Wong Ping’s Gross, Glorious Universe
Make museums weird again!
Alternately absurd, profound, and gross, Wong Ping’s video animations have, surprisingly, been enthusiastically adopted by the mainstream art world.
Through October 3, for instance, you can see works like An Emo Nose—a bizarro riff on the Pinocchio story in which a man’s schnozz is affected by “negative energy”—at the New Museum in New York.
Wong Ping’s rude, wild spirit can feel out of place in the white cube, but that’s part of what makes it so exciting. Who says vaguely NSFW cartoons about bodily orifices and strange animals can’t have their place in the halls of culture?
FF0083 chatted with the Hong Kong-based artist about sloths and cheap-ass rich people.
Your work exists in an interesting place within the art world. How is the effect of an animation different when it’s seen in a museum or gallery, versus when it would be seen on someone’s computer, phone, or a TV platform like Adult Swim?
I used to publish my work on video platforms like Vimeo. Not going to lie, I still enjoy the interaction there. [But] one of the enjoyable aspects about showing in a museum or gallery is that I can expand the story to the physical space…. it’s a full-on experience.
I don’t really think about how the audience receives my work. But I reckon visitors have certain expectations going to a museum. People [are taking] the initiative to see some ‘art.’ Meanwhile, on the internet, people passively bump into the work in any random moment. It somehow catches people off guard.
The grotesque is a common theme of yours. What sort of things gross you out?
Sloths, because of how creepy they crawl and smile.
People who kiss or are licked by their pets.
Friends who [have] the most messed up lives but insanely talk to you about light and love/positive-energy healing quotes/crystals/forgiveness/calm/etc. every single minute.
What’s been the most surreal thing that has happened to you since you’ve become well-known within the mainstream art world?
A rich person asked me to give a work to him for free at an opening. That night we found one of the works went missing. The rich person texted: ‘Not me.’
Do you ever pursue more traditional or lo-fi artistic practices, like painting?
I started out making animation because that was the software I used and learned at my day job. But I do enjoy things like painting, ceramic making, and film as a hobby.
Is your work kid-friendly, or will it quietly corrupt the minds of the young?
My works are animal-friendly. They’re for everyone. I think our grown-up and corrupted minds assume how young people process what they see. I see kids’ reaction to my works and they are laughing at different parts of the story compared to grown-ups. But if that’s a bad thing, that would be the parents’ responsibility.
You have a degree in ‘multi-media design,’ which seems more commercially oriented than a typical studio-based program. What about art school? Worthwhile, or a waste of time and money?
Hard for me to say, because I haven’t had a chance to experience art school. They taught different basic software skills in the multi-media design course. The only thing I feel grateful for was that the class played us hour-long, cool music videos and experimental shorts every week (which now you can do on YouTube, on your own).
There are pros and cons either way. I feel like the surroundings in an art school could give you some preparation for what you will be facing. You’d have fewer questions about the system, your career path, the meaning of making art, even the ‘pedestal’ [that art rests on].
Who are some artist you admire who should really be on the radar of us clueless, myopic Americans?