Ming Wong: Life of Imitation
Singapore Art Museum
22 April – 22 August 2010
The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) is proud to present Ming Wong: Life of Imitation, the solo exhibition of award-winning Singaporean artist, Ming Wong. Curated by Tang Fu Kuen, the exhibition was originally commissioned by the National Arts Council (Singapore) for the Singapore Pavilion, at the 53rd Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition in 2009. It was awarded a Special Mention from the jury – the highest accolade ever received by a Singaporean visual artist at one of the oldest and most prestigious contemporary art platforms for artists worldwide.
SAM re-stages the show on home ground — with a new design and additional exhibits — before bringing it on tour to other cities. Wong’s works explore the shifting nature of identity and belonging across cultures through performance and cinema. In Life of Imitation, he revisits the Golden Age of Singapore cinema during the country’s pre-independence days, an era of nation-building, struggle, rapid modernisation, and where film production brought all the three main ethnic groups — Chinese, Malay and Indian — together. Against this rich cinematic and multi-ethnic legacy, Wong re-reads ‘national cinema’ constructed through language, role-playing and identity. Through performance-based approaches of mis-casting and mimicry, he re-interprets films that are familiar to audiences spanning two generations.
Life of Imitation is presented in three ‘cinemas’. The first presents a series of works by the late P. Ramlee, considered by many as the father of Malay cinema; the second re-interprets the Hollywood melodrama ‘Imitation of Life’ (1959) by Douglas Sirk, and the third re-creates Wong Kar Wai’s ‘In the Mood for Love’ (2000). In these video films, Wong presents the viewer with questions about our roots, hybridity, and the politics of becoming.
Wong has also invited three collaborators to participate in Life of Imitation. It will feature cinema posters and billboards by Singapore’s last surviving billboard painter, Neo Chon Teck; rare screen memorabilia of a private collector, Wong Han Min; and documentaries by film-maker Sherman Ong about Neo, Wong and a movie ticket-seller.
Wong’s Life of Imitation is the first of a series of solo shows dedicated to contemporary Singapore artists presented by SAM, a testament to the museum’s commitment to offer a platform to develop and nurture local contemporary artists.
As part of its mission, SAM is making a strong push to present Singapore contemporary artists on the world stage. Keeping up the momentum of international interest in Wong and his work, SAM collaborated with the artist and curator to further develop Life of Imitation into a touring exhibition and has secured presentation opportunities with museum partners in the United States of America and Australia. From January next year, international audiences will be able to catch Life of Imitation at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, and CAST
Gallery in Tasmania as part of the Ten Days on the Island Festival. Plans to present this exhibition at other venues in Europe and Asia are in the pipeline.
Mr. Tan Boon Hui, Director of SAM, says, “We are proud to be able to support and encourage outstanding local artists like Ming Wong, whose works offer new perspectives on the roles we play in life and how we relate to the environment we live in. Presenting his show on home ground is also our way of letting people in
Singapore see this award-winning work and celebrate this achievement while seeing our history and heritage in a new light. Ming’s works speak a very global language and talents like him are riding the crest of interest in Asian contemporary art. This project with Ming would be the first of many by the museum to present Singapore contemporary artists on the world stage, foster artistic and intellectual exchanges, as well as further raise the profile of Singapore’s vibrant contemporary art scene.”
Tang Fu Kuen guest curates Ming Wong: Life of Imitation at SAM, supported by SAM assistant curator Patricia Levasseur as project manager. The exhibition will run from 22 April to 22 August 2010. As an extension of the exhibition, a Curator’s Tour by Tang Fu Kuen & in conjunction events – ‘P. Ramlee: Tribute to
a Legend’ and ‘Singapore Cinemas: The Locations of Film Exhibition’ have also been organised.