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Ming Wong: In Love for the Mood

This video highlights the performative aspect of language and difficulties with translation.

Ming Wong’s video installation In Love for the Mood restages a scene from Wong Kar Wei’s 2000 film In the Mood for Love. Ming Wong’s version of the film replaces both Maggie Cheung from the original 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 in Cantonese; for the second, as she begins to relax into the character and the language, it’s in English; and for the third, it’s in Italian, where she has mastered her lines and is able to concentrate on acting.

The video’s use of repetition draws attention to the performative dimension—and the element of rehearsal—in both learning other languages and speaking them. Ming Wong commonly uses film adaptation as a vehicle to point to issues of cross-cultural translation.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Finding Correspondences.

Image credit: Installation shot of In Love for the Mood by Ming Wong at Surrey Art Gallery. Photo by Scott Massey.