With the invention of low-cost and portable video equipment, artists of the ’60s and ’70s experimented with new video technologies in unrestricted and uninhibited ways. The immediacy and intimacy of the medium brought the focus to concept over product as artists began to see technology as an extension of the body. This selection presents three of Wong’s groundbreaking performances for the camera, along with the premiere of new works from his Unplugged series. Wong’s work continues to have a true appreciation for beauty of imperfections. The light buzz of the video sound, jerky handheld shots and in-camera edits all reveal a sort of de-romanticized rawness that is full of humanity.
Dirs. Paul Wong & Ken Fletcher | Canada 1976 | 4:30
In Wong’s first colour videotape, Ken Fletcher draws several milliliters of blood from his arm and injects the syringe into Paul Wong’s naked back. Focusing on the purple bruise that slowly spreads over Wong’s skin, the video was originally conceived as a sort of homoerotic blood-brother performance that indirectly referenced drug use. But now after more than 20 years of the AIDS epidemic, this dangerous mixing of bodily fluids takes on a more disturbing complexity.
(new digital edit)
Dir. Paul Wong | Canada 1977–2008 | 8:35
Wong self-consciously examines himself through seven days of facial treatments for acne.
(re-mastered single-channel mix)
Dir. Paul Wong | Canada 1978–2008 | 25:00
In a performance that reportedly almost started an unpredictable riot, Wong releases deep feelings of anger and hopelessness in demonstration of pure emotions and power. Boxed off in an eight-by-eight-foot space, monitored by cameras on all sides, Wong repeatedly throws himself into walls and thrashes to the punk lyrics of The Avengers, Patti Smith, and The Sex Pistols. In Ten Sity is dedicated to his good friend and collaborator Kenneth Fletcher (1954–1978). Almost bashing himself unconscious, Wong’s performance compelled people from the audience to throw themselves into the box, and resulted in a violent display. As people uncontrollably interrupt Wong’s performance, he grabs a hold of one of them and wrestles her to the ground.
Dir. Paul Wong | China/USA/Canada 2008 | 18:30
In a trilogy from Unplugged, an album of 16 informal video sketches, Wong revisits his collection of hundreds of uncatalogued videos. Always behind the camera, Wong is as uninhibited and instinctual as ever. Sally (6:00) gazes at beautiful Sally as she relaxes in her bathrobe in the sumptuous suite at the China Club in Beijing. Chelsea Hotel Room 207 (5:00) engages us in a crack-induced euphoria New York hotel room with three men in their underpants. Perfect Day (7:30) focuses on Wong alone in his studio trying to find inspiration. Revealing insecure moments in the everyday life of a mature artist, Wong searches for the roots of his creative process.
Dir. Paul Wong | Canada 2008 | 7:00
In this work featuring muse Jules Francisco performing “Dog Eat Dog” by Joni Mitchell, Wong presents a dark and light side of innocence.