The Order of Things is the first project by collective “Archive of the People”. The project addresses the cycling system of Things under the establishment of Hong Kong Government; through artistic practice and intervention, the collective centers the research on the empirical, evidential and social value of items in relation to the system that generates them.


Public auction is held by Government Logistics Department in regular basis since 2003; it was firstly held in late nineteenth century in Hong Kong. Confiscated items, unclaimed goods and unused equipment from various sources are open for bidding during the auction. The items, goods, or “artifacts” become empty vessels that intrigue public interest, on their economic significance instead of any of their intrinsic, archival and archaeological value. We create things that in turn they create us; a chain of economic activities is generated by the government, auction is one of the prominent dots of the circle. Apart from social process resulting from symptomatic determinism, where do those things come from? Why are they so many? Things are being put together, or Foucault put it as Resemblance, which reveals the kinships as well as the grammar of being. While “grammar” alludes whenever vocabulary and phrase are placed in certain order, it generates literal meaning and forms a system of language, hence, the analogy bring light to the multifaceted quality of the project, in other words, the phenomena of their existence.


The very first layer of Things comes with their physicality, how they were used and can be used now, what are their conditions, how they are being displayed for previewing, how they are being described on auction list. The second layer connects its intrinsic value to monetary value and human activity -- how much they can be resold for, how minimal description put the bidders in a situation that he/she has to associate with his/her past experience in the auction, who is engaged in circulating the things as a secondary production. The third layer is abstract and ideological, which leads to language, system and history, while things direct human activity, but also shape our cognition and knowledge ―the stability of goods supply reveals the circuit between auction and local market, how objects are generated by the system and in turn they affect the system, how the auction is conducted in an unnatural manner.


In this respect, the auction-things system provides a wide range of context for us to explore, from the moment when items were first being acquired, to identification, categorization, storage, procedural decision on auction listing and lastly fall into bidders’ hands; it passes stories from time to time, as it suggests things’ functionality and materiality, consequently opens up potential in their historiographical quality. Something is being disposed and others remain on the list, the things are being sorted according to the source instead of any other classification methodologies. The government possesses the ultimate authority to maintain existing ecosystem of circulating things, in other words, the ability to narrate clearly the alterity of object with political regime, which is not necessarily the full picture of our common recognition of the system. How does power exert mode of subjectification on individuals?


What constitutes the accumulation of things, as an archive that differentiate itself from merely documents and records; by reading, decoding and recoding the signs embedded in the things, various artists in the collective adopt their own practice to encounter problems with problems.

The Order of Things (Casting Bidders)
Multiple-channel video installation
(Color | Sound | 16:9)


The video work features how Government Logistics Department (GLD) conducts public auction that involves different levels of manipulation from both authorized auctioneer and bidders. Lee questions the system of public auction and its affiliated parties with proactive participation and intervention.


Based on Lee’s observation, he discovered that some bidders presumably form teams during the auction; hence, teamed up bidders knock their competitors by applying various bidding strategies in order to ensure particular party will win the auction; they usually communicate with each other at the auction via mobile devise and text messages, while they pretend that they do not know each other.

The auctioneer, as an authorised agent, is supposed to police the legitimacy of a government auction and secure a fair bidding environment; as a matter of fact, the auctioneer could have easily identified the suspicious act, nevertheless, auctioneer never expresses any concern or intention to justify. In such case, the auction is turned into a play, in which the ending has already revealed between the key players.


Lee recruited professional actors and actresses to cast a character who is going to bid at the public auction. They were required to perform a complex emotional and mental struggle, which resulted in an unsuccessful bidding experience. The casting was conducted with a stimulated setting of the actual public auction.


Eventually, two actor and actress were selected to “act” at the GLD auction; they obliged to complete with various bidders, represented their frustration, anxiety, anger, loss of hope, etc, under the situation full of bid suppression and cover bidding.


Acknowledgement and Credits:

Leading cast: CHUNG LAU Wai-ling Phoebe, TSANG Yuk-hei Don

Camera: TANG Ka-hei, LEE Ka-yan, FUNG Wing-lam

Production assistant: WONG Ka-chung Dorothy

Special thanks: Enoch CHENG, YAU Ching-yung Norman, WONG Ka-ki


"The Other Side of Evidence" (Curated by Solomon Yu), Osage Gallery, Hong Kong, 2017

The Order of Things )From One to Five Thousand Three Hundred and Seven)


Lee studies the aspect of “sound” in artifacts in the public auction and their readable traces. Lee participates in Public auction of confiscated goods from Customs and Excise Department, unclaimed goods and unused equipment from various sources. He conducts research on those government artiacts that produce sound, which offer a lot of information of their temporality and life cycle within the affiliated system.


During the exhibition, Lee will work in regular basis at the venue, and conduct a detailed on-site archaeological report about the process of artifacts destocking, their appearance and types of sound they produce. 


"The Other Side of Evidence" (Curated by Solomon Yu), Osage Gallery, Hong Kong, 2017

"Voices From a Distance" (Curated by Enoch Cheng), Comix Home Base, Hong Kong, 2016.

The Order of Things (Catalogues of catalogues)
Installation with drawing and multiple-channel video


A set of visual narrative drawings and multiple-channel videos depict the structure of public auction, sources of the goods, system of generating such items, how they are being recycled and circulated in the society, classification methodologies, etc.


"The Other Side of Evidence" (Curated by Solomon Yu), Osage Gallery, Hong Kong, 2017

© 2020 by LEE KAI CHUNG

Multiple-Channel Video installation | Color | Sound | 16:9 | 11’36”