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Ming Wong at Third Floor

Life and Death in Venice

After representing Singapore at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009, with his film Life of Imitation, video artist Ming Wong created a new original film, inspired by Luchino Visconti's screen interpretation of Thomas Mann's novel Death in Venice.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Ming Wong at Third Floor
© Ming Wong

Ming Wong's work is a mimetic exploration of the concepts of language and identity, replaying iconic scenes from the history of cinema in order to recompose his own "looking-glass" scenario. Wong plays all the characters in his video: the young man Tadzio, and Professor Gustav Aschenbach. At Third Floor, the film is presented simultaneously on two screens facing each other in a blacked-out setting. The viewer places himself in the middle of the installation. Beyond this viewing space, a third, smaller screen shows Ming Wong playing Gustav Mahler's fifth symphony (the soundtrack of Visconti's film) arranged for piano.

Ming Wong creates a complete system of analogies and correspondences – the obvious echo of two of the protagonists' first names, and a more subtle link to the artist's own life and career: Wong is exactly half the age of the elderly professor Aschenbach, but twice that of the adolescent Tadzio. And the same age as Visconti during the shooting of Death in Venice. Like Thomas Mann, his work was conceived and elaborated during a stay in Venice itself. Ming Wong follows in the tradition of the novelist and film-maker, exploring themes of life and death, youth and old age, beauty and sickness, perfection and corruption, spirituality and sensuality.

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