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Friday, June 5, 2015, 09:26

Meditating on wheels

By Chitralekha Basu
Meditating on wheels

Kacey Wong likes playing God. Seated in a miniature Chinese-temple-style fortune-telling kiosk in his spacious loft looking out on the serene waterfront in Ap Lei Chau, Wong impersonates divinity in dark glasses and a bowler hat, answering queries related to life, philosophy and art. The cues, stacked in pull-out drawers, are based on the words of wisdom sourced from some of the world’s best-known artistic minds of all times — from Michelangelo to Andy Warhol. It’s a game that combines the principles of random selection employed in I Ching with Western ideas of aesthetics.

Role-playing is a major element in Wong’s work. Sometimes he appears dressed as a naval captain, afloat in a 4-cubic-feet “paddling home” atop a flimsy raft bandied about by the rough waters at Victoria Harbour. And then he could be a construction worker, carting around a 4-ft by 3-ft cubicle with very basic amenities hoisted on a tricycle. Wong calls it a “wandering home”, which enables its inhabitant-driver “to change the view outside the window” as he pleases. And yet again Wong — who teaches design in Hong Kong Polytechnic University on a regular day — might want to pass himself off as a bankrupt stockbroker, hit hard by the vagaries of a bear market. He would dress up in a tuxedo and bow tie and take his wife and two small children out to Kowloon Park where they would open tin boxes in vivid shades of blue and red — which double as pint-sized beds and desks when unfolded — and pretend to live in them.

Wong’s artworks constitute a playful, bohemian, idiosyncratic, alternate reality to the known and the familiar, usually set off by a quirky sense of humor. The satire is often aimed at himself and the milieu he belongs to. Like the live installation about the rich who must keep up the pretense even when they had lost the bottom dollar, was in the spirit of “self-mockery” — a comment on “Hong Kong’s obsession with real estate and stock market” in the context of the financial crisis triggered by the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy in 2008 as a result of which many investors from Hong Kong went broke overnight. The show attempted to underscore Hong Kong’s “tendency to show off, pretend they are in control of their finances and the value they place on raising picture-perfect children”.

The cute factor of the fictional ambience created through his artworks cannot be overlooked, despite the serious intent. For example, when Wong dresses up in a paper castle-shaped costume and stands on a desolate and rocky patch by the rough waters in Iceland, he might be making a comment on the transient, impermanent and fragile nature of the notion of home in a world where more and more people are continuously in a state of transit, and yet, the very structure of the paper building he wears would invariably bring to mind the Tin Man in L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Such inter-textual references, often harking back to a world of fairy tales and fantasy, is apparent in his newest installation and video art, Unbroken Passage — on show at Hong Kong Heritage Museum until Sept 28 as part of the multi-media exhibition, Walking in the Dreams. The installation features a heavy-duty 750 cc Honda Shadow motorbike, suspended from the ceiling by hundreds of thick, sturdy cables, even as a video film in which the same bike passes through a tunnel, shot from the point of view of the rider, plays on a loop. In one corner of this cloistered space, unlit, except for the light emitted by the LED screen, in a little niche in the wall, is a rotary dial vintage black telephone.

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