steel, aluminium, wood, plastic, fibreglass, paper, straw and taxidermied horse
342 cm height 586 cm diameter
Les Consoles de Jeu Souveraines (2017) was created for an exhibition in Hong Kong in late 2017, and reflects in oblique and poetic ways on prescient themes of territorial conquest and political power. Les Consoles de Jeu Souveraines takes the form of an archaic decorated carousel inspired by the decaying merry-go-round that Huang Yongping sees from the window of his Paris studio. Two sections revolve in opposite directions – the larger one turns clockwise and the smaller counter-clockwise, making grinding mechanical noises rather than the expected cheerful hurdy-gurdy. The inner ring of the carousel contains what appears to be a cast iron topographical map of Hong Kong and its surrounding islands, hanging like weights on a scale. The outer ring is populated by seven animals, objects and a human figure. The creatures on this carnival ride include a headless white horse; a similarly headless, straw-stuffed creature with a newspaper skin; a hollow tiger eating a fallen wooden man; a giant green locust, the metal skeleton of a headless deer, a model aircraft carrier, and a tin frog. The symbolism of this motley assembly is complex. The deer and horse, for example, refer to a Chinese idiom, ‘point to a deer and call it a horse’, meaning to misrepresent the truth. The white horse references ‘Le Vizir’, an Arab steed given by the Ottoman sultan to Napoleon in 1808. A locust represents greed, and the paper tiger is a satirical reference to British imperialism. The tiger savaging a European soldier refers specifically to ‘Tipu’s Tiger’, an elaborate mechanised wooden toy made for the eighteenth-century ruler of the Indian Kingdom of Mysore, which is now in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. This extraordinary artefact expressed Tipu’s hatred of the British and the predations of the East India Company. Given the role of the Company in the Opium Wars, and the subsequent annexation of Hong Kong, it is a potent symbol here, revolving like the painted horse on a merry-go-round.