Ming Wong is a film maker who does all parts of the researching, planning, directing, and mis-casting, and even costume designing and making, thanks to his earlier theatre training. He currently lives and works in Muscle temple, Berlin, a building off of a courtyard filled with photographers, designers and artists, however he often travels for his films.
“self-seduces, self-kills; self-loves” – Berlin Art
Within his artwork, the questions of identity and gender arise as well as questions of queer politics and their representation (Frieze). This is partly because Wong casts himself as every character no matter what race or gender. He often re-depicts other artists films and is sometimes called for plagiarism, even though what he does is not plagiarism. Ming Wong also performs a ‘yellowing’ over the Western cinematic canon. He has also expressed that this can also be used as an excuse to dress up and act out. Within his artwork, he blends and performs genders, identities and temporalities. By using his hand-made costumes and temporality, he was able to become the impersonator and ‘the impersonator defies patriarchy/heteronormativity and points out the problems that occur as a result’.
There is also a certain disconnect between the language that is being spoken and the language of the inclusion of himself. This also has to take into consideration that Ming Wong is an East Asian, in a scenario in which he is totally other.
Ming Wong has almost claimed his own term while filming of “impostering”, which is used throughout his practice. He inserts people that are traditionally excluded from cinematic representation, straight into cinema’s traditional tropes. He is also able to endow those devices with a new and often unsettling meaning (Art in America).
Sometimes, Wong does not includes subtitles in his work as there are things he films about that do not have many facts – at some points in the history he researches, only word of mouth was used, and so the speech that he uses cannot always be backed up. There is no point in including subtitles if no one can confirm the facts.
Art Asia Pacific asked Ming Wong what his online inspirations were and he included five in that list. The first mentioned is The Southeast Asia Move Theatre Project. He comments that he takes his hat off to the cinema. It is a farang cinema otaku who travels to places such as Thailand, Myanmar and Laos in search for old single screen cinemas. Many of these cinemas are still in operation. Wong also comments that he enjoys the Myanmar cinema, although there is not the inspiration of the start-stop motion, like in Samson Kambalu’s work.
The second inspiration that is mentioned in the article is that of Charlie Chan in China. Wong researches Chinese detectives ‘and was thrilled to discover that the Charlie Chan movies from Hollywood—the character Charlie Chan was played by Swedish actor Warner Oland in “yellowface”—were well received in China. So much so that there were even copycat made-in-China Charlie Chan movies.’ This is seen in his work through the use of his characters.
Another inspiration of Ming Wong’s is the Chinese Ghost Town of Ordos Kangbashi. It is made up of world-class architecture, extravagant public plazas, international scale stadiums and seas of crisp new housing that rose up from the barren deserts of China’s Inner Mongolia in less than a decade (Forbes). However, barely anyone lives here. Wong does not explicitly say why this inspires him, however the act of being in the middle of a game-like deserted area, always sparks some inspiration.
The last two inspirations that are mentioned within the article from Art Asia Pacific are tgat if What the F*** costumes and Mychonny. The costumes inspire his own costume design and making as it allows you to transform into anything that you wish to be – from a British gentleman to a nun at Halloween. Mychonny is an Asian YouTuber that Ming Wong is subscribed to, and is in which he makes fun of his family, himself, and everybody else under the sun. Here, Mychonny plays all the roles, just as Wong plays all of his roles.
One of Ming Wong’s main sources of inspiration however, is that of the history of Chinese cinema. He explains that “In the 40s, 50s and 60s opera and cinema had a love affair in Hong Kong” (Berlin Art). After the Civil War, Japanese invasion and WWII, and as a result of these, much of the Chinese population migrated to Hong Kong. This is where a hybrid of arts emerged.
The nation-building politics of the People’s Republic of China led the Cantonese to struggle against the danger of cultural erosion. As a result, the proliferation of language – in this case, the translation of a Western story into classical Chinese by a Cantonese Opera writer, and back into English by the artist – becomes even more political. “It was really beautiful to see that Chinese literature was used to express this theme of speculative existence: I’m a mirror of your conscious. No one would ever do that in Cantonese Opera, as language is very classical, especially in terms of singing.” says Wong. In a similar fashion, science fiction was seen as pseudo-science, that wasn’t good for the revolution of Communist China. On the one hand, Cantonese Opera and science fiction share a common past of suppression and condemnation by patriarchy. On the other hand, according to Wong, “Solaris, the story itself, is very melodramatic”, and has a theme that can easily be adopted to Cantonese Opera. “Therefore, they fit together naturally.” – Berlin Art
Ming Wong’s full CV can be found here and his website can be found here. The home of his artworks, and the centre of his exhibitions are at the Carlier Gebauer gallery, Germany, where he currently lives and works.