Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco Visual Art Program 舊金山中華文化基金会艺术家項目
wood, laminate, glass, rubber, melamine, animatronic ducks
6m x 4m x 4m
Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong S.A.R. (2009)
The first Hong Kong film premiered exactly one hundred years ago, or so we are told, produced by a group of actors and filmmakers with ties to the nascent anti-imperial movement that would overthrow the Qing emperor just two years later. "Stealing a Roast Duck" (1909) told the slaptstick story of a thief casing a wet market, purloining his piece of poultry, then being chased by police.
The film concludes with the thief -portrayed by director Liang Shaopo- being flogged on a public street by the cops. It exists today only in the testimonies of a few people who saw it, since the last extant print was destroyed on a ship returning from a San Francisco screening in 1910.
Research has revealed that the filmmakers were members of a covert revolutionary group called the Harmony Jade Roast Meat society (named after the location of their first meeting held to debrief after the failed siege of Guangzhou in 1911), leading Adrian Wong to speculate that the film contained coded political messages.
"From the Annals of the Harmony Jade Roast Meat Society" (2009) literally stages the anxieties of this sort of coded reading, constructing a scene-set where motifs from the unseen film (including, notably, animatronic ducks) appear to gesture both backward towards this forgotten history and forward into a sign-field of ever increasing ambiguity and complexity.