London 2012 : Kurt Tong
Kurt Tong was born in Hong Kong in 1977, but quickly moved to England. “I got sent here for school,” he says, “and I married and started a family here.” Growing up, he lived between three different cultures – that of Hong Kong, but also the Chinese and English cultures – bringing questions to his mind: how Chinese is he? Who is he?
In The Queen, the Chairman and I, Tong is tracing back the history of his family in a bid to find out how two of the most influential people in history – Queen Elizabeth II and Mao – affected his family. “Granting equal importance to new photographs, found photographs and writing, the work will reconnect me with the Hong Kong of the past through the recollection of my extended family, humanizing the political and social upheaval that brought my family to Hong Kong and eventually to the United Kingdom,” he says in his artist statement. “The project is a visual storybook for my daughters. It is my hope that when they are older and begin to question their own heritage, they will find answers to their questions as I did during the research and making of this project.”
He speaks to La Lettre:
La Lettre: Why did you want to create this book? How did it come about?
Kurt Tong: The project has been something I had wanted to do ever since my daughter was born 5 years ago. Having grown up in two different cultures and as a immigrant living in a foreign country, I have always had the urge to know more about where I came from. In order to do the project justice, I knew I needed at least a year to fully research and make the work and it ended up taking me 2 years when my family moved back to Hong Kong.
I was able to find most of the answers for myself during the making of the project, I felt the book was the best way to put together all the interwoven stories for my daughters when they are old enough to want to know more about where they came form.
La Lettre: How will the exhibition be laid out?
Kurt Tong: With over 120 pictures in the project, the exhibition was never going to tell the whole story. Another thing I found is that this book always prompts people to start talking about their own family stories. So we have decided to set the exhibition up as a Chinese teahouse with copies of the books on the table and tea available. Viewers are invited to sit down and take their time reading through the books and perhaps share their own family stories.
La Lettre: Will you be continuing this book in the future?
Kurt Tong: I think I have done my part now, the story starts with the birth of my grandfathers and ends with the moment I met my wife. I will leave the next chapter for my daughters to find out for themselves.
The Queen, the Chairman and I by Kurt Tong
May 31 to June 23, 2012
The Horse Hospital, Colonnade
London, WC1N 1JD