Para/Site gallery show considers Hong Kong identity in the shadow of history
Imagine There's No Country, Above Us Only Our Cities
This group exhibition is a return, of sorts, to Para/Site's 1990s origins after the contemporary arts centre relocated from Sheung Wan to much slicker premises in North Point this year. Reprising earlier concerns, this exhibition explores Hong Kong identity and gives younger artists an opportunity to show their work.
Para/Site founders and now senior artists Leung Chi-wo, Sara Wong Chi-hang, Leung Mee-ping and Tsang Tak-ping previously explored identity in relation to their colonial British upbringing and as Hong Kong Chinese. In this show, curator Jims Lam Chi-hang invites a similar exploration, but within the context of the mainland's hegemony. Hong Kong's colonial heritage explains - and is blamed for - the current workings of the city, but it is the city's political and social relationship with the mainland that increasingly defines Hong Kong identity.
The oldest of the 12 participants, Luke Ching is a contemporary of Para/Site's founders and straddles previous generational understanding of the issue. Ching harks back to Hong Kong's "good old days" with a display of seven CCTV monitors arranged like a security panel and playing video images of familiar brand logos, such as TVB, KFC and Hello Kitty. After repeated playing, these logos "burn" into the monitors' black and white screens and become indelible, like a photograph.
Ng Ka-chun's contribution is the most overt reference to last year's Occupy protests. He depicts miniature "iron horses", or steel barricades, now ubiquitous at any street protest. These are placed within the exhibition and are also found chained to fences in surrounding streets. But it is Ng's discrete video monitor showing two equally sized national and Hong Kong flags, significantly not of regulation dimensions, that gives this work subliminal power. The actual flags are flying on Para/Site's roof and this video link has an unsettling voyeuristic, surveillance intention. It mirrors Ching's second video, which shows the artist blowing at a national flag, without managing to move it.
Lam Hoi-sin's work reminds us that nationalism is tempered by the realities of world membership. Her simple hanging cloth with the printed text, We are all Internet Americans, acknowledges the influence of US technology, software and websites that homogenise the internet world.
Tang Kwok-hin's installation of executive chairs stripped of some of their upholstery is deceptively subversive. Each chair's foam padding has been reworked to be appliance packaging. Carefully inserted into expertly cut spaces are souvenirs that can be bought from the Legislative Council: ties, clips, glass paperweights. It is high mockery of Hong Kong's administrative institutions.
Elvis Yip Kin-bon's Chinese newspaper installation combines irony and beauty. He cuts, in grid formation on large panels, a series of single Chinese character/photo combinations to reproduce a statement warning that "Anyone who is against the central government is not allowed to become chief executive … By appointing a chief executive who is opposed to the central government … would Hong Kong still maintain its glamour as the 'Pearl of the Orient'?"
Nearby, a craggy sculpture of Queen Victoria sits in front of Chris Huen Sin-kan's Oh, Victoria, an elaborate mixed-media installation. Her presence confirms the resilience of Hong Kong's past and that its "glamour" is not easily dimmed.
Until September 6