At first glance, Wong Ping’s neon-hued animations seem bright and breezy. Comic characters have amusingly distorted features, they all wear outrageous clothes (if any) and the psychedelic backgrounds pulse with the colours of the rainbow. But after a few seconds of contemplation, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems.
Tackling topics such as the pressures of big-city life and the trials and tribulations of modern relationships, Wong’s videos offer a darkly humorous look into contemporary society.
In one, a teenage boy becomes obsessed with a woman who has breasts on her back. In another, the protagonist’s wife starts to work as a prostitute out of their shared home, partly because her husband can’t satisfy her.
For his next video, which will be exhibited at the New Museum Triennial in New York in February, Wong has turned to traditional fairy tales for inspiration. “Did you know that the original fairy tales are quite scary? Stories written by the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen have been adapted by Disney, but the originals are quite dark,” Wong says.
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Rather than updating existing fairy tales, Wong is working on a series of new stories. “I want to write Wong Ping’s Fables for the Modern Age,” he explains. “I want to do three chapters, each one with its own exhibition. In each chapter, there will be three different fables about social issues nowadays.”
Wong’s work for the New Museum Triennial will be the first of these chapters. “The first fable is about people’s physical appearances and about self-hate,” he says. “I don’t want to give much away, but it’s about a girl who only has a single eyelid and wants a double eyelid. She hates herself for something so small.”
Whatever individual subject he’s tackling, all of Wong’s animations to date have featured sex—often explicitly. “I knew that sex could be a taboo, but I thought that in animation and in the creative industries I could do anything,” he says.
“The [criticism] has been quite noisy. But I think that sex is the language of my work; it’s not the message of the work. Just as [Hong Kong film director] Johnnie To always uses guns and triad members to talk about society, I use sex to talk about society. Just like [director] Wong Kar-wai uses love stories to reflect life, I use sex to talk about life.”
The 2018 Triennial: Songs For Sabotage runs from February 13 to May 27 at the New Museum in New York. Discover more at newmuseum.org
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