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)
life seem to have crystallized into prescriptions of techno-therapies for the body of the future. All unique and in different sleeping positions, the frail frozen figures — “citizens of a reality that might mirror our own but has its own logic,” according to Cheung — seem to float mid-air in cryogenic pods that help constitute their own little “Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow” (pace Disney).

Suspended in time, these senior denizens dwell without noise, bodily excess, risk of contamination or threat of social chaos; basically with none of the messiness of life. In this secluded environment, homelessness is a non-issue, heritage is a thing of the past, and the daily business of living and dying is just that. Circumstances, though, not unlike compact city living (except for the glass ceiling, and maybe the frigid temperatures) make it a pretty dull existence: despite not being more than three metres from each other, anonymity and isolation prevail here as well. On the flip side, the wheel of fortune’s resemblance to a gigantic molecular model in star formation also brings forward related ecotopian commitments to the prehistory of the earth. In the early conceptual stages of the work, Cheung indicated that in questioning the possible meanings of Hong Kong’s current star status, she was “most interested in how a star is formed in the forces of explosion, destruction and fire that illuminate the universe.” “How much destruction,”
she wonders, “is needed in order to be reborn?”

As in earlier works, Devil’s Advocate invites contemplation both at the level of representation and in its technical constitution. The urban fantasy is the starting point of the work’s proposition: an understanding of the fantasy city not solely as a site for the fulfillment of desire, of fascination and attention, but as a construction site that by definition is always in process and wherein lies the possibility of a continuous reassessment and reconstruction of the relationship between human nature and technology. The installation does not necessarily suggest that the fantasy city is not as it should be: the beauty of the cryogenic garden as a paradigm of a utopian futurism is embraced; the chaos of auto destruction celebrated to a degree. Rather, in the course of moving through the accentuated landscape approached ironically and ambiguously, the criticality of Cheung’s work lies in its raising an acute awareness of the fragility and escape vulnerability of the very conworlding process itself (to put it in gaming terms). If the glassy baubles were to fall to the ground, they would shatter into shards; or, if the cooling technology fails, their human consignment would liquidate, turning back into its previous elemental state. Playing devil’s advocate would paint the former as a picture of future society at its apocalyptic worst and the latter as probably no better in its deliverance of interim ecological worlds contained perpetually in souvenir
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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