© 2019 by LEE KAI CHUNG
 

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The Retrieval, Restoration and Predicament (2018-)

Research, photography, film, bronze sculptures, 3D model, installation

The project aims at confronting the notion of circulation of materials with social and monumental significance during the Second World War (WWII), particularly a piece of history about 11 bronze statues captured by Japanese Army during the Japanese Occupation period from 1941-45 in Hong Kong; by the end of the war, only four statues survived and saved by the British Hong Kong government (i.e. Queen Victoria, two Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) bronze lions, Sir. Thomas Jackson (Founder of HSBC)). I take this historical event as the point of departure, to carry on an artistic exploration on the way that the statues travelled and circulated, which later alludes the post-war politics in Hong Kong. To erect a statue that is made of nearly permanent materials in public space, this culture of commemoration doesn’t always justify its monumentality; in spite of this, the aftermath of retrieving statues was comprehensively described in official documents and newspapers, however, the process of having attempts to retrieve those lost statues was somehow overlooked in historical narratives, which I see it intricately intertwined with war memories, financial activities, manifestation of power and complex international relations.

A Circulation of Materiality

Meanwhile, the major patron of Statue Square, HSBC was completely rummaged by Japanese Army, because it was occupied as the Imperial Army Headquarter during the Occupation period. As a result, citizen’s savings, currency, valuables were confiscated and part of them were shipped to Japan and other war zones. After the war, some remaining and unclaimed jewellery, silver and gold were found in the vault of HSBC. They were classified as “Japanese property” since it was nearly unidentifiable to return to the original owners. Therefore, those property were kept at Custodian of Property, some later were returned to lawful owner, majority were sold in public auction. The revenue from sales went to a newly established fund called “Special Revenue Fund”. The fund was solely used on “Transportation”, which was believed to be spent on bringing the damaged Queen Victoria statue back to Hong Kong.[1]*

 

[1] JAPANESE CAPTURED MATERIALS - DISPOSAL OF GOLD, SILVER, JEWELERY, AND VALUABLES RECOVERED FROM JAPANESE IN BRITISH LIBERATED TERRITORIES, HKRS41-2-27, 27.07.1946 - 09.01.1956, Hong Kong Government Records Service, Hong Kong.

Apart from being a key figure of 18th to 19th British sovereignty over colonies in far East, the Queen Victoria Statue has been deeply involved in a number of social movements and events ever since the early 20th century. As a monument in a public space that inevitably embedded with a matrix of art making, memory, visual presentation, the statue of Queen Victoria served as a vessel of “memories of good old days” in the colonial period, so to speak, it ideological and symbolic derived from the temporal-spatial setting. This project maps the historical trajectory of identity formation for Hong Kong People ever since WWII, through a series of research in various archives, I explore the transformation of materialistic statue from one social object (Latour, 2005) to another under the socio-political tension.

The entitled project is a WMA Commission project. 

It will be exhibited in 12th Shanghai Biennale: Proregression- Art in an Age of Historical Ambivalence.