Hive - Becoming XXXVI Predicament: Lee Kai Chung


Hive Center for Contemporary Art is honored to announce that its Beijing space is to launch a solo exhibition of Lee Kai Chung, an artist from Hong Kong, in Halls B and C with a total area of 500 square meters. Itll be his first solo in mainland China with a scale greater than any of his previous solos. The exhibition is built on two of the artists projects: Retrieval, Restoration and Predicament, initiated in 2018, and its sequel The Narrow Road to the Deep Sea, initiated in 2019 but still in the making intensively in Lees plan, it will be finished by 2021. Noteworthy is that the exhibits are components of the first two of the five projects under the notion of displacement, which the artist plans to finalize by 2030. This series of research-wise art projects departs from war history and attempts to dig into the relevant hidden power relations in the pan-Asia context and their legacy in modern society by studying issues like the population mobility and material and ideological transition in the process of displacement.


Lee Kai Chung, an artist who studies historical records as an important method, tends to try his best to unravel the multiple historical subjectivity and political implications of the records or materials hes been studying and to analyze the different stances of different identities. Speakers with authority desire to impose a unitary and linear view of history on the public by means of ideological dissemination, in an attempt to build a version of history that meets their own interest; artists believe that there is ceaseless collision between history and the current reality, and that it transcends time and space to demonstrate the discourse and ideology of the aforementioned speakers. Lees ambition is to eliminate didactic speech by transforming the fruits of his rigorous studies and researches with his highly personalized visual language so as to help people realize the intricacy and potential plasticity of history and to provoke multiple clues the true code for deciphering history is to link artists with the various subjects of the records with the help of judgment and experience. So the most important role in this case is played by Lees half-fictional narrative filled with romanticism and legendary flavor and the exhibition layout built on his subjective will. They not only transcend his studies and the materials per se but also form a drastic contrast and tension with strict methodology, hence a war epic composed of two related and yet conflicting chapters for this exhibition.

The methodology of the first series, "Retrieval, Restoration, and Predicament",is a research/creative project. Through studying historical records and objects of Hong Kong during the last years of the Second World War, the project investigates the transition of meanings of a “memorial bronze statue” brought about by the passing of time.  The series of creative works, consisting of videos, sculptures, and photography, asks a number of questions. In addition to its spiritual and symbolic meanings, how does the essence of the ‘memorial bronze statue’evolve over time? In early 20th century British-ruled Hong Kong, colonialism manifested itself through the proliferation of bronze statues. After going through the Second World War, and the social movements of the 1950s to the 1980s, and finally the Handover, these statues have gradually become reminders of the colonial era for the proletariat. When the statue is placed in a public space as an ideological manifesto, what sorts of social discourse develop relating to the intertwining relationships between ‘the object’ and ‘the people’ in the space? If the monumentality of the statue is dependent upon the permanence of its materiality, how does the symbolism of the statue respond to the physical and spatial transitions it experienced through the Second World War, post-war and post-colonial periods?


The methodology of the second series, "The Narrow Road to the Deep Sea", differs from first in that the artist is primarily involved in the research through participation in the artist residency program, archival research, interview, field research and reference to existing research, then followed by presentation of artworks. Based on the history of the Japanese army's "Bacteriology Research Laboratory" in Hong Kong and the war refugees during the Second World War, the artist’s discourse interweaves personal history, subjective perceptions, sentiment, fiction and imagination, Lee attempts to fill in the gaps inherited from the limitation of archival and political systems, which make historical material incomplete (there will never be a complete archive), the project centers in discovering humanity, historical subjectivity, and the psychology of the people involved. Subjectivity is often excluded from the mainstream historicity, but Lee always believes that details and inferences can help shaping a more multilayered historical context. It is juxtaposed with the similar but not quite the same social conditions of today.

Interestingly, the artist’s internal emotions derived from the creation of the second series also inspires him to modify The Retrieval, Restoration and Predicament. In the process of the archival research in both series, the artist confronts with very different archival systems and institutions, resistance and personal involvement in these systems. This kind of growth can be understood as a substantial revision of understanding and a deeper cognitive awareness towards systems.



LEE Kai Chung performs research on historical events, political systems, and ideology.

His work addresses the lack of proper governance over the records and forms of histo

riography. Through research, social participation and engagement, Lee considers the

individual gesture as a form of political and artistic transgression, which resonates

with existing narratives of history. In 2017, Lee initiated a series of fifive projects that

are under the notion of “displacement” and its historico-political implication under

pan-Asia context. The fifirst in the series, The Retrieval, Restoration and Predicament

(2017-19) examines the material and ideological transition of public statues in Hong

Kong; the second, The Narrow Road to the Deep Sea (2019-20), scrutinizes human

displacement in Hong Kong and Guangdong during the Imperial Japanese Occupation

that led to the notorious massacre Nanshitou Massacre.

Lee’s ongoing research project Archive of the People addresses the political standing

of documents and archives in the social setting. In 2016, Lee established collective

“Archive of the People”, which serves as an extension of his personal research to

collaborative projects, education and publications.

Lee Kai Chung was awarded Master of Fine Arts from School of Creative Media, City

University of Hong Kong in 2014. Lee received The Award for Young Artist (Visual Arts)

of Hong Kong Arts Development Awards 2017 from Hong Kong Arts Development

Council in 2018. Recent exhibitions and projects include “Seoul Mediacity Biennale

2018”, “12th Shanghai Biennale: Proregress – Art in an Age of Historical Ambivalence”

and “Artist Making Movement - Asian Art Biennial 2015”.



Hive - Becoming XXXVI Predicament: Lee Kai Chung

DATE: Jul 18 - Aug 19, 2020


CURATOR: Yang Jian

ARTIST: Lee Kai Chung