Lee Kai Chung is an artist who lives and works in Hong Kong. His work Retrieval, Restoration & Predicament illustrates how time and ideology can change what is literally cast in metal.
The Japanese army occupied Hong Kong between 1941-1945. Until then, Britain had the power and the citizens lived under colonial rule. In Hong Kong’s various war archives, Lee Kai Chung looks for what happened to various artifacts in connection with the war. He tries to recreate the timeline for the objects, how they were found and reused. The objects tell a story of power struggle, of how different ideologies attributed different values to them.
In wartime, armies have a great need for metals to make weapons. During World War II, the Japanese army carried out a copper-collecting campaign among the population. The Japanese public contributed metal from household utensils, clothes, shoes, lamps and street lights. Even bells from the temples and statues of gods and heroes, which are common in Japanese homes, were collected. All these objects were melted down and turned into weapons.
At the same time, the Japanese army confiscated eleven bronze statues from a central square in Hong Kong. These were statues of Queen Victoria and British commanders, that represented the colonial power. In his work Retrieval, Restoration & Predicament Lee Kai Chung tells the story through photographs, video and bronze sculptures. The transformation of things becomes symbolic of human movement and metamorphosis. The collection of these works forms an archive, and it’s constantly growing.