In Love for the Mood
3 channel video installation
4:00 mins loop
Originally commissioned for the 53rd Venice Biennale for the artist’s solo exhibitioin Life of Imitation at the Singapore Pavilion, this work is inspired by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai”s meditation on love on and infidelity set in Hong Kong in the 1960s, In the Mood for Love (2000).
A Caucasian actress plays both the leading man and woman, attempting to deliver her lines in Cantonese, by repeating after the artist/director’s offscreen voice.
“Despite its Cantonese language and exquisitely mannered vision of 1960s Hong Kong, the film’s narrative of unconsummated passion has resonated globally, and Maggie Cheung’s beehive hairdo and vast wardrobe of high-collared cheongsams have become iconic.
Ming’s version replaces both Cheung and her object of desire, played by Tony Leung, with a Caucasian actress from New Zealand who is studying in Singapore. Her attempts to speak the lines in Cantonese, repeating Ming’s prompts off-camera, are recorded in three loops, played simultaneously on three screens. Each is subtitled differently: for the first and most unrehearsed scene, it’s Cantonese; for the second, as she begins to relax into the character and the language, it’s English; and for the third, it’s Italian, where she has mastered her lines and is able to concentrate on acting. The actress’s discomfort and embarrassment in the earlier scenes is clear, with her slip-ups and apologies retained in Ming’s final cut.
This self-referentiality is intensified by the fact that the scene being performed is one in which Cheung’s character Mrs So is herself rehearsing, using Leung’s Mr Chow as a stand-in for her husband as she accuses him of adultery. Despite Ming’s distancing techniques, and even though we know that the actress can’t understand the language she is speaking, the scenes are still remarkably poignant, proving the power of cinema to suck us into its affective realm.”
Russell Storer, Repeat After Me (Exhibition catalogue)
Cast: Kluane Saunders
Cantonese transcription: Carrie Poon Ka Wai