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FALSE FRONT: THE ART OF MING WONG

Ming Wong, Making Chinatown, 2012, still from the seven-channel color video component of a mixed-media installation, running time variable.

PLAYING EVERYONE FROM TADZIO, the adolescent blond object of desire in Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice (1971), to Jack Nicholson’s world-weary Jake in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), Ming Wong has made a career out of reenacting scenes from canonical films. Since 2000, he has cast himself—and occasionally others—in roles from which he might otherwise be excluded by virtue of race, gender, body type, or age. This repertoire would make it tempting to regard his works as vaguely autobiographical meditations on the performativity of identity, were it not for his remarkable ability to at once place himself at the center of his reenactments and make his own Singaporean background utterly extraneous to the work’s actual operation. In many cases, Wong plays all the characters in a given work himself, implying that identity’s core assumption of difference is best understood

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