This weekend, Christina and I smuggled a protest banner we’d used at the HK Stock Exchange into a government-sponsored art exhibition in Central. Our ‘re-contextualised guerrilla art installation’ was inspired by a 2005 Banksy stunt and Mark Wallinger’s 2007 recreation of Brian Haw’s anti-war placards at The Tate.
Last week, China Gold International (2099/ TSX: CGG) floated on the Hang Seng. Protests accompanied the Canada-based/China-owned company’s simultaneous HK$2.4 billion ($309 million) IPO on the Toronto exchange too. Since 2009, Tibetans near the GGI Gyama copper mine have protested water contamination, pollution and forced settlement of nomads. Two farmers, Sonam Rinchen and Thupten Yeshi were tortured and sentenced for up to 15 years in prison for demonstrating. Richen died as a result of repeated torture. More info here / our press release.
Our peaceful Friday mini-demo attracted clothed and undercover officers, a paddywagon and a police cameraman – the police-to-protester ratio was about 10:1 (at excessive cost to the taxpayer, no doubt). We draped a banner across a busy road bridge and attempted to enter the Stock Exchange, but it wasn’t until we retrieved Tracey the mannequin (my most loyal housemate) and installed it as ‘artwork’ did it have a big impact. Appropriately, the exhibition venue was an old prison which closed in 2005…
Instead of being ignored or briefly acknowledged as yet another of HK’s 3,800 annual demonstrations, onlookers now stopped, photographed and considered the piece. Some tried to find the installation in the official guide booklet. Although the content had barely changed, placing it in a different context was proof that the medium is indeed the message. It also sparks age-old questions about ‘what is art?’.
After bypassing staff and security to install it on Friday night, the piece (self-evidently entitled ‘No Freedom in Tibet, by Anonymous”) was on display throughout Saturday and was viewed by hundreds of visitors. On Sunday morning, the gate to the entire floor was padlocked. The whereabouts of Tracey the mannequin remain unknown.