Introduction by Jean-Paul Kelly

This program includes Simon Fujiwara’s acclaimed and personal Studio Pietà, Jean-Paul Kelly’s sharp and critical Service of the Goods, and two works by Ming Wong that absurdly and touchingly engage with the legacy of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Eat Fear and Learn German with Petra von Kant.

Studio Pietà
Simon Fujiwara, UK, 2013, digital projection, 20m

The video component of Simon Fujiwara’s acclaimed first New York solo show, which also included a room-sized installation in which the short played in a kind of half studio, half interrogation chamber, is reenactment at its most personal: a record of the British artist’s culturally and sexually fraught attempts to re-create a photo from the 1960s—now long- lost—of his mother being carried by her then-boyfriend, a young Lebanese man, on a beach in Beirut.

Service of the Goods
Jean-Paul Kelly, Canada, 2013, digital projection, 29m

The Toronto-based video artist Jean-Paul Kelly’s gutsy restaging of scenes from films by Frederick Wiseman is, among other things, one of the sharpest recent works of film criticism. Familiar episodes from Titicut Follies, High School, Welfare, and others play out in jarringly altered forms: the subjects have been replaced by bedsheet-draped ghosts, the dialogue swapped out for subtitles, and the settings reduced to their barest scaffolding. The result is at once a canny piece of social criticism in its own right and a revelatory invitation to consider the original works anew.

Eat Fear / Angst Essen
Ming Wong, Germany, 2008, digital projection, 27m

German with German and English subtitles
Ming Wong restages Fassbinder’s 1974 Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, playing every role himself (including the extras), and creates an exquisite interplay between camp, ’50s melodrama, foreignness, and a classic of queer cinema. Wong’s totally committed performance(s) questions the othering of East Asians in the history of cinema and contemporary queer visual culture. Meanwhile, his use of both English and German subtitles proves a reminder of his own otherness as a foreigner living in Berlin. An alternately absurd, touching, and outrageously funny work.

Learn German with Petra von Kant / Lerne Deutsch Mit Petra von Kant
Ming Wong, USA, 2007, digital projection, 10m
German with German and English subtitles

An attempt at “cultural immersion” on the occasion of the Singaporean artist’s relocation to Berlin in 2007, Wong plays Petra in the penultimate, meltdown scene of Fassbinder’s 1972 The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. Presented as a double projection, the short unfolds like an instructional language tape in which Wong repeats Margit Carstensen’s lines after she speaks them. Wong makes little to no attempt to re-create camera movement or mise-en-scène; instead, the camera shifts our attention entirely to his performance, questioning identification and exactly what type of “learning” is going on.