David Smith on Kacey Wong's installation The Horror, as documented in Frog King's Oil Street Album Number 6 (set of 29 photographs)
In the Douglas Adams novel So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, one of the characters muses on a childhood feeling of helplessness and anxiety brought on by thinking through the plight of a bunny in a Beatrix Potter–style painting. This installation, The Horror (1999) by Hong Kong artist Kacey Wong (as documented by Frog King), has the same effect on me and I’m forty. I keep recalling it, thinking through the perilous situation the girl is in, and feeling powerless as a spectator who is unable to change the situation.
Does the girl know the crocodile is there as her back is turned? If she jumps, can she outswim the large aquatic reptile? How long can she run around the concrete pillar, staying at the predator’s tail end? Is it possible to swim through that water? The fact that this scenario is playing out in one of Hong Kong’s “dead spaces” under a motorway near Oil Street does not help. (I’m pondering these questions even though I am aware they are both made of cardboard and therefore not real.)
Theorists of horror cinema, Hitchcock, and feminist film have all examined and deconstructed variations on this scenario and the underlying relationship between viewer and subject. As spectators we are both active participants in the unfolding terror and passive voyeurs who are unable to intervene. The pleasure lies within the conflict between these two roles.
The girl in The Horror escapes, by the way. Through cunning, guile, and ingenuity she outwits the crocodile. Rest easy—you just have to take some time to look at the work to discover how she manages this feat.
David Smith is AAA Head of Collection & Digital Experience.
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- Collection Spotlight
- Fri, 16 Jun 2017
- Cite as
- David SMITH, 施潤發, Item of the Week | Frog King's Oil Street Album Number 6, Fri, 16 Jun 2017