Artist Artist

Ming Wong (*1971, Singapour)

Project Project

Travaux domestiques

By means of performance, video and installation, Ming Wong (*1971, Singapore) revisits a singular story of cinema by reinterpreting classics like those of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Douglas Sirk or Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Originally from Singapore, established in Berlin, Ming Wong reactivates the violent questions of society, racial and sexual contents in these movies through a precise work of reconstruction and alteration that plays with the emerging recollection of the collective memory. Along side the racial transposition, Ming Wong questions the construction of the genre and doesn’t hesitate to interpret the female roles himself or to invite male performers to play the female characters.

In the installation “Life of Imitation” (2009), he shift the North-American racial tension in Douglas Sirk’s movie “Imitation of Life” (1958) to Singapore’s context. In the Hollywood movie of the 1950s an Afro-American housekeeper is rejected by her daughter whose white skin shows nothing of her ethnic origins. The mother finds her daughter in a cabaret. At the moment when another dancer goes backstage, the mother exits indicating that she is simply the nanny, thus allowing her daughter to be spared from racial segregation. In “Life of Imitation”, Ming Wong proposes two versions of this scene, played by male actors that come from the three main ethnic groups of Singapore, Malay, Chinese and Indian, who alternately interpret the mother’s and daughter’s roles. These multiple possibilities are also reflected in the canvas’ painted in the same style as promotional billboards for movies, labels in the four official languages of Singapore.

“Devo partire. Domani” (2010) constitutes a spacial decomposition of the film “Teorema” (1968) by the Italian poet, writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. Each of the five video projections follows one of the five main characters of the original movie. The scenes are replayed identically by the artist himself who interprets all the roles. In Pasolini’s film, a young man arrives in a conservative family and perturbs the established order. He successively sleeps with all the family members, the mother, the daughter, the son, the father and even the maid. When the young man leaves the characters are upset and let to their own devices. Strange behavior follows and betrays the turmoil this visit left. In re- deploying the linear narration of the movie from the 60’s to several simultaneous and synchronized projections, Ming Wong places the spectator in the singular position in front of a type of Expanded Cinema, the experimental cinema of last centuries avant-gardists. The spectator thus becomes the “editor” of his own visual and cinematic experience. Stemming from this movie reconstitution, Ming Wong also had a portrait of the family and one of the maid done in China. The similarity of the faces, in this case the artist’s own, generates at the same time a feeling of discomfort and humor, bringing a critique to the traditional schemas of family and social classes.

“Angst Essen” (2008) covers the main scenes of the movie, by the theater man and filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, “Angst essen Seele auf” (“Ali: Fear eats the soul”, 1974). An elderly housekeeper takes in a Maghrebi immigrant worker. They start a relationship and end up getting married, not without reproach, jealousy and racismfrom their entourage. Once again Ming Wong interprets all the characters, in the original language, in this reconstitution of this New German cinematic masterpiece.

The installations also include facsimiles of vintage documents related to movie promotions: magazines, posters, promotional photos. These objects remind us of the Seventh Art’s recent history and replaces the cinema d’auteur of the second half of the twentieth century in the commercial context of movies at the time, where the border between an artist’s voice and popular art was much more pervious than it is today.

Ming Wong won in 2009 the Special Mention at the Venice Biennale for the Singapore pavilion and his work is regularly shown in Europe, Asia and the United States, for instance at Performa 11 in New York in 2011 or at the moment at the Lyon Biennale. This monographic exhibition is the first presentation of the artist’s work in Switzerland.

Denis Pernet


Opening November 15 2013
Exhibition from November 16 to December 22 2013

Commissioner of the exhibition: Denis Pernet


CAN team:
Arthur de Pury, Marie Villemin, Martin Widmer, Marie Léa Zwahlen, Julian Thompson