It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times

Date: 27 June - 30 July 2017
Artists:  Lee Cheng 鄭重言, Vvzela Kook 曲倩雯
Venue: Mana Contemporary Chicago, 2233 S Throop St, Chicago
Organizer: Contemporary Musiking Hong Kong

installation view

curatorial statement

The exhibition “It Was the Best of Times. It Was the Worst of Times.” showcases two Hong Kong artists, Vvzela Kook and Cheng Lee, multi-media works on two of the most important ‘cities’ once existed in Hong Kong, Kowloon Walled City and Victoria City. Kowloon Walled City started as a outpost in Song Dynasty, 10th Century, long before the British settled in Hong Kong. Thus, none of the conventions in 19th Century that handed the control of land to the British government include this parcel of land. After World War II, the new Chinese government tried repeatedly to reclaim the rights to rule of the land. With the insistence of the PRC government, the British kept their hands largely off the area and it became a lawless part of town smack in the middle of Hong Kong. The influx of immigrants drive private contractors to build taller and taller structures ignoring any building codes and the Walled City become a giant maze. Vvzela Kook’s project Confidential Recordsis about a fictionalised Kowloon Walled City which had become a fortress for the human resistance against the government run by computer controlled AIs. Cheng Lee’s work, Footprint of the V City, focuses on the boundary of Victoria City, an early city limit set in 1903 by the British Colonial Government. The work will bring the audience on a 360-virtual sound walk along the boundary of the city which the audience can control the direction of sight on the projection by a controller. Drawing to the attention that since experience can be doctored, the identity of a person, which is shaped by experience, can also be fabricated.

The subjects of the artists were once integral parts of the landscape of the colony: one a resistance to the colonial power and one the centre of power of the colonial government. The choice of location as the subjects of their works showed a conflicted history of colonial rule which does not confer to the normal post-colonial narrative: the coloniser is always oppressive to the indigenous population and people who shared the same blood will eventually liberated the indigenous people.

Hong Kong evolved differently when most population are immigrants who has been escaping from different hardships for the first 100 years of the colony. They came to a relatively stable government ruled by a foreign power who saw the city became one of the major metropolises in the world. The present state of Hong Kong is also not as prescribed as post-colonial theory that things will become better when the control is ‘rightfully’ return to the people that shared the same blood. Essentially, the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 is seen as many local people as the transfer of power from one colonial power to another. Chinese government does not share the power with the common people, and thus the local Hong Kong people become the subaltern under the rule of the ‘motherland’. Both of the artists’ work speak of the resistance to power and nostalgic to a simpler time is shown through their different approach of sonic story telling.