Political artwork on HK building scrapped

BEIJING • Officials and exhibition organisers have pulled the plug on a giant art installation on the facade of Hong Kong's tallest building, just days after the artists revealed the meaning of a cryptic political message embedded in the artwork.

In their statement late on Sunday, they said that the artists had shown "disrespect" by not consulting the organisers in advance about changes to the work.

The nine-minute video, created by artists Sampson Wong and Jason Lam, opens with the words "Our 60-second friendship begins now" and contains a series of numerical countdowns and phrases in Chinese and English that appeared to be apolitical.

But on May 18, one day after the video was first displayed on the International Commerce Centre, the artists said the final countdown in the video - a series of glowing nine-digit numbers - contained a subversive message.

The numbers indicated the number of seconds until July 1, 2047 - the date when the agreement guaranteeing the former British colony's semi-autonomous status for 50 years after its handover to Chinese rule is set to expire.

By referring to 2047, the artists were tapping into growing fears among some residents about the increasing assertiveness of mainland China and the tightening restrictions on Hong Kong's civil liberties.

The work was shown for the first time on May 17, coinciding with a three-day visit to Hong Kong by Mr Zhang Dejiang, a member of the ruling Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee who oversees Hong Kong and Macau affairs.

It was unclear yesterday whether the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, which commissioned the artwork, would replace it with another animation.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Political artwork on HK building scrapped'. Print Edition | Subscribe