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Canaries (the bank and the treasury), 2007-2012

58 minute 3-channel HDV video projection (NTSC), 1 lightjet print on Fujiflex Crystal Archive paper, 48" H x 30" W, 20 lightjet prints on Fujiflex Crystal Archive paper, 28" W x 21" H, site-specific wall paintings, 12 drawings, ash on paper, 28" H x 21" W, assorted printed matter in custom vitrine

Canaries (the bank and the treasury) is an installation consisting of video, photography, wall drawings, works on paper, and printed matter. The project is an idiosyncratic and speculative research project that attempts to link two disparate belief systems and cultural practices that have deep roots in the city of Hong Kong: the banking industry and Taoist funerary rituals. The bank in the title refers to the Hongkong Shanghai Bank—the present-day multi-national financial corporation HSBC—an entity that was founded in 1865 by a Scottish banker several years after the British colonization of Hong Kong to help finance merchants engaged in the opium trade. The treasury refers to a Taoist belief in a "spiritual treasury" in the afterlife from which individuals obtain a loan at birth and must repay when they die in order to pass into the spirit realm. In the context of Hong Kong, the treasury and the bank are interwoven in unexpected ways: in the shared language and symbolism of transactions, debts, and currency and when Taoists burn paper effigy banknotes at funerals emblazoned with the HSBC logo (in Hong Kong commercial banks print currency instead of a central monetary authority).

The video's three channels are displayed in a stacked vertical formation borrowing a compositional principle from traditional Chinese landscape painting in which the pictorial field of subjects such as mountain ranges are separated into three seamless zones: a bottom third that grounds the image with an establishing element that brings the viewer into the image, a middle section that is dominated by a bold vertical element that thrusts the eye up to the top of the picture, and a top third that functions as an ethereal, distant space. This compositional framework—also reminiscent of a cadavre exquis—allows numerous perspectives on a subject to be depicted simultaneously, shifting freely between locations and time periods, figures and structures, and images and symbols to produce mutable and uncanny assemblages.

The video installation is accompanied by an archive of photographs, drawings, and found printed matter that documents and annotates the idiosyncratic research process framing the project.

Exhibition history
Day Labor, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, US, curated by Amy Smith-Stewart, 2005 (version 1)
Crack the Sky, 5th Biennale de Montréal, Montreal, CA, curated by Wayne Baerwaldt, 2007 (version 2)
Soft Power, Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, CN, curated by Biljana Ciric and Shen Qibin, 2007 (version 3)
Multi-lateral, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, CA, curated by Barbara Fischer, 2009 (version 4)
Stories from Places and Times Distantly Close, Western Front, Vancouver, CA, curated by Liz Park, 2009 (version 4)
Stories, In Between, Stiftelsen 3,14, Bergen, NO, curated by Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh, 2011 (version 4)

Design by Thought Bubble Studios