Louis Vuitton and Roast Duck Meat

Currently, the Hong Kong Art Museum is showing an exhibit of art either created or sponsored by Louis Vuitton. For those moving through Hong Kong in the next few weeks, this is a great showcase of local Hong Kong artists and a fascinating history of the Louis Vuitton company (including a rather colorful animated film by Takashi Murakami).

One of the exhibits by local Hong Kong artist Adrian Wong was based upon the annals of the Emerald Jade Roast Meat Society, a revolutionary society based in Southern China at the turn of the 20th century which was heavily involved in the revolution of 1911 and the attempts leading up to it. They were also involved in the making of Hong Kong’s first movie, Stealing a Roast Duck. According to the exhibit, members of the Roast Meat Society helped create this film and filled it with secret revolutionary messages meant for Chinese expatriate recipients in San Francisco, where the film was meant to be shown, thus spreading information about the revolution across the Pacific. We have very little information of the film today, as it was lost on its way to San Francisco, and the only information we have about the film at all are accounts of the few who actually saw it.

The exhibit raises some interesting questions, however. First of all, assuming that this movie did exist, and it contained said secret messages, one might wonder how common these sort of trans-pacific message relaying was. We all know Sun Yat Sen was abroad more often than he was in China leading up to the revolution, but what was the role of these expatriates? Was there a lot of this secret message relaying going on? It also demonstrates the importance of movies in creating history, something I think we all too often ignore.

And to bring this subject more to the present, I find it fascinating that a local artist dug up this past fact and used it to explore the importance of Hong Kong today. I find that the Hong Kong museum of art recently has showcased a lot of local artists attempting to explore what it means to be a “Hong Konger.” And unlike a lot of local mainland artists, much of their art is filled with pride and nostalgia. In this Louis Vuitton exhibit alone, there was an installation piece that was a recreation of an old Hong Kong apartment, and an exhibit by Doris Wong of impressionist paintings of Hong Kong landmarks. What Adrian Wong is doing, in essence, is demonstrating Hong Kong’s role in the revolution (as the film was produced in Hong Kong and the society was founded in Hong Kong) in a very prideful kind of way (the exhibit, for those who are interested, include animatronic talking ducks).  I think this exhibit, including many that come through the HK Art Museum, are worth looking at because they explore this often forgotten cultural pride that Hong Kongers have about themselves, and a defensive attitude against the common opinion that it is a “cultural wasteland.”

1 Comment

  1. Just wanted to pop in and thank you for your kind words about my installation. Also, to clarify, though the narrative spoken by the ducks was based on my historical research into the film and the Chinese Revolution of 1911 – it dealt with material that would be difficult to label as “facts.” There’s so much mystery surrounding “Stealing a Roast Duck” that it’s difficult to determine any concrete information with certainty (no one alive has seen the film and all prints were lost around the time of the revolution).

    Liang Siaopo was in fact a revolutionary – and enjoyed ice cream – but the rest is only conjecture.

    -Adrian Wong

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