Demonstration is an important part of the urban culture of Hong Kong. This project outlines the material culture of demonstration through the collection and exhibition of objects used as props in protests. These props represent the indigenous creativity of the people who express their opinions using limited resources and channels.

2004 Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK
2002 The Japan Foundation, Seoul, Korea
2002 1aspace, Hong Kong

An exhibition about the freedom of indigenous cultural and political expressions

“Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association of assembly, of procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike.”

Article 27 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region
of the People’s Republic of China

There is, allegedly, a government department or archive to house objects handed in by demonstrators or objects the demonstrators left on the street. These could easily be a huge collection of great variety, ranging from the more common petition letters and banners, to DIY objects such as broken bowls, June-Fourth memorial, masks that bore the faces of high ranking government officials, soiled national and SAR flags, and carton coffins, fascinating just to think about this.

There is, assumingly, a political agenda behind the collection. Maybe they will be used as evidence for some legal case. (In recent years the police also took detailed video documentation of petition. Are they trying to enrich the archive of this specific aspect of community history with modern technology?)

Social activists and pressure groups are not the only ones who demonstrate. Government propaganda by definition is closer than anything to a "demonstration". The authority, endowed with abundant resources, has a better show of force. This is what the community activists cannot imagine to compare with. The military rally on a national day is a good illustration of this. During the time when Hong Kong was still a British colony, statues were established all around the city -- the statue of George VI at the now Botanical Garden, the statue of Queen Victoria, of course, in Victoria Park. The concrete images of the rulers are everywhere over the colony. After 1997, we have the Golden Bauhinia and the Reunification Column. Though relatively abstract in form, the message, claiming the possession of the sovereignty, is always clear. What can be a bigger "demonstration" than establishing a "permanent" totem to say "this place is mine"? It is no wonder in the headquarters of a big corporation, the bust of the founder is never missed. All these have become part of our history of "public art".

There are various kinds of objects and totems in social movement. In the June-Fourth candle vigil each year, one can find in Victoria Park the Democracy Goddess and the People's Heroes Memorial, both modeled after the originals from Tienanmen Square. When examined closely the Democracy Goddess, one can find that the statue is actually made of a wire skeleton and wrapped in fabric. The temporality strikes a big contrast to the Queen Victoria bronze statue on the same site. Does the difference between government objects and community objects of demonstration mainly lie in their lifespan in public space? In the preparation research for Objects of Demonstration, we found that one of the most important elements guiding the design of the object was to draw media attention. It is not surprising that most objects were lost or destroyed in the aftermath. If we are looking for a collection of demonstration objects, should we turn to the alleged government archive – the biggest "museum of demonstration"?

The imaginary museum or the museum imaginary is a blueprint for Objects of Demonstration. To us, a group of cultural workers, the idea of a collection immediately leads us to the association of museum and exhibition. The collection is the raw materials to a specific culture. It grows with time, from the leather jacket of So Sau Chung in the 67 upheaval to the recent SM parade of Rainbow Action. These objects crystallize the community's effort and intelligence. Collectively they reflect the culture of demonstration and document social issues over the years.

Demonstration examines and tests the boundary of the freedom of expression in a society. It traces and questions the power distribution. What kind of observer and participant can an art worker be? Objects of Demonstration extends the brief social life of demonstration objects, and tries to discuss, respond, re-organize and to even demonstrate the culture of demonstration beyond the news headline.