Scenography for a Chinese Science Fiction Opera
mixed media installation featuring a handpainted theatre stage set (paint on canvas, wood, steel, motors)
For the installation Scenography for a Chinese Science Fiction Opera, Ming Wong transformed the Nave gallery space at UCCA into a full-scale three-dimensional theatre stage set, constructed out of hand-painted wooden backdrops.
Visitors can walk through the interior of a spaceship – derived from science fiction movies from the Eastern Bloc in the 50s and 60s, and fused with the aesthetics of a Chinese ornamental garden – and then beyond swirls of clouds into outer space – inspired by cosmological design motifs from Chinese opera and ancient religious cave murals – towards the swirling vortex of the universe, symbolized by a kaleidoscopic, disorienting wheel of color.
The diverse iconography in the work represents a multifaceted cultural landscape and a nonlinear timeframe derived from the artist’s recent investigations into various aspects of the modernization of Cantonese opera, including its scenography and cinematic transformations, and its unlikely relationship with the development of science-fiction in China.
In this work, the viewer seems to be walking towards the future yet facing the past, which calls into question the linear, continuous and quantitative aspects of time.
Accompanying the stage set is a series of photographs of the artist as a space explorer within this scenography, entitled “Ascent to the Heavenly Palace (I-IV)”. The costumes, backdrops and poses recall an uncertain nostalgia of chinese propaganda posters, children’s space adventure books and pantomime.
Photographs by Eric Gregory Powell.