The Circle of Time

The installation “The Circle of Time” (2016) is part of the Ying Yang Handover series (2013, ongoing) in which Phil Akashi investigates the politics of power and democracy. Using a metaphor to compare the handover of Hong Kong to China with one of the hallmarks of the traditional Chinese philosophy, the theory of the Five Elements* (五行), Phil Akashi engages the viewers in a meditative experience about the global crisis of democracy.


The heart of the installation is a traditional Chinese circle fan representing the harmonious and gradual integration of Hong Kong with the motherland. The fan is composed of five hundred thousand seal imprints with Chinese characters relative to the five seasons of the Five Elements*. In his own language, the artist observes and tries to understand how a “one country, two systems” should become a “one country, one system”, in a cyclic and harmonious transition, just as one season hands over to another.


By hanging an empty bamboo sandglass representing 50 years of time, tied with BDSM leather and rope, on top of the circle fan, the artist infuses a sense of fragility and ephemerality to the political promises, creating a poetic and symbolic sense of emptiness. Since the British handover in 1997, the constitutional principle formulated by Deng Xiaoping, ”One country, two systems" guarantees that Hong Kong's economic and political systems will not be changed for 50 years. For many observers, the reality is far more uncertain as the due date of 2047 seems to come ahead of schedule.

"By presenting this poetic yet provocative installation, I hope to both challenge the fragile state of democracy in the world as well as to bring awareness about the importance of freedom of speech and active participation, as citizens, in politics and civic life.” Phil Akashi


* The Five Elements, which are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal, represent the tangible activities of Yin and Yang as manifested in the cyclic changes of nature, which regulate life on earth. These elements correspond to energy, also known as Qi () in each season. Water dominates in winter () and nourishes plants and trees (wood) in spring (); wood makes fire in summer () which burns into ashes to form earth in late summer (); late summer is the fifth season and is seen as a transitional time (); earth is the source of metal in autumn (); metal can be melted into liquid or condensed to water. This is the cyclic and natural order.




Phil Akashi the Cricle of Time Arsenale Venice MOCA

Winner of the Special Prize Open, Sculptures and Installations, Arte Laguna Prize 
Curated by MOCA Italia






Phil Akashi the Circle of Time Installation

Ink on fine art paper, bamboo, hemp rope, leather, and metal with seal imprints with Chinese characters: 
冬/“winter”, 春/“spring”, 夏/“summer”, 中/“middle”, and 秋/“fall”. Singapore 2016. 4 x 4 x 3,35 m 


Phil Akashi Art Installation the Circle of Time



Phil Akashi the Circle of Time bamboo hemp rope leather



Phil Akashi the Circle of Time paper fan



Phil Akashi the Circle of Time detail






PHIL AKASHI Arte Laguna Prize Winner Special Prize Open

Winner of the Special Prize Open, Sculptures and Installations, Arte Laguna Prize 
Curated by MOCA Italia