Making Chinatown (2012) is a remake of Roman Polanski’s 1974 classic neo-noir film Chinatown. According to Wong, the latter is a “textbook” of Hollywood filmmaking. In Ming’s version, he plays all four main characters portrayed originally by Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, and Belinda Palmer, shooting against a backdrop of a film set reproduced as wallpaper in a gallery space. Presented as a seven-channel video installation, Making Chinatown is an immersive viewing experience with different scenarios, lines of conversation, and background music, all merged together into one space where the sense of time collapses. The ending fades to black with no reference of the original film’s site, precisely echoing the fictional nature of Chinatown as a no-place, constructed in an often-detached cultural context.
Ming Wong’s practice has a profound connection with world cinema. Constantly drawing from classic films, Wong investigates issues around identity, linguistics, translation, dislocation, and history through reenactments of well-known films. Often using a deliberately low-budget aesthetic, he restages the films by appropriating and recontextualizing the main storylines and characters. The compelling cultural imaginary created in his films brings forward and wittily satirizes the undermined codes that constitute the infrastructure of our society.