Ming Wong Holds His Own Next to Ai Wei Wei

Singaporean artist Ming Wong is holding his own next to Ai Wei Wei at an exhibition organized by Para Site Art Space in the Sheung Wan Civic Centre Exhibition Hall in Hong Kong, even though his works’ relationship to the actual theme of the exhibition is less obvious.

Starting from the outbreak of SARS that affected Hong Kong in the spring of 2003, the exhibition “A Journal of the Plague Year: Fear, ghosts, rebels, SARS, Leslie and the Hong Kong story,” which is spread over different locations, uses different narratives to trace the relationships between contemporary culture and politics of Hong Kong and the world.

Wong’s “The Chinese Detective” — shown in the same room as Ai Wei Wei’s giant powdered milk can map of China — are a series of posters he created after working on his “Making Chinatown” mixed media video installation in 2012. In these posters he explores the portrayal of the “Yellow Peril” or “Villainous Asians” in old American films, as the artist puts it, and studies the evolution of the Chinese detective character from the mysterious Mr. Wong and Charlie Chan to kung Fu fighters Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

The Berlin-based artist has long been interested in issues related to identity, which he explores through the deconstruction of well-known cinema productions, in which he plays several different characters in the same piece when he recreates the movie subverting the relationship between language, identity, and gender.

The poster installation goes with a video piece, “After Chinatown,” where Wong reprised the role of a detective to explore its stereotypical position in many Hollywood films. The video is shown on an old television set at the main Para Site Art Space.

Wong shot his new film in the cinematic Chinatowns of Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as Hong Kong. “All the research pointed to the use of 'Chinatown' as a setting of evil for detective pulp fiction and then film noir, during the time of anti-Chinese immigrant sentiment in the US and UK in the ‘30s/’40s,” the artist explained .

The installation is particularly interesting, as he recreated a series of movie posters from old films, such as “Mr. Wong in Chinatown” starring Boris Karloff, “Hammett” by Wim Wenders and Jackie Chan’s “Le Chinois,” cleverly inserting himself into the original movie poster where he makes a mean Jackie Chang doppelganger!

“I usually collect movie ephemera related to the films I work with, so this time it grew from collecting materials relating to Polanski's “Chinatown” to other films that had Chinatown or Chinese in the title like "Mr. Wong in Chinatown" and then other materials with iconography or language related to this “Yellow Peril” in early cinema,” Wong explained.

Wong will also have a solo exhibition at the Shiseido Gallery in Tokyo (6 July — 22 Sept 2013) inspired by Japanese cinema history and will take part in the 12th Biennale of Lyon opening in September. The artist is currently negotiating with a gallery to bring "Making Chinatown" to Singapore later this year.

“A Journal of the Plague Year. Fear, ghosts, rebels, SARS, Leslie and the Hong Kong story” runs until July 20, 2013 at t Para Site and the Sheung Wan Civic Centre Exhibition Hall.

As first published on sea.blouinartinfo.com