A good idea is Hijack!

/ Lee Chun Fung

In Luke Ching Chin-Wai’s methodology of how to intervene the ‘public’, the public doesn’t necessarily refer to a specific community (or audience). The public can be extended to social phenomena, city consciousness, collective memories, societal norms and etc. “Hijacking” is Ching’s usual mode of working, as well as the keyword in his works.

In the curatorial statement written by Ching for “Hong Kong NeedsHijacking”, an exhibition organized in White-Tube, Ching points out concisely that “hijacking” is a bottom-up activity which challenges the right to interpret the space. With the power and effort of an individual, the right to use the space as well as the regulations of that can be altered temporarily from those which are formulated by the organizational system. The people can therefore gain back the right and the will to develop an active association of the space.

Thus, hijacking is actually a confrontational political act. There are too many norms and structures controlled by the authorities in society. And hijacking helps to release the participation of the individuals from the manipulation of the establishment.  From that on, the individuals are able to have an alternative and imaginative thinking of the matter.

For instance, the public space in the city has long been given specific meaning by certain authorities. Different functions are allocated to different part of the public space: walking, waiting, shopping, dressing, photo-taking…… The imaginations and emotions towards the space are therefore segmented. As a result, the relationship between the people and the place becomes ambiguous. Ching goes to such space and conceives of curious ideas that go beyond the scope of the normal setting of the space. It can be just one person or a large group of people carrying out the subversive acts that are often rendered in a sweet and humorous way. In Admiring the Full Moon, a highly disguised “accident”, Ching bought a yellow balloon in a toy shop and released it to the ceiling of the shopping mall while he was tying his shoelaces. Conceivably, he was later mess in by the security guards. The act was scheduled on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The strollers in the mall, smothered and stuffy, couldn’t see the sky even they raised their heads. But now, in the indoor space, they could admire the full moon. Could they feel the sense of loss in the contained city space which they are estranged from the experience of admiring the boundless night sky?

At times, the hijacking projects of Ching transform into a city issue, or even a social happening. It means that, to Ching, his works do not only respond to or expose the current problems. Ching’s works are actually intended to change or at least to invite the public to participate in the discussion of the problems.

When Time Square (a local shopping mall) organized a show of Chinese contemporary artist Sui Jian-Guo, Ching, wearing a full suit in western style, went to the exhibition site and had an alternative guided tour of Sui’s artworks. In the guided tour, “art” itself became the object being hijacked. Making strained interpretations and farfetched analogies, Ching deliberately made an extremely political interpretation of Sui’s works. The red dinosaur was read as ‘the Chinese communist regime which would become extinct eventually’. Mantle, the most famous piece by the artist and is now all over China, is originally a bust in Chinese tunic suit. Ching read the piece as a headless Mao, and therefore an analogy of the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party.

The hijack joked with both the apolitical purpose of Sui and the official organizer of the show. What’s more intriguing is that the organizer sent letter to the papers complaining Ching of randomly guessing the purpose of the works. It was later resulted in a debate: who have the authority to interpret the artwork? Now, the agency and the object of the hijack, the individual and the establishment, free imagination and strict control become opposite pairs struggled in stalemate. During the struggle, the opposite pairs are gradually losing their distinctiveness. The difference between the two oppositions is becoming obscure. The authentic can be fake, and vice versa. The audience is lost in bewilderment because of the seemingly genuine reading of the works. In the meantime, the true hijacker Ching is actually tittering behind while the audience would discover an unexpected imagination in real life.

The materials of Ching’s works can go beyond the limit of physicality. The rituals in the city can also become the target of his hijack. In the Cockroach Making Class of his Folk Crafts Series, Ching tries to impose a set of self-created “folk crafts” on the city of Hong Kong. In such a city with no profound history, who have the right to determine what folk craft is? As people in Hong Kong never inquire deeply into the cultural history of the place, Ching made lots of highly-simulated cockroaches out of double-sided tape. Cockroach is the most common yet unpopular insect in the city, however almost of all us would have one or more unique and funny encounters with the insect hiding in our mundane daily life. The cockroaches made of tape are placed in people’s home as pieces of public sculpture. The infamous symbol bizarrely earns its monument in the city. I guess such cockroach sculptures would not be recorded in the history of Hong Kong art. However, they would appear in the history of folk custom juxtaposing paper-cutting and embroidery. If so, it means that Ching has successfully hijacked the city once again and endowed the city with a fable that no one can tell its truthfulness.

For more information of Luke Ching:


(This article was published for Asia Art Award 2010)
(Translated by Sumyi Li)