May 31 - July 5, 2003

Hungry Ghosts

Paul Wong









Event Listing | Curatorial Statement

Curatorial Statement

We will present works by Vancouver artist Paul Wong in collaboration with Nuova Icona in Venice, Italy as part of our on-going relationship with the curator there, Vittorio Urbani. The exhibition is being planned for the summer of 2003 during the Venice Biennale.

We have worked with Urbani several times, including a massive collaboration between our centres at the Venice Biennale in June 1999, where we presented an exhibition of masks and a series of performances with an ocean-going canoe by North West Coast artist David Neel under the title Walas Kwis Gila. We then brought Urbani to Vancouver the following September for a curatorial visit that led to a new collaboration with Urbani and the grunt gallery. The two organizations recently mounted a video installation in Vancouver entitled Different/Diverse featuring new works by 8 European artists in January 2002.

For this exhibition, Paul Wong will create new work that will be interdisciplinary and include several multimedia elements, such as video, audio, phototext panels and performance. There will be an opening performance based on the works on display. Death Works will have a strong curatorial approach to seeing Wong's work in the eyes of Death. This will not be a retrospective, but instead a show that will be content driven. There will be many previous works included that will be re-done or re-made from their original formats. This event will draw upon his extensive body of work that represents an enormous vocabulary of ideas and wide range of forms.

As a mid-career artist with an international reputation, Wong is currently in a time of reflection, looking for a new contextualization of his work. He has been previously categorized in exhibitions through sexual identity, social issues, race politics, cultural representation, and performance practices. This will be the first time that he will be featured with a focus on death, a subject that is found in many of his works. The topics will cover suicide, murder, ancestral worship, death rituals, sex and death through AIDS.

For the past 25 years, Wong has created video, performance, photography and installation. He is one of Canada's leading media artists and is a pioneer in his field. He is a veteran of multicultural awareness and representation, and has been in the forefront of using popular culture as a mirror of our time.

He is prolific, an unabashed video artist who has shown a steady evolution since picking up his first Portapak in 1973. He has received several major commissions and awards including, the Bell Canada Award (1992), the Adrienne Clarkson interview (1994), a solo show at the National Gallery in 1995, Musee d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris (1996), Museum of Modern Art (1996), Institute of Contemporary Art in London (1997), and Hong Kong University and Theatreworks in Singapore (1998). The Vancouver Art Gallery will present a solo exhibition of his work in July 2002.

He has created a unique and individual style that is radically different from past and current Vancouver trends in the national and international spotlight. He draws upon personal experiences and observations, a strategy that blurs the boundaries of the documentary and fiction. He is a modern day storyteller creating accessible works using contemporary means. He has had a major impact on the local, national and international media arts community, in addition to fostering interest among younger artists in creating media art. His works are timeless, have kept currency and are as relevant now as when they were made. 60-unit Bruise in fact has more impact now because of the blood exchange ritual displayed there.

The curatorial approach will be to choose elements from various works such as: 60 Unit Bruise (1976) - a blood brother ritual; Murder Research (1977) - investigation of a murder; in ten sity (1978) - performance for the suicide of a friend; Dave (1991) - funeral for a murdered Hell's Angels enforcer; Chinaman's Peak: Walking The Mountain (1992) - ancestral worship and feeding the hungry ghosts; Dead Man Talking (1998) a performance that began Wongıs interest in streaming together his death works, Trieste (2002) his latest work based on a Herman Nitsch performance in Trieste in 1978, and his latest works-in-progress Dead Man Talking, Merry Fucking Christmas video + installation, and Poco Pig Farm - Missing Women installation. These will be included along with new works that Wong will create over the next year. The exhibition will also include works not previously exhibited. It will be an opportunity to contextualize projects spanning three decades and to present them as a whole to an international audience.

The exhibition will include videotapes re-mastered and shown in DVD format at viewing stations, phototext panels, installation elements with performance props from Chinaman's Peak, Murder Research, in ten sity and others. There will be a special screening of the works at the opening of the installation. There will also be a performance based on 'walking the mountain' - a ritual act of honouring the ancestors by burning effigies as offerings - at the San Michele cemetery on one of the islands in the Venetian Lagoon.

Our Venetian co-sponsor Vittorio Urbani is securing a space for the exhibition in the Arsenale adjacent to the Giardini - the site of the Biennale - that has recently been included as additional exhibition space for this important cultural event.

- Elspeth Sage