Hong Kong

Wong Ping, Who’s the Daddy, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 9 minutes.

Wong Ping, Who’s the Daddy, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 9 minutes.

Wong Ping

Edouard Malingue Gallery | Hong Kong

Wong Ping, Who’s the Daddy, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 9 minutes.

“Who’s the Daddy” felt like a peep show of the infantile perversions of a Hong Kongese otaku, one of those techno-isolationists who’ve replaced real life with virtual fantasy. It opened with two vacuum bags—one filled with Froot Loops, the other with candy—each encasing a 3-D-printed fetus. Titled Indulgence 2016 and Indulgence 1999, respectively (all works 2017), they hung by the gallery’s entrance, near Unfilial Hell, a large LED panel positioned in a corner like a grand stele, its colored lights depicting a phallic mountain complete with an occasional lightning streak, in front of which a doll wearing mini virtual-reality goggles hung from a swing. Beyond this was M, a circular Murakami–esque 3-D-printed sculpture of a pink thong hanging from a woman’s blue legs rendered from the calves down, a stiletto heel pressing into the eye of a man whose torso rests on a fluffy pink carpet. Small robotic baby dolls, all titled Bobo—each wearing mini VR headsets—crawled around the space. (On my visit, one emerged from under the fleshy-pink velveteen curtain closing off a corner where a laptop was opened onto a webpage showing the brief single-channel video Fetus Fetish). Nearby, another curtain closed off a section where the animated video that lent the exhibition its title was screened. In front of this curtain hung Mammy—a yellow light box depicting a character in the video. Presented as an anti-Mary icon in the form of a blue woman with three breasts and a Picassoesque face (circa Dora Maar, more furious than bereft), she holds a limp, green-faced baby, its blood-soaked cord snaking through her fingers.

The animation itself—in which the show’s objects are featured—is characterized by an 8-bit aesthetic in which bold shapes and acid colors are digitally fused with smooth gradients and pixels. This unique and perfectly honed visual language is undeniably beautiful, tempering off-key narratives reflecting on male angst, which are narrated in crude and deadpan Cantonese. Who’s the Daddy opens with a Yahoo! Answers quote claiming “a perfectly straight penis” is nonexistent in “a civilized society” before introducing a man in bed tugging at a ceiling-mounted weight while looking at his phone. The man wonders if his “straight petite penis,” whose length deprives him “of a stand to swing left or right,” is neglected by statistics because he is uncivilized. (He concludes that it’s society that is uncivilized.) The man recounts a relationship with a woman he met through a dating app, noting how hard it is to ascertain someone’s beliefs from an image. He’s an atheist; she’s a Christian with no desire for premarital sex and a penchant for fisting. (“We are both conservatives,” he says. “Fisting is the bottom line of our beliefs.”) When he is unable to fulfill her needs, she pokes his eye out with her heel in petulant anger, later atoning for the act by artificially inseminating herself, aborting the fetus (thus delivering a soul to heaven, she believes), and bringing the corpse to him in a vacuum bag.

Throughout, the protagonist retreats into his memories: There was the time he was assaulted in a public bathroom, when he understood his “obsession for being conquered by power and violence.” Or when his mother, who read him the Brothers Grimm, would play him children’s songs with titles like “Contaminated World.” When he accepts his ex-girlfriend’s gruesome gift, he adopts the role of single father—which recalls his fantasy of bearing a child conceived only with his own DNA—and begins to understand his fetish for being dominated. As a boy, he remembers, his mother told him to kiss his father “passionately” every night: the root of his “puny heart of shame.” That shame—of doing what one is told without question, or of having been programmed for a life of servitude—is inscribed into the meanderings of a twisted tale rooted in the depths of alienation, in which the tie between mother and child becomes the invisible cord binding patriarchy and its affects together.

Stephanie Bailey