MING WONG: The world of cinema was my gateway to imagination.
I think most of the work is personal, or started with a personal motivation. I’m sure the early works are really about myself, searching for my own identity. By impersonating some of these characters—by recasting some of these roles—it seems like everything comes back to me, and using myself as a vehicle for whatever transpires; whatever comes up. The audience can see that it’s me trying to embody these characters; trying to say these things that the filmmaker wanted to express in the first place.
I am very drawn to not just cinema, but also traditional forms of the performing arts. I have a particular interest in Cantonese opera, because that’s something that I personally grew up with. And that got me started looking at the history of Cantonese opera cinema. And I discovered, actually, [that] the form itself is not as old as what you might think. It’s very malleable and perhaps able to express stories and themes other than the traditional canon.
And that got me to think about, can it be used to express something about contemporary society, and about the future? And then I started to look at the history of science fiction in the Chinese-speaking world.
A goal could be to create a science fiction Cantonese opera film, which has never been attempted in history. I’m interested in the divide between the lives today, and the practice and art form that’s traditional and rooted in the past. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world and I think this feeds into how we relate to each other; how we relate to our own cultural identity and our history.
Ming Wong’s video and installation works explore the intersections between of language, identity, and performance. In many of his works, he re-enacts scenes from existing films, casting himself as every character—playing both men and women as well as characters of different ages and races—even learning different languages to do so. His unique, thought-provoking works combine elements from performance, theatre, cinema, and art.
In this video, Wong discusses some of the specific elements that influence his work; in particular, Cantonese opera and science fiction. Through looking at the history of both of these art forms, and exploring ways in which they may be able to interact, Wong seeks to connect the past, present, and future.
This video was originally published on M+ Stories.
Kenji Wong Wai Kin
Alexa Chow, Yung Ma, Tina Pang
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Ming Wong