Para/Site’s current exhibition explores the year when the metropolis that is Hong Kong was effectively excluded from the rest of the world. Through carefully selected documentation and artworks the exhibition explores the historical background of plague, epidemic and contamination in Hong Kong as well as the disparate events of 2003 that intertwined and rocked Hong Kong’s collective consciousness. It is an absorbing, thought provoking and compelling account.
As someone who lived in Hong Kong throughout 2003, the SARS epidemic created a hysteria that shut out Hong Kong from the world, leaving its residents feeling isolated and shunned. When one of its most adored stars Leslie Cheung committed suicide by jumping off the famous Mandarin Oriental Hotel the city almost stopped, a concept that is almost unimaginable.
This exhibition captures perfectly the factual and emotional upheavals of the time, using subdued figurative paintings by Hong Kong artist Firenze Lai juxtaposed with a postcard sized film scene featuring Tom Cruise in Magnolia (above), and 19th century graphic portraits by George Chinnery and Lam Qua opposite an example of new waste pipe that was installed in Amoy Gardens, the building at the epicentre of the SARS outbreak (below). Hidden inside the space is a small room dedicated to canto-pop star Leslie Cheung Kwok-Wing (1956-2003) – it’s filled with fan memorabilia and I found it very touching.
A Journal of the Plague Year. Fear, Ghosts, Rebels, SARS, Leslie and the Hong Kong Story. Ends 20 July 2013