisher with an emphasis on the conceptual practice of using publications of art writings as an exhibition space; Nieves, the first publisher in the world to specialise in artists’ books and zines; Ditto, a publishing project centring on Rave Party and subculture; Plethora Magazine, a poster-size visual indulgence that challenges the bounds of the conventional magazine format conceptually as well as physically (70x50cm) – these are but some of MOSSES’s publishers which, collectively, define the bookshop’s imagination but also crucially demystify the person running the shop.

If reading is no longer a necessity in this day and age, surely it can be treated as a luxury?

OBSCURA:當初為甚麼要開Mosses這一間書店呢?

黃思哲:其實我們首先是一家獨立出版社,然後才是書店,只不過出版社的業務還沒發展起來,不過你也可以把書店,看作為我們出版品味的具象化。其實Mosses是我跟胡卓斌(Mosses創辦人)還是大專生時,聊到如果要開出版社和書店,應該要有什麼樣的姿態,後來他真的逐步把這實現出來了。現在的Mosses賣攝影集,藝術類書籍、ZINE和繪本,因為不少是絕版品,所以價格會偏高一點,但我們本身也想走奢侈一點的路線;既然在這個時代閱讀不是必須品,那可以是奢侈品吧?因為是偏向藝術類書籍,工夫都落在紙質和裝幀設計,必須親自來店裡翻實物才感受得到。

OBSCURA:為甚麼店裡燈光這麼暗?電費很貴嗎?

黃思哲:我也開始覺得室內太暗了,有點太極端了,不過其實設計者是我。當初之所以這樣設計,是因為店面本來設計就採光不良,而我很適應在這種光線下閱讀,就索性把這裡弄得更昏暗一點(OB:我記得你以前說過,想把書店弄得像一個祭壇)是的,當時還想把店裡的氛圍弄得更神秘一點,想讓來店裡的人,可以更專注在書的情感裡頭。但時間久了,連我自己也開始受不了。我們有個工作夥伴叫Nathan,它負責另一間書店Book B的業務,他當初就有罵過我跟胡卓斌不懂設計。

OBSCURA:那書店位於的社區是怎麼樣的?

黃思哲:這附近有很多生活品味商店,像是隔壁就有一家Kapok,還有Monocle等等,附近住戶也是比較有消費力的中產族群為主。跟我們相連的畫廊Odd one out,他們在這一區開業多年,我覺得他們跟這一區調性很合,但我不確定Mosses跟這一區合不合,而且來店的客人也不限於這一區,我之前就有想過如果搬店,到底要搬去哪?(OB:搬去哪?)可能是紅磡吧,但我不確定為什麼是紅磡,你覺得呢(OB:好像不能太熱鬧,但又不能太安靜,好像在九龍區,我想到了樂富⋯⋯我不確定為什麼,但那邊有一個很大的墳場,還有做墓碑的石屋)你這樣說我就想到了,紅磡也很多殯儀館呢。(OB:每次訪問不是聊「祭壇」,就是在聊「死亡」,這樣真的好嗎?)

OBSCURA: Where did MOSSES come from?

WONG: MOSSES is two-fold: we are first and foremost an independent publisher, and we’re also a bookshop. Our publishing business has yet to mature, but you can view the other side of the coin as a manifestation of who we are and what we want as a publisher.

In school with Renatus (Renatus Wu, co-founder of MOSSES), we would hypothesise the kind of publisher and bookshop we would like to open someday. Gradually, Renatus brought MOSSES to life. We now offer a selection of niche photobooks, art books, zines and illustrations – most of which are out-of-print, premium collections and that is also how we position ourselves in the market. If reading is no longer a necessity in this day and age, surely it can be treated as a luxury? With niche art books, for instance, what we champion is the tactile experience of the thoughts and work dedicated to the art of paper and binding. These books were meant to be felt.

OBSCURA: Why is it so dark in here? Is electricity that expensive?

WONG: I’m starting to find it a bit too dark… a bit too extreme. Actually, I was the interior designer. Daylighting in the unit wasn’t great to begin with, but I was getting used to the lack of sunlight, so I just went with it. (OB: I seem to recall you saying that you wanted to turn MOSSES into an altar-like space) Indeed. I wanted to mystify the space so visitors could concentrate on what they were reading. Over time, though, it’s feeling too dark in here. Nathan, who oversees our second bookstore, BOOK B, used to criticise Renatus and me for being absolute idiots when it came to interior design.

OBSCURA: How would you describe the neighbourhood home to MOSSES?

WONG: We are neighbours with many lifestyle select stores here – like Kapok and Monocle to name a few. It’s largely a middle-class area. The gallery ODD ONE OUT, with whom we share this space, has a lot of history here and it blends in perfectly. I’m not sure whether MOSSES blends in, too. Our visitors are not limited to the neighbourhood anyhow. I sometimes wonder where to go if I should move the shop. (OB: Where would you go?) Hung Hom possibly, though I’m not sure why. What do you think? (OB: It can’t be too busy or too quiet. Somewhere in between, in Kowloon – I’m thinking of Lok Fu but I don’t know why. There’s a huge graveyard, and a stonemason) Now you’ve said it, there’re lots of funeral parlours in Hung Hom, too! (OB: When we’re not talking about altars during interviews, we talk about death. Is this appropriate?)

It might sound like a very cultured and romantic profession, but the truth is I just happened to open a bookstore and run a small business.

OBSCURA:可以簡單介紹一下你自己嗎?

黃思哲:我叫黃思哲,這個月就三十五歲了。

OBSCURA:書店顧了多久?你享受當一位書店店長的感覺嗎?

黃思哲:應該有八年了吧,從以前在深水埗的Book B,直到2018年搬來這邊的Mosses。說實話,我喜歡畫畫,喜歡書,要我畫畫和設計書籍是可以的(編按:他本身是畫家和書籍設計師),但直到現在為止,我還是不擅長跟客人溝通,經營書店本身不在我的人生規劃內。雖然別人可能覺得,在書店當店長的生活應該很文藝、很理想什麼的,但我就只是恰好地開了一家書店,恰好當上了店長,這就是我的現實,生活是沒有濾鏡的,不一定是美麗的。

OBSCURA:你未來想過怎麼樣的生活?

黃思哲:想開心,盡量令自己開心,也想令身邊其他人開心。前幾年有兩位很重要的朋友往生了,有一位是我設計界的前輩,我被他影響很深,他是打開了我眼界的人。他的死亡令我解決了我的拖延症,讓我想專注在畫畫上,專注在喜歡的事情上。只要有基本收入的保障,其實我希望可以每天在家裡畫畫,可能中間會打一下電動,但主要是想每天起床畫畫,維持著繪畫的習慣。

OBSCURA:你今天會為我們推薦什麼書?

黃思哲:我會推薦這本Vinca Petersen的《Future Fantasy》,是一本關於九十年代Rave Party的攝影記錄,Ditto專門出版這種跟Rave、音樂和次文化有關的書籍。這本書的設計精彩度簡直是教材等級,有時跟做書籍設計的朋友交流時,我都會推薦這本書給他們,而且幾乎無一例外地都會買下來,所以這一本我要留著給我自己。

OBSCURA:那可以多講一下,為甚麼獨獨挑出這一本書嗎?

黃思哲:是因為這本書跟「狂歡」有關吧,我覺得這個時代太壓抑了,需要多一點歡樂。

OBSCURA: Let’s talk about you.

WONG: My name is Wong Sze-chit. I’m 35 this month.

OBSCURA: How long have you been running MOSSES? Do you enjoy it?

WONG: Almost eight years, I think – since BOOK B in Sham Shui Po and moving to MOSSES here in 2018. To be honest, I love drawing and books. I can draw and design books (Editor: Wong is an artist and book designer). But to this day I’m still pretty bad at talking to customers. Running a bookstore has never been on the cards for me. It might sound like a very cultured and romantic profession, but the truth is I just happened to open a bookstore and run a small business. This is my reality; it’s not always seen through rose-tinted glasses.

OBSCURA: What kind of life are you after?

WONG: I want to be happy. I want to try and make the people around me happy. Two friends of mine passed away few years ago. One of them was my mentor in design; he had such a huge impact on me. Losing him has, ironically, helped me overcome my procrastination. Now I want to focus on my art, on things that I enjoy. As long as I’m protected by a basic income, I can stay home and draw every single day. I might still play the occasional video game, but all I want is really just to wake up and draw – to keep up my art.

OBSCURA: Do you have any book recommendations for us today?

WONG: I’d recommend Vinca Petersen’s “Future Fantasy”. It’s a photo documentation of Rave Party in the 90’s. It’s published by Ditto, which specialises in Rave, music, and subculture. The design of “Future Fantasy” is par excellence – I always recommend it to my designer friends as a textbook reference. It’s a bestseller here and I have to make sure to save myself a copy.

OBSCURA: Why did you choose this book specifically?

WONG: It’s essentially a book about revelry. The world is too suppressed; we can all live a little.