China: Political art installation pulled from public space in Hong Kong

30 May 2016

hong kong countdown time machine
Government officials and exhibition organisers pulled a light installation just five days into its run set to be projected onto the façade of Hong Kong’s tallest building, the ICC tower, from 17 May 2016 to 22 June 2016 after the artists revealed that part of the piece had a political message, reported the BBC on 23 May 2016.

Sampson Wong and Jason Lam’s ‘Our 60-second friendship begins now’ exhibit featured random images shown in one-minute sections, however one of the sections featured a number countdown in seconds, representing the time until 1 July 2047 when Hong Kong will no longer be politically or legally divided from China.

The start of the installation, which was exhibited in Hong Kong’s famous Victoria Harbour, coincided with the second day of one of China’s top leaders Zhang Dejiang’s visit to Hong Kong. Four days later the piece was pulled.

Chairman Ellen Pau with the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and curator Caroline Ha Thuc explained in a joint statement released on 22 May 2016 that the artists showed “disrespect” by going against their agreement and “changed the title and statement of their work, and publicised these changes without consulting” them.

The artists responded with their own statement on 23 May 2016 that their artwork had not changed since April and that the curator knew about the one-minute section in question since February 2016. They added that what they call the ‘Countdown Machine’ piece is a separate, and related, piece of art taken from the light installation that is being displayed online on its own website.

Photo is a screen shot from the artists’ video of the installation on Vimeo


» Hong Kong Free Press – 25 May 2016:
“Ungrounded, unjustified and arbitrary”: Artists slam removal of ICC protest art

» Quartz – 24 May 2016:
Hong Kong wants to remain a global arts hub while censoring political art

» Art Forum – 23 May 2016:
Artists’ installation on Hong Kong’s tallest building censored by officials

» BBC – 23 May 2016:
Hong Kong art display hiding political message cancelled

» The New York Times – 23 May 2016:
Political light installation on Hong Kong skyscraper is pulled

» Sampson Wong & Jason Lam – 23 May 2016:
Artists’ Response to the Suspension of “Our 60-second friendship begins now” by Arts Development Council (ADC) and “Human Vibrations” Exhibition Curator

» Hong Kong Arts Development Council – 22 May 2016:
Joint statement


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