In Hong Kong Artists Cyberpunk Dystopia, Chinas ‘First Emperor Rules A Future Technodictatorship. His Vision Inspires A San Francisco Exhibition

In Hong Kong Artists Cyberpunk Dystopia, Chinas ‘First Emperor Rules A Future Technodictatorship. His Vision Inspires A San Francisco Exhibition
  • A Hong Kong artist known as Kongkee offers a cyberpunk take on Chinese history and a warped vision of the future in an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
  • He helmed a film in which the Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang discovered the elixir of life and filmed a futuristic world extravaganza alongside beautiful videos of Hong Kong icons.

In September, Kong Hong-chuen (also known as Kongki) is lucky. Due to poor Sino-American relations, the artist was invited by a major San Francisco museum to replace exhibits moved from China with his own exhibition based on Hong Kong-inspired revisionist Chinese history.

This alone epitomizes Hong Kong's traditional role as an intermediary between East and West.

Cyberpunk "Warring States", assembled in just two months at the Asian Art Museum, is also a commercial for the famous Hong Kong show.

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Although Kong has turned to visual clichés such as neon lights, the tenement of the Star Ferry, and Tong Lau , this impressive spectacle creates the potential to read the city as a next-generation cultural icon, befitting the sci-fi genre known as Asian Futurism. challenge our understanding of technology and progress.

The indefinitely postponed Lost Kingdom of Ancient China will fill Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang's new 8,000-square-foot pavilion with some 150 Bronze Age artifacts from five Chinese museums.

This exhibition is intended to focus on the phoenix cult empires of Zeng and Chu, which existed in a chaotic and war-torn era before Qin Shihuang, ruler of the Qin empire, defeated their regional rival and conquered the era in 221 BC. which makes Kong fascinated.

Exterior of the Museum of Asian Art in San Francisco, where the artist known as Kongki worked. © Provided by South China Morning Post . Exterior of the Museum of Asian Art in San Francisco, home of the artist known as Kongki.

“We are stuck at the Sino-American political juncture, and China cannot launch the expedition. Kongky had already prepared a side exhibition for The Lost Kingdoms, so I called him and asked if he could expand the exhibition," said Abby Chen, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Kong, 45, has a strong reputation in Hong Kong as the cartoonist behind the subversive TV series Pandaman and a former member of British group Blur.

Last year, the city's museum of visual culture "M+" commissioned the interactive video installation "Flower in the Mirror".

Artist Kongkee in his studio in Kowloon Bay. Photo: Edmond So © Courtesy of South China Morning Post artist Kongky at his studio in Kowloon Bay. Photo: Edmond So

Back at his studio in Kowloon Bay, Kongkie (in Cantonese, the suffix -kee marks the family name, like an apostrophe in English) explains that he can meet the tight deadline in San Francisco because he has a lot of material for his Cyberpunk-inspired psychedelic animation project. named "Dragon's Delusion" which he developed since 2013.

In Kong's dystopian version of Chinese history, which he hopes will one day be turned into a feature film, the alchemist First Emperor Xu Fu finds his life force, and a notorious ruthless ruler leads a technodictator future where cyborgs and robots coexist with humans, as opposed to man. 210 BC buried with terracotta soldiers.

One of the robots, Joe, inherits the mind and memory of poet Qu Yuan, a true literary legend and personal hero of Kong, who is a court official in the kingdom of Chu. His martyrdom by drowning in the Miluo River inspired China's annual Dragon Boat Festival.

Entrance to Kongki © Provided by South China Morning Post Enter Kongki

At the entrance of the hall in San Francisco, a mischievous nod to the exhibition to be held: a pair of giant pink neon lights in the form of a Taotie, a mythical monster with an insatiable appetite who often adorns Bronze ritual vases. Age. Kong's version reflects the internet giant's thirst for data and its users' desire to be tracked and identified.

The choice of neon is one of Kong's many explicit references to Hong Kong culture: an attempt to conquer exotic clichés and integrate them into an imagined future where Asian voices drive the narrative. He said that the "real" Hong Kong was a mixture of East and West, just as Hong Kong itself was a mixture of different cultural identities.

His mother, a Chinese from Malaysia, met his father, an illegal immigrant from China, in Hong Kong. She returned home to give birth and brought Kong back to Hong Kong a few months later. He studied fine arts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, immersing himself in local pop culture, classic cyberpunk films and Japanese animation.

This exhibition is science fiction, but it is not about the future. This is how we feel today.

Kong Kee

Earlier this year, he and his wife joined the Hong Kong army that immigrated to Britain (although he would return often).

His art represents his philosophical approach to agitation. The colorful psychedelic spaces he created in San Francisco include murals, videos, and lenticular prints that explore the idea of ​​perspective.

From the cyborg images featured in previously released trailers and the first chapter of Dragon's Delusion (collected on Kickstarter in 2020) to a simple monochrome video titled " You can never step into the same river twice " (2022), based on the word ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus.

Still image © Provided by South China Morning Post

The motif of water running through many of the exhibits, he says, represents the fluidity of identity and the irresistible power of historical cycles.

The river is a video projection in which symbols of Hong Kong, such as road signs and stone lions, reminiscent of a certain guardian angel of a river, are swept away like the ruins of a typhoon. If it can be interpreted as a list of valuable items destroyed, then the work can also be interpreted positively as a promise of change.

Showing three Illusion of the Dragon trailers allowed Kong to connect his artistic practice to the wider international dialogue about the role of science fiction in fighting injustice (think Black Panther ).

outside scene © Provided by South China Morning Post . scene from

Its exhibits, which also include actual plaques on Chinese history and original Bronze Age artifacts from the museum's own collection, are an Asian story of how we think about the past and our own illusions of progress," he said.

“There is a desire for science fiction that has developed from people's cultural backgrounds. This exhibition is science fiction, but it is not about the future. It's about how we feel technology is wish fulfillment, the soul that Emperor Qin seeks. But if we had a second life, would we make the same decision again?”

Cyberpunk Warring States is on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco until January 23, 2023.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, a leading news outlet in China and Asia.

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