〈Bloody Marys—Song of the South Seas〉, 2018, mixed media installation featuring a single channel HD video with stereo sound and archival materials, 10min35sec, Courtesy of the artist
Bloody Marys—Song of the South Seas
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s stage musical South Pacific, opened on Broadway in 1949 and was turned into a film in 1958. The plot was based on James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific about the Pacific campaign in World War II.
Bali Ha’i is the siren song delivered by the native matriarch Bloody Mary — a Tonkinese ( North Vietnamese) character concocted by her creators out of the colonial swamp of migrants in the Pacific Islands, transplanted there by a French planter.
The repugnant image and name of Bloody Mary connotes at once histories of brutal, hazardous journeys across the seas and virginities surrendered in violent struggles to survive. The default pet name Mary for the hordes of faceless foreign females silences their true identities. Bloody Mary is a damned maternal figure one loves to hate — a salty, spicy pick-me-up, but no cure for a colonial hangover.
Tales of the Bamboo Spaceship
Tales of the Bamboo Spaceship is an ongoing project in which Ming Wong attempts to connect two seemingly distinct cultural forms of Cantonese Opera and science fiction literature. In the latest iteration (2019), the artist presents a narrative structure that draws from his research of the past five years on the history of Cantonese opera’s transition from stage to screen in the 20th century. Wong extends the speculative possibilities of the traditional Southern Chinese art form both forwards, through the lens of science fiction, towards alternative futurities for communities tied by language and cultural memory, as well as backwards, to the opera’s coastal roots in the 19th century, embedded in its traditional mythology surrounding the sea.
About the Artist
Born in Singapore in 1971. He builds layers of cinematic language, social structure, identity and introspection through his re-telling of world cinema and popular culture in his videos, installations and performances. With imperfect translations and reenactments, he casts an actor (often himself) as every character in a story. Wong attempts to unravel ideas of authenticity, originality and the other, with reference to the act of human performativity. He looks into how culture, gender and identity are constructed, reproduced and circulated, as well as how it all feeds into the politics of representation. Though untrained as an actor, he has embarked on an artistic practice that is at once highly influenced by cinema and is in constant dialogue with measures of performativity, gender, and difference. Recent projects have become more interdisciplinary, incorporating performance and installation to flesh out his exploration of cultural artefacts from around the world.
His work has been shown recently at Busan Biennale, South Korea; Dakar Biennale, Senegal; Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh; Para Site, Hong Kong; SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin; Centre National de la Danse, Paris (all 2018). He has participated in Sydney Biennale (2016 & 2010); Asia Pacific Triennial (2015); Shanghai Biennale (2014); Lyon Biennale (2013); Liverpool Biennial (2012); Gwangju Biennale (2010); Performa 11, New York (2011). He represented Singapore at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 with the solo presentation Life of Imitation, which was awarded a special mention.