Ming Wong: Devo partire, Domani

Review of current installation at Villa Romana

Martin Holman
May 19, 2011

Villa Romana, the Florence home of the Alliance of German Artists on Via Senese, has been transformed for a unique art installation, currently running there. A bourgeois family has moved in and trouble is afoot. No one, not even the maid, emerges unchanged when a mysterious young man in white unexpectedly visits and, as suddenly, departs.

But all is not what it seems here at Villa Romana. The villa's new 'residents' exist only on film and each character, male and female, is played by the same person, Singapore artist Ming Wong, who is aided by impressive make-up skills. The funny side is not lost in this bold and disturbing installation, which the artist both conceived and directed. Moreover, Ming speaks the dialogue in his own accented Italian; no doppiatore was involved.

Multiple presences bring the house alive. Moving from one room to another, visitors feel like they are part of the intense drama that is unfolding. Filling the screen in a bedroom scene is a daughter's encounter with the stranger; in the drawing room downstairs is where to find her mother; her father's tale unfolds in the grand salone; and elsewhere in the house the son and the maid play out their own dramas.

Meanwhile distant music by Mozart drifts down hallways and staircases. Walls are hung with stills from the film, not photographed but painted in oil to imitate the decoration expected in a stately residence.

These fragments collect into a story. With numerous blanks to fill, however, no two visitors will assemble the same plot. As ideas multiply, Ming takes the installation further. For just as Mozart is borrowed, the story is readymade. Inspired by Teorema, the 1968 film by Italian director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ming extracts its essence and recreates it between different spaces. His audience become detectives seeking clues towards the film's meaning and even their part in it.

Ming, who lives in Berlin, created this work in Naples. He has reinterpreted existing films before, including Visconti's Death in Venice, because the elusive junction between illusion and reality fascinates him. Modern culture is global and dominated by reproduction and revival; nowadays the distinction between fake and authentic, even between nations, almost disappears. Adding fresh value to commonplace experience, like looking at film, Ming offers impressions to alter  perceptions his audience may not have expected to consider.

Ming Wong: Devo partire, DomaniUntil June 5, 2011Villa Romana, Via Senese 68, Florencewww.villaromana.orgFree admission, open 3pm to 7pm from Tuesday to Friday,  and by appointment

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