Art Basel Hong Kong
21 March - 25 March 2017
Consisting of 180 counterfeit replicas of this same handbag, Not a Shield, but a Weapon examines Margaret Thatcher’s problematic legacy in the unlikeliest of places, tracing the effects of trade liberalisation on the city of Marikina in the Philippines, where the bags were produced. Once a thriving site of leather production with over 2,000 manufacturers, Marikina suffered from the easing of trade restrictions in the early 90s when the Philippines joined the World Trade Organisation and has been in decline ever since. The influx of imported goods effectively drowned the local market and production was unable to compete with the cheap labour provided by an awakening China. Marikina became collateral damage in the neoliberal world order that was envisioned in part by Margaret Thatcher.
Presented in Hong Kong on the 20th anniversary of the Handover and at a particular moment of crisis in British politics, the work accrues another layer of context, simultaneously embodying Filipino labour as capital and the shards of an Empire unable to come to terms with its own demise.
Edwina Currie, one of Thatcher’s former ministers, once that said that her handbag was ‘not a shield, but a weapon.’ A designation that seems all too appropriate given historical hindsight.