An Asian Ghost Story

Bo Wang / & / 2023

A cinematic and conceptually inventive film that explores the haunting memories of Asia's late 20th-century modernization through the large-scale export of wigs during the Cold War. Yet, in every wig resides a ghost from the imperial past.

Wigs were vital for the rise of the Asian economy in the post-war era. In the heyday of the 1960s, it was the number four export in Hong Kong’s export-orientated industrialization. Between Mao’s China – the largest source of hair supplies, and the insatiable Western market, Hong Kong functioned as the gateway. In 1965, U.S. Treasury Department imposed an embargo on “Asiatic hair”, to cut off foreign currency to Communist China in the hair trade. The highly racialized category of “Asiatic hair” was later revised as “communist hair”, to enable the wig industry to develop in U.S. allies including mainly South Korea and Japan, which led to a significant reconfiguration of light industry in East Asia. Departing from the moment of the communist hair ban, through stories of movement, diaspora and migration, this project examines the role of Hong Kong as a transient space that mediates and sanitizes the connection between different worlds, and the relationship between U.S. Imperialism and East Asia order in the Cold War era.