Prison Architect  (2'35" excerpt) 

2018 / video / 58'48"

Commissioned by Tai Kwun Contemporary

The newly commissioned work Prison Architect is at the narrative heart of the exhibition "A hollow in a world too full", aspiring to present a microcosm of her creative vision and her calibration of sentiments. prison architect subtly traverses the three floors of the exhibition space in a diverse array of formats such as film, installation, and sculpture. The film contains this monologue from the architect: “As an architect, as an individual, it is difficult to imagine myself becoming someone who designs spaces to imprison my fellow human beings.” In the film, the character takes inspiration from the somber history of the Victoria Prison, while the film is set in the bustling neighbourhood of Central. The male and female protagonists, in parallel realities (in the present as well as an indistinct past), conjure imagination and experiences about imprisonment. This dialogue across space and time in fact presents the artist’s notions about the relation of humans, the world, and freedom. 


This large-scale installation cuts across the various spaces in the three floors of the art centre. The artist's imagination about imprisonment can also be grasped from the exhibition design. The setting as shot by the film reappears and overlaps in the exhibition—whichfollows from the artist’s oeuvre, shot through with that bafflement between reality and hope.  For Hegel, the pursuit of freedom is human nature. This film explores existentialism as a means of self-redemption, questioning at once the relationship of the self to itself, and that of humans to the space around them. This is the artist’s attempt at reconciliation with the world and human nature. 


Actors: Valerie Chow, Kwan Sheung Chi 


The film is the first collaboration between Cao Fei and the award-winning cinematographer Kwan Pun Leung (who has won at the Hong Kong Film Awards), with a Hong Kong film crew; post-production was completed in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Beijing.