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Ming Wong: Your Special Island

Bellas Artes Projects and the CCP proudly present Your Special Island, a lecture-performance by the Berlin-based Singaporean artist Ming Wong, unpacking the inherent racism and building of empire found in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1949 Broadway musical and 1958 Hollywood film South Pacific. Taking place in the backdrop of the Pacific campaign during World War II, the plot, lyrics and staged scenery of South Pacific largely influenced the West’s mediatized exotic projection on the Pacific region, its inhabitants, and America’s Post-war control upon it. Wong’s presentation centers around the musical’s song “Bali Ha’I,” a hypnotic siren soundtrack about an unknown, exotic and unimaginable “special island.” The song is interpreted by Bloody Mary, a Tonkinese female character played by the African-American actor Juanita Hall (in the Hollywood version). With a fake, broken English, Bloody Mary is portrayed as the “native-expert” who panders her own daughter towards marrying a white American lieutenant, who in turn is struggling with his own angst for desiring a non-white woman. Premiering at the CCP as a lecture-performance, Your Special Island is presented at a timely decolonized perspective around race and identity, as well as in an era of new order in the militarization of the seas off the shores of the Asia-Pacific region.
About the Artist
Ming Wong 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 artifacts from around the world.

Wong represented Singapore at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 with the solo presentation Life of Imitation, which was awarded a special mention. 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; and Centre National de la Danse, Paris (all 2018). He has had solo exhibitions at leading institutions worldwide including UCCA, Beijing; Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo; REDCAT, Los Angeles. He additionally 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 (2010).

This event is free and open to the public.