CHENG Chi Lai Howard

The Doors  (2008), video still, courtesy of the artist, special thanks to  Videotage

The Doors (2008), video still, courtesy of the artist, special thanks to Videotage


The Doors

2008, video, 5’59”

Presented in a CCTV format, the video brings an old-fashioned Hong Kong to the screen by showing architectures representative of Hong Kong’s public housing.

Capturing the daily habits of the elderly in the Nam Shan Estate from the familiar angle of a hovering CCTV camera, the trace of the neighborhood activities, coordinated with the rhythm of doors opening and closing, reveals not only the commonalities of old public housing living, but also represents a strong sense of time and space. The rhythm of doors can stimulate the audience’s senses and at the same time carry out key elements in the video.

The Doors opens with an unchanging cross- section of a public housing estate building, the kind in which the doors to each unit all open in the same direction onto a large outdoor hall that also serves as a public balcony. The frame is fully occupied by seven floors, leaving a total of 42 doors (and apartment facades with a set number of windows) visible. At the outset, the scene is largely silent, with a lone figure washing a window. Slowly, other figures enter from the left or right sides, opening doors and entering apartments. All the while, the sounds of jangling keys, sliding Bostwick gates, and slamming doors are exaggerated with foley effects. Strangely, several figures enter from one side and exit directly from the other edge of the frame, not returning home at all. Beginning at this point, the viewer recognizes that this is a carefully choreographed and edited scene: doors start to open and reopen in rapid succession for sonic effect, occasionally opening in different directions and with different clicking sounds. As multiple doors begin to open and close in unison and in striking visual patterns, the audio balance drifts between left and right. The orchestra of doors then begins to vary in speed, adding in additional rhythmic elements. Then the light changes, and some figures walk across in slow motion; voices emerge, and more figures walk the screen in fast forward. The video ends with nightfall, as apartment lights also join the fray. Chilai Howard Cheng has digitally reconstructed an accidentally utopian view of communal life, a vision in which creative force triumphs over crowded living conditions.

Text by Robin Peckham


CHENG Chi Lai Howard

Born 1986 in Hong Kong; lives and works in Hong Kong

Cheng Chi Lai Howard is a Hong Kong mixed-media artist who graduated from the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong (Intermedia Art) and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Creative Communication). He loves to explore speculative affairs and experiment with different artistic media, focusing on moving images and mixed media installation.

Cheng has exhibited in various festivals and galleries internationally including, Move on Asia, Video Art in Asia 2002-2012 (ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013), Asia Experimental Film and Video Art Festival (Nanjing, China, 2012), Cologne International Video Art Festival in National Centre for Contemporary Art, Saint Petersburg (2011) & ARAD Art Museum, Romania (2011), No Soul for Sale (Tate Modern, London, 2010) and MOVE ON ASIA in Casa Asia, Barcelona (2009). His works have travelled to many major cities including Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Hong Kong, London, Madrid, Saint Petersburg, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Taipei, and Vienna.