Film: Making Chinatown, 2012

making chinatown, 2012

For his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Ming Wong creates a series of videos and scenic backdrops that reconsider the making of Roman Polanski’s seminal 1974 film Chinatown. Shot at Redcat, Wong’s reinterpretation, Making Chinatown, transforms the space into a studio backlot and examines the original film’s construction of language, performance and identity.

The artist plays all the roles originally belonging to Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston and Belinda Palmer, and crucial scenes are reenacted in front of printed backdrops digitally rendered from film stills and kept intact within the video installation. The wall flats adhere to the conventions of theatrical and filmic staging while taking on qualities of large-scale painting.

Wong has been recognized for his ambitious performance and video works that engage with the history of cinema and mass entertainment. Working through the visual styles and tropes of such iconic film directors as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wong Kar-wai and Ingmar Bergman, Wong considers the means through which subjectivity and geographic location are constructed by motion pictures.

Making Chinatown is Wong’s first project focused on the American context of filmmaking and draws upon its use of Los Angeles as a versatile and malleable character. Wong treats the film as a text and medium through which he is able to inhabit and impersonate the qualities that are particular to the place it represents. Making Chinatown mimics and reduces the techniques of mainstream cinema in order to emphasize the theatrical qualities that underlie cinematic artifice. Moreover, it analyzes how canonical works from American cinema are received and reconfigured by global audiences.