Windows 97 (Paul Wong, 1997)
Neon sculpture, 4’x 12’x 11.5”, animated neon mounted on hand painted galvanized steel
2 canvas 4’× 12’, inkjet print on canvas
This work was originally created as a site specific installation for the Fortune Cookies exhibition at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) in London, England in 1997. This exhibition was during the final months when Britain was obligated to return the Hong Kong colony back to China. This work is a critique of colonialism, nationalism, reunification, capitalism and communism. It also toured to Site Gallery, Sheffield (Aug, 1997), Nunnery Gallery, London, (1998). It was shown once for 5 hours in Vancouver as part of Wong’s 2010 Winter Olympic spectacle ‘5’.
Windows 97 was co-commissioned by ICA Live Arts and Locus+.
Windows 97, shown at On Main Gallery 2021
Vancouver Art Gallery
750 Hornby Street Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H7
Apr 15, 2022 – Sep 11, 2022
RESTLESS refers to the underlying sense of movement reverberating through this exhibition’s featured works—whether by changing one’s position geographically through travel and migration or by shifting digitally into the virtual metaverse. It also speaks to radically altering perspectives and structural paradigms, a global de-centering. To be restless implies constant activity or motion but also a boredom and sense of anxiety. It is both rousing and unsettling.
Since the 1980s, the Vancouver Art Gallery has acquired a significant number of important contemporary works by international and local artists of Asian descent in order to provide a better understanding of the multiple art histories of our time. RESTLESS comprises recent acquisitions from the last decade that build upon the programming and collecting goals of the Gallery’s Institute of Asian Art. Featured artists include Gu Xiong, Sunil Gupta, Ho Tam, Pushpamala N., Henry Tsang, Paul Wong, XU ZHEN®, Jin-me Yoon and YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES.
Large Portraits of Chairman Mao Zedong and Queen Elizabeth II frame three neon-boxes: China, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, mounted on a wall painted to resemble the flag of the Republic of Ireland. The neon includes icons exemplifying capitalism, militarism and political ideologies such as the “one country, two systems” constitutional framework established by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, recognizing Hong Kong’s distinct system of political, economic and legal independence following unification with China.
Situated within the grandeur of the rotunda, Windows 97 responds to the shifts in power at the end of the 20th century that witnessed the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain to the Republic of China in 1997. Originally commissioned for presentation at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, England in 1997, viewed here in 2022, the year that marks the 25-year anniversary of the handover. Wong’s installation provides an opportunity to consider some of the complete articulations of sovereignty, nationalism and colonialism that took place at the end of the 20th century, and which continue today.