Lee Smith

It Was the Best of Times. It Was the Worst of Times.

June 27 – July 30, 2017


Mana Contemporary Chicago in partnership with Experimental Sound Studio and 現在音樂 Contemporary Musiking Hong Kong are proud to present It Was the Best of Times. It Was the Worst of Times., a multimedia installation by two Hong Kong artists, Vvzela Kook and Cheng Lee. The exhibition addresses the landscape of colonial Hong Kong through two important ‘cities’ that once existed in the colony: one a site of resistance to colonial power and the other the center of power for the colonial government.

Kowloon Walled City started as an outpost in the Song Dynasty long before the British settled in Hong Kong. Thus, none of the conventions that handed the control of land to the British government include this parcel of land. After World War II, the new Chinese government tried to reclaim the rights to rule the land. At the insistence of the People’s Republic of China, the British largely stayed away from the area and it became a lawless part of town, despite its location in the middle of the city. The influx of immigrants drove private contractors to build taller and taller structures, ignoring any building codes, and the Walled City became a giant maze. Vvzela Kook’s project Confidential Report is about a fictional version of Kowloon Walled City in which it becomes a fortress for the human resistance against a government run by computer AIs. The main two channel video and soundtrack lays this dystopian future Walled City out in great detail.

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 brings the audience—who can control the direction of sight—on a 360-virtual sound walk along the boundary of the city. This journey is accompanied by an immersive sound work by the artist. By pairing a fabricated soundtrack with the illusion that the audience is in control of the experience of traveling, Lee draws attention to the fact that since experience can be doctored, the identity of a person, which is shaped by experience, can also be fabricated.

Cheng Lee, Footprint of the V City, 2017