Faked goods are a familiar part of the retail landscape of Hong Kong. Yet despite strong legal measures and the dubious moral and aesthetic status of counterfeited products, the “business” continues to flourish. This exhibition attempts to blur notions of “genuine” and “fake”, and instead views faked goods as part of a general family of objects. The project shows how fakes spread and transform knowledge and design issues throughout the public sphere.

2003 Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

Accidental Family
It seems that many "original"designs have usually been credited as the best in the world of copyright while any derivatives were merely regarded as a synonym of "copy", "clone", "infringement"or "counterfeit"under the guidelines of law, morals and aesthetics. But could we, just for a moment, put away the confrontation between the "original"and its "fakes"and treat their relationship as "parents and children" from the perspective of knowledge development and improvement. Should there be more in-depth thinking about designs evolve and are remade through mimicking in terms or design culture development? In the present world of market economies, how can we distinguish between "original"and "derivate"designs, especially when we consider them as a kind of knowledge and experience objectification?

This cylindrical dispenser for tissue is printed with a very popular brand. People will ask themselves if it really is by such brand – then further query its authenticity. The market is getting more and more confusing when every big name is diversifying its product lines and launching various accessory items in order to maximize its market segmentations and market share. Provided the tissue dispenser is a fake, it does deserve our applause by boldly doing something exotic. However, this example has fully exemplified the burring of originals and their derivatives.

The pseudo-Lego People's Liberation Army toy set and table lamp, the beaded handbag embroidered with the Nissin Noodle graphics, and the South Park webcam, just to name a few examples, illustrate the surprising fusion of a brand and a surprising product (or vice versa). These kinds of grafting design have expanded the market landscape of "original" products and very often have induced or accelerated the localization of the brand, as in the example of the pseudo-Lego army toy set. We also learn that there are local designers trying to modify top fashion labels to fit Asian figures – can we regard this as another kind of design knowledge evolution? What we want to say is that even in a copy or a counterfeit, there is still "design" which may lead us to new horizons. While we mock these derivatives as infringements, we also need to observe and understand the relationship between the products themselves and our daily life from a cultural perspective.

If you agree that "imitation"is the highest form of flattery, then you will find "appropriation"in the fine arts and design. A more trendy way is to call it "crossover", be it legal or not. The most legitimate way is a co-operation between two big brand names. The market itself tends to favour brand "fusion" – for example, a Rolex watch with a bracelet by Swatch, or a Hello Kitty handbag in a Louis Vutton style. Another crossover is the Che Guevara successfully blended the portrait of this famous Cuban revolutionary with a waist bag product. But what can we say when a classic or upmarket brand wants to become practical and fun? After all, this is post modernity, isn’t it?

The appearance of different kinds of copy and counterfeit has also created a certain amount of stereotyping in our daily life. Previously, Tempo pocket tissue was simply pocket tissue. But when the name Tempo, together with its signature gradation blue packaging became a classic symbol of pocket tissue, so numerous clone products appeared bearing a 90% similarity in both name and packaging. This strategy has been extended to many "no frill" products initialed by the supermarket chain stores, which usually "re-appear" the lock of certain leading brands to mimic its competitors.

It has been said that the Church wouldn’t have spread so far if the Gospels had been copyrighted. Be it true or not, knowledge should be shared under a common sky. When designers turn common know-how into a specific, patented design we come face-to-face with a dilemma – who actually owns the "original" design? To name a true example, imagine what would happen if the patent application for "Yangzhou fried-rice" was approved? Is this two-bladed sword of patent and copyright killing or protecting the freedom of creativity and the spread of knowledge?


If we put intellectual property rights before everything, this only will hinder the progress of knowledge for it goes hand-in-hand with our daily life, so it must evolve and develop based on our experience and our accumulated know how. While we stress the importance of intellectual property rights, we also want to keep the sky of knowledge open.