Amy Cheung
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To Be a Famous Nobody
Tourism on Cloud
Wonderland Taxi
Hong Kong Handover
Airplane Tram
Transparent Container
Game and Terror
Toy Tank
$ on China
Atom Ocean
Indefinitive Portraiture
Essay: Playing Devil’s Advocate (2007)
Playing Devil’s Advocate

Playing devil’s advocate is not an easy task at a time when the accelerating disintegration of the social, intertwined with unparalleled technological advances and the endless availability of consumable pleasures, makes attempts to arrive at a hypothesis of utopic viability or to even imagine alternative societies seem either incredibly futile and impractical, or, at the other extreme, waywardly self-indulgent. The recent work of Amy Wan Man Cheung, however, appears to move peripatetically between these arguments while at the same time wrestle with their implications for the political. Her large-scale sculptures and public art projects entail restless and anxious oscillations between fantasy worlds and haunting reflections of life’s realities, whimsical childhood fairytales and serious sci-fi commentaries, the total enchantment of surface effects and the ironic scrutiny of both. Cheung also plays extensively with heavy contrasts in her exploration of the material possibilities of installation: soft and hard, hot and cold, fragile and durable, transparent and opaque, the familiar and the unexpected. Neither exalted nor condemned, these oppositions—their unresolved tensions, the ways in which they constitute, contest and connect with each
other — when taken as a dialectical system, help dislodge the artist’s production from its otherwise paralyzing conditions and intensify experiences of the different worlds she creates — “construction sites,” as she calls them, of the cultural imaginary and the real of socioeconomic relations.

Recurring vehicular dream objects dominate Cheung’s recent work in the large. Sculptural interventions—such as Down the Rabbit Hole, ‘TAXI!’ says Alice (2004), a lopsided red cab showing up in various geographies of nowhere (of the type of James Howard Kunstler) in Hong Kong and Guangzhou from taxi queue to parking lot to pier front — cross over to reality for a split second when encountered in unanticipated civic places. At the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, A bleeding Toy from Childhood (2006), a huge life-size military tank realistically- rendered and made of wood typically used for children’s model kits, is surrounded by thick walls of plastic blister packaging that are part of the overall exhibition design, but onto which Cheung emblazoned motifs of guns, bombs and other weapons of mass destruction. Equipped with an interactive video game console inside, the tank points to speculations on the transformation of an instrument of war into a deluxe sit-down arcade cabinet that can dole out entertainment violence on a simulacral level as effectively as network television. In Spacesofa Voyager 3000 (2002), the bases of two gigantic red
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Playing Devil’s Advocate
Essay by Alice Ming Wai Jim
This essay was written for the exhibition catalogue Star Fairy: Hong Kong in Venice, 52nd Venice Biennale, published by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, 2007.
All Content © 2007 Amy Cheung