Douglas Young, co-founder of Hong Kong lifestyle brand Goods of Desire, recently exhibited a large-scale installation at the Hong Kong Art Fair last weekend. The architect-turned-entrepreneur's "Quantity Has a Quality in Itself" is intended as a comment on the city's history.
There was a time when Hong Kong was the center of the plastic toy industry. The colorful water pistol was one of its icons. Its lurid colors and poor quality construction s a far cry from the world of Art. But nothing succeeds like excess. By putting them in a new context, they are able to develop a different (and hopefully more positive) appeal. Just like Hong Kong itself, the attraction is the result of its inherent contradictions.
Sociopolitical implications of firearms aside, the use of a summertime plaything also suggests an element of timeliness—or, more specifically, novelty. The day-glo colors and cheap plastic construction serve as shorthand for Pop Art, but the sheer abundance transcends the scope of kitsch. Meanwhile, a few of the water guns have been adapted into lamps, but the components are largely left intact, such that the installation comes across as unambiguously decorative: visually striking for sure, but rather less substantive than, say, Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds."
Of course, the implicit disposability of the overstock is precisely the point; while one could just as easily imagine all variety of dollar-store toy suspended in curtain-like fashion, the water guns impart a nice sense of scale and proportion, constituting something a mutant ball pit—which are surely made from the very same plastic—gone vertical.