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)
armchairs have been tunneled through and refashioned into the ultimate playroom: a kids-only sophisticated space command centre, complete with a monitor-outfitted control room and flanking dressing and shower rooms filled with objects in all shapes and sizes to fine-tune those developing motor skills when distracted from the screen. For a generation overexposed to technology- oriented media and gaming culture, this space-efficient living room pod however merely pretends a channeling of children’s play insofar as it remains wary of the impossibility of unmediated escape.

The relatively short distance between dreams of a better tomorrow and its potentially disastrous collision with transportation nightmares is exposed in Untitled (The Population) (2002), a public art project first created in the port city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. A shipping container constructed entirely out of plexiglas provides the videotecture onto which images are projected of an unidentifiable ghostly population of tightly-tucked bodies rolling across the sky bracing for their inevitable gravitational fall. Opulent when seen by night, with cargo transparency as its leitmotif (the visceral contents of this cinematic box are entirely visible), the glowing structure’s affect is in stark contrast to the tragedy of concealment and entrapment behind the 58 dead Chinese bodies found asphyxiated aboard a container truck in Dover, England, in July 2000, for which this piece is a
temporary memorial. In this dysfunctional Cinderella tale of illegal human trafficking (a strange small stone goat is shackled to the premises, next to a pair of stone baby shoes), the collective learned fantasy of a utopia on the other side of the globe, despite enormous calculated risks and the perils of a hazardous journey, cannot be disassociated from one of the most spectacularized fantasies of economic domination in recent history: Disney’s utopian lands of milk and honey.

In her latest work, Devil’s Advocate: a Song and a Landscape (2007), Cheung turns to the urban trope of “Fantasy City” (to use John Hannigan’s term) with an alternative vision of Michael Sorkin’s formulation of “the city as theme park.” In this two-part installation, a critique of the present-day fascination with urban spectacle and star culture is initiated through the deployment of familiar theme park structures. First encountered in the courtyard are several solid half-size police cars each individually carved out of black granite. Taking amusement park bumper cars as their inspiration, the patrol vehicles move slowly and clumsily; not surprising, since each weighs over several hundred kilograms. They are programmed to automatically crash into each other, eventually destroying themselves over the course of the exhibition as the hard yet crystalline forms crumble into dust from the repeated impact. “Do you believe in Providence?” asks Cheung, above the
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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