Wong Ping, The Modern Way to Shower 摩登沐浴法, 2019
As with much of Wong Ping’s work, The Modern Way To Shower is infusedwith allegory, myth and fantasy alongside incisive social commentary and self-reflection. We see a window into the artist’s life and commitments via various apps and communication platforms as we delve into the screen of his mobile device. A message from a curator at the ICA, Miami begins proceedings when they ask if he has made any progress with the forthcoming show. Wong Ping replies that a psychic has informed him of the show’s title but that is all. The artist then engages the services of a mysterious sex worker called Ruby, who never reveals their face from behind their latex outfits but who nonetheless becomes the central figure of the work. Sat in a bath, in an opulent bathroom, she follows commands in exchange for financial tips and is helped through a series of instructions for camera by her assistant. The text communication is seen as a continual stream of dialogue, fraught with ethical considerations, rules, limits and consent negotiations. The artist is transparent about using this situation to generate ideas for a forthcoming show, but Ruby wants the exchange to remain strictly transactional.
Wong Ping has asked if the setting of their online BDSM exchange can reference the aesthetics of the pro-democracy protests that are occurring in Hong Kong at the time. The police had begun firing blue water from cannons at protestors, and we see Ruby in blue bath water, being showered by her assistant. Wong Ping administers the commands which we begin to read as an allegory for police control, domination and brutality. Conversely, to the state-administered violence, it is Ruby who reminds the artist of the rules of engagement and to respect the established power dynamics in this particular scenario – ‘being gentle will cost you more, being rough is free’. This uncomfortable and fractured exchange highlights the possibility of negotiating power without violence and domination with consent yet this vision of equity is undermined by the other intrusions into Wong Ping’s device. His mother messages asking if he is at the protests, he receives Tinder notifications, pulls up news articles and browses his Spotify account. It seems that the ethical concerns of the moment, as well as their broader implications on a global scale, are just consumed as media noise alongside everything else. The video ends when Wong Ping’s battery dies, leaving a sense that such digital homogenization has rendered all experience as one of consumption, even when the moral stakes are high.
|Medium||Single channel video, 9:16, colour, with sound|
|Duration||12 minutes 30 seconds|
|Edition||of 5 + 2APs|