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Museum of Art explores the unique language of Hong Kong

If Cantonese were about to disappear, which word or phrase would you wish to preserve?

The "Chinglish – Hong Kong Art Exhibition" which is in search of the contemporary exemplification of Hong Kong (visual) language in art will be held from tomorrow (March 23) until June 3 at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

The curatorial idea is developed from the museum collection of Blue Puk's work "English in Chinese" or "non-Chinese-non-English" in literal translation. The exhibition also features 10 sets of works by local artists: Rosanna Li, Tsang Kin-wah, Luke Ching, Hung Keung and Wong Chung-yu, award-winners and selected artists from past Hong Kong Art Biennials. Their works are theme related and provocative in vision.

In the past, "East-meets-West" used to be the dominant narrative of Hong Kong culture. However, as revealed in Blue Puk's work, "non-Chinese-non-English" is a better description. Puk made use of the traditional Chinese classics, incorporating modern design and digital printing technology. It is an interesting study on Chinese slang and an effective visual summary of the uniqueness of Hong Kong language and culture. Created around 1999 when Hong Kong people were still torn between political and cultural identities, the work provides a good starting point for a dialogue in local language, history and art.

The works of Rosanna Li are the by-product of "one country, two languages". Her pseudo-visual-dictionary mirrors the loopholes of misreadings between languages. Her distinctive pictograms are creative re-interpretations of conventional nonsense, revealing the larger problematic ideological structures embedded in our daily lives. Li’s new visual signs are like a computer virus causing malfunctioning in the normal sense. She loves to "speak" in a comic, caricature-like visual pun with her ceramic figurines. Li's playful speech, almost a form of Hong Kong visual slang, is typical of Hong Kong people who always survive on their wits.

Tsang Kin-wah's work raises the despised, the forbidden, and the peripheral to centre stage. He confuses his audience with the seemingly pleasant wallpaper, reminiscent of the 19th century Victorian design, with its dual appearance of the Chinoiserie blue-and-white floral pattern. Trapped in the visual maze, the audience is further struck by a sudden visual assault of the abusive language that comprises the decorative pattern. The huge discrepancy between visual associations generates huge conceptual displacements, leaving visitors uneasy.

Luke Ching tries to preserve the native dialect, which is in danger of dying out because of the infiltration of English. His two language projects are developed in the form of giving language classes to people, and by means of learning native language via dialling up strangers in a foreign land. He is a collector of these interesting "moments of encounter" and in the video tapes he collected, meanings and emotions of words recorded out of the daily context are eliminated and transposed to become the learner's own emotions and experience. The clips are therefore evidence of a "new presence".

Hung Keung has a particular interest in language in its written form, and after the announcement of the United Nations on the abolition of Traditional Chinese and its replacement by Simplified Chinese, he feels that language, like cities, is taking great leaps forward in the form of revolution instead of evolution. Hung relates such development to the popular talk of the town – body fitness and plastic surgery. In his multi-media interactive work, Chinese characters come into contact with the human body in a virtual space. Visitors, whose images are doubled, interact with the characters in two opposite ways, on one hand engaging, on the other hand disengaging, just like the divided mind of the people and of the era.

Also in search of a multi-media visual language and a multi-dimensional approach, the works of Wong Chung-yu are an eloquent interpretation of the continuous negotiations between visual traditions of different places, as well as the human and machine aesthetics of different times. Like many of his local predecessors and counterparts, Wong resolves the linguistic tension between different concepts and methods by synthesising them.

The Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Sunday to Wednesday and Fridays, and from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10 and a half-price concession is available to full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

For enquiries, call 2721 0116 or visit the Museum of Art's website at .

Ends/Thursday, March 22, 2007
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