Visiting Artist Lecture 1-Joan Kee

Alysa Sharp

Visiting Artist Lecture 1

ARTH 3539

Joan Kee

After going to go see Joan Kee on February 14, 2012 it brought forth a new light as to how to look at cultures through the lens of an artist.   Joan Kee’s main topic of discussion was cultural studies focusing on the work of Ming Wong, an artist who address multiculturalism and explores his own relationship to contemporary art within his pieces.  Being an Anthropology major myself I thought that this talk would give new insight as to how to perceive artists works in different cultures and how they are in particular depict a certain aspect or certain part of that culture. Kee helped illuminate the Singapore culture through the works of Ming Wong.

Ming Wong is a contemporary performance artist from Singapore who reproduces scenes from movies or theater through replacing them with himself and other actors and or actresses. These performances often allude to the question of identity and how can one have an identity in a multicultural world. However this question of identity according to Kee is more of a question on language, gender, and culture in broader terms. Wong throughout his performances will put on the “bare necessities” that are needed; different clothing and a wig if need be. Otherwise he does not try to hide or disguise himself within his works making this obvious to the viewers that begins to draw attention away from the original piece that he is depicting and towards his own emphasizing on the perceptions that one can have on identity. An example of this from his works can be seen in his rendition of “Life of Imitation” which was created in 2009 which he based it off of the film “Imitation of Life.” Within this piece he plays sixteen different characters again only donning the essentials for each character. Through this he helps illustrate the question of, is it possible to take away the gender and or race lines? This according to Kee is a condition of being in the world as an artist. Because Ming Wong changes up the titles of the movies or plays to work for his art this brings up the language idea of identity. He shows singlish in affect through just the title of his works. Another example of this can be seen in his work titled “In Love for the Mood” which originally was titled “In the Mood for Love.” Here he feed lines to an actress who is playing both the male and the female role. This again addresses the question of identity of genders by creating a piece that is played only by a woman; which brings back the question of whether or not it is possible to take away the gender and race lines within society. Another piece of work by Ming Wong that Kee addressed is his piece “Wang-Chana and Eng” which is about Siamese twins and how they want to be treated as individuals despite their DNA. Once again Wong plays both brothers which then creates a personal sense of trans location, illustrating how there needs to be adjustment to the unfamiliarity and how one cannot get lost in translation with it and lose themselves in it. Because once that self is lost then ones identity becomes lost as well.

After showing clips of Wong’s works Kee explained how that since Wong is taking the original and transforming it and essentially turning it upside down it changes the meaning of either that play or film. Therefore, it changes the way that the audience then perceives it along with the cultural stereotypes that are depicted. Because of this Kee thought thatWong is able to use his art to illustrate and highlight the differences between cultures, in particular the ethnic and gender groups, which then explains why her talk was called “Culture Studies.” It is because of the way that Wong is able flip the way that the stereotypes would really be in a certain culture and transform them into a new way in which the viewer can begin to explore not only the identities of the people in that region of the world but their own sense of identity and how it plays affect in their own lives.

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