Leung continues his three decade long investigation into the political and social architecture of Hong Kong whilst articulating the challenging history of his place of birth. As a city in flux and governed by both communist and capitalist, as well as Western and Chinese, principles, the artist’s brand new installation Silent Music Plane 1967, comments on the unique position the city holds. The gallery is absolute in presenting the work within the UK’s own changing political landscape and moment of unease.
In the spring of 1967, the year before Leung was born, the political climate was tense in Hong Kong. To the north of the British colony's border, the People’s Republic of China was in turmoil. By May that year just one year after the nationwide Cultural Revolution took place in China, large-scale anti-colonialist riots broke out in Hong Kong. Chinese propaganda slogans hung across the city and music was broadcast from the loudspeakers of the Bank of China Building in Central. In retaliation the Hong Kong government installed six large military speakers on the roof of the nearby Government Information Services office building, upon which they broadcast Jazz and Western popular music including The Beatles.
In the PRC, newspapers praised the leftists' activities of the pro-Communist rioters whilst students distributed newspapers carrying information about the disturbances and pro-communist rhetoric to the public. Prominent figures of the media who had voiced opposition to the riots found themselves under threat and some were forced to leave Hong Kong. The international press of the time commented in varying ways, Newsweek’s Hong Kong Under the Gun issue (31.07.1967) ran a line in its cover story which stated that “Many of the rich and the middle class have had their airline tickets bought and paid for months, or even years.”
In the central work in the exhibition, Silent Music Plane 1967, a paper plane flies through the gallery at variable speeds synced with the tempo and level of two songs: Long Life Chairman Mao (1966), and The Beatles Yesterday (1965); the music barely audible. The plane itself is made from the magazine cover of LIFE from 02.06.1967, which ran a story about the escape of famous Chinese musician, Ma Sitson, from China. Referred to in China as the King of Violinists, Ma Sitson became the target of the Chinese government when the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966. At the beginning of 1967, Ma and his family managed to escape by boat to Hong Kong.
Leung Chi Wo creates work that questions our perception and involvement with the urban landscape and the multiple narratives and histories - both personal and universal – that form multiple layered sites.
Leung founded the nonprofit Para/Site Art Space in Hong Kong, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. He represented Hong Kong in the region’s first Pavilion in Venice in 2001. The artist has participated in other international biennales and triennials in Marrakech, Shanghai, Gwangju, Busan, Guangzhou, and Manchester. He has had solo exhibitions in Hong Kong, Vienna, London, Toronto, Sapporo, and New York and his work has been seen in institutions including OCAT Shenzhen, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong, Queens Museum of Art, New York, Para Site, Hong Kong, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong, Tate Modern, London and Hong Kong Museum of Art amongst others. His work will be included in the inaugural exhibition at the Old Bailey Galleries, Tai Kwun, in the former Central Police Station Hong Kong.