From Pope to Macron, world leaders apologize for artist’s Hong Kong exhibition

The piece features 161 televised political apologies, showing politicians from around the world – including presidents, heads of state and cabinet ministers – apologizing for various crimes against humanity committed by their countries.

James T. Hong holds a solo exhibition at Empty Gallery in Hong Kong. Photo: Lei Meibao

The installation is on display at the Tin Wan Empty Gallery in Aberdeen, Hong Kong, as part of the artist’s solo exhibition “Apologies and Other Regrets”, which was first shown in 2012.

At the time, the film lasted about an hour; now its length is 7 hours and 7 minutes, and the apologies appear in chronological order: from Willy Brandt in 1970 to the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte2022 Apology for the Netherlands’ role in slavery.
Hong’s video work “Apology” lasts seven hours and seven minutes. Photo: Edmond So

Hong came up with the idea after meeting many Chinese who claimed Japan never apologized for the Second Sino-Japanese War. At the time, he was interviewing and researching victims of political and biological warfare for documentaries.

“Initially, I would correct them and say that Japan actually did apologize a few times,” he said. “But the Chinese people I met never believed me, so I started compiling these apologies, starting in Japan and then spreading to other countries.”

Year after year, artists are constantly updated Apologize with new recordings. Today, it provides a snapshot of modern history while explaining some of the world’s most shocking atrocities.

I suspect some politicians just feel bad […] Points to Apologize [is] gain political capital

James T. Hong
The clips include U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s 1988 apology to Japanese Americans interned during World War II; Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo’s 2001 apology for Dos Erres Apologized for massacring more than 200 villagers; Francis‘ 2014 apology for sexual abuse in the Catholic Church; 2015 apology from Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishidarepresenting the Prime Minister Shinzo AbeKorean “comfort women” were forced into prostitution due to the use of Korean “comfort women” by the Japanese army during the Japanese occupation; and the President of France Emmanuel Macron2021 apology for France’s mistreatment and abandonment of Algerian Halki fighters.

“I’m a perfectionist,” Hong said of his decision to include every relevant apology he could find. “That’s why it’s over seven hours long.”

For visitors, these seven hours offer many opportunities to dissect and reflect. First, these political apologies are inherently performative—they often feature false sincerity, passive language, and narrative arcs that appeal to people’s emotions.

“To me, most apologies are gibberish,” Hong said. “That’s just the truth. Not all, but most involve unforgivable crimes against humanity.

Hong doesn’t pay much attention to the apologies his exhibition displays. He believes that these remarks are mostly empty remarks made by politicians to gain political capital. Photo: Edmond So

“I suspect some politicians just feel bad about something and want to apologize for it […] Points to Apologize [is] to gain political capital.

If visitors watch Apologize Throughout, they will see that Western and liberal countries tend to apologize more because their politicians need to maintain broad public support to remain relevant. But Hong explained that other countries are also increasingly willing to apologize.

Over time, the apologies became longer and more polished. The topics discussed have also changed, he said.

“There’s a lot that can be addressed and apologized for,” he said. “When Germany first apologized for the Holocaust, decades after World War II, no one would ever think of apologizing to African Americans, Native Americans, or LGBTQIA+ [community]”.

Of interest are not only those countries that chose to apologize, but also those that did not.

Governments are supposed to protect their citizens but end up oppressing them

James T. Hong
For example, some Eastern European countries with communist governments tend not to apologize – only one scene in the movie Apologize from Russia (it does not have Vladimir Putin) – Certain non-democratic countries in Asia also did not apologize on television.

“Vietnam didn’t apologize to me, Thailand didn’t apologize to me, and Thailand is a monarchy, which is interesting,” Hong said.

“Thailand is a developing country and human rights violations happen every day. You might think they have a lot to apologize for, but as far as I know, Thailand has never done so.

Although the frequency of apologies has increased over the years, Hong is generally critical of apologies because they rarely lead to change. “Apology is not that important. What is more important is responsibility and justice.

Apart from ApologizeHong also showed stabbing in the backa series of four sculptures depicting states of betrayal.

Inspired by the British fable of the Sword in the Stone, each of these sculptures features a faux foam rock impaled by a real bayonet used during the Second Sino-Japanese War, a tribute to collector and Japanese soldier Hong Cong. Purchased there.

“This involves ApologizeIt’s also how the government is supposed to protect its citizens but ends up oppressing them,” he said.

One of four sculptures from the Hong Kong “Stab in the Back” series on display at the Hong Kong exhibition. Photo: Lei Meibao

“I thought more about actually being stabbed in the back, so the idea of ​​a best friend gossiping about you, a spouse divorcing you, a family member betraying you, and how that idea of ​​trust and betrayal becomes something we all A common experience that everyone has.

“Apologies and Other Regrets”, Empty Gallery, 18-19/F, Maritime Centre, 3 Yue Fung Street, Tin Wan, Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 7pm. Until August 17th.

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