Back to the Basic

by Janice Leung
South China Morning Post, Preview, GoingOut 3, City, June 21, 2007. 
Running until early next month, this debut exhibition by C&G Artpartment marks the 10th anniversary of the handover. But it’s not typical the hundreds of other celebratory events.
“We’re bored by those empty celebrations, and wonder why there’s only one way to commemorate the anniversary,” say Clara Cheung and Gum Cheng Yee-man, gallery owners and curators of the show. “They give the impression that Hong Kong has only 10 years’ history and that things before 1997 don’t count.”
As its title suggests, Back to the Basic aims to dig beneath the surface of celebrations and focus on the theme of the Basic Law.
“The Basic Law has been ruling every aspect of society since the handover, and it won’t be any exception in the future,” says Cheung.
The exhibition showcases five works. The curators’ piece explores the topic on a canvas; Enoch Cheung Hong-sang uses the Kangxi Dictionary and a piece of golden cloth to make fun of the authority embedded in the Basic Law; Anthony Leung Po-shan burned pages of the Law on the opening day in reference to the city’s amnesia; and Pan Xinglei writes on a wall in red oil and inserts into the book Deng Sizoping on the Question of Hong Kong obscene images to create a set of “teaching materials of the Basic Law”.
Despite the serious topic, Kwan Sheung-chi’s installation is humorous and sarcastic. His piece contains a two-minute video with the national anthem as background music, in which his parents are drying the flags of China, Britain and Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong flag (above) was painted by Kwan’s artist friend Lee Kit and sewn by his girlfriend. Something formal and solemn is suddenly causal and fun, and our preconceptions of flags are challenged as they’re hoisted horizontally in an everyday setting.
The video starts with the lowering of the Union Jack and the rise of the Chines and Hong Kong flags – not a surprising symbol of the handover. But the sequence becomes messy and disorderly later in the video. “Not everything is solved, even if the Chinese flag has been raised in the city since 1997,” says Kwan. “We still look back and feel confused about our identity, don’t we?”
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