Adrian Wong

Adrian Wong was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois in 1980. Originally trained in research psychology (receiving a Master’s degree from Stanford University in 2003), he began making and exhibiting work in San Francisco while concurrently conducting experiments on young children. He continued his post-graduate studies at Yale University, where he received an MFA in 2005. He has been based in Hong Kong since 2005, where he is the co-founder and director of Embassy Projects, an arts consultancy and independent production studio. His recent exhibitions include the traveling exhibition “Troglodyte See the Light,” “A Passion for Creation” for the Louis Vuitton Fondation pour la Création, and “Hong Kong Eye” at the Saatchi Gallery. His videos have been screened internationally at the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, and Kunsthalle Wien.

May 29, 2014

A bit about art and me

Art is important in my life, because…
it allows me to investigate a wide range of subject matter without the limitations imposed by other fields of study. I previously worked as a research psychologist, and found myself constantly butting into the boundaries of my demarcated area of focus—in my case, early developmental metacognition. As an artist, I can freely immerse myself in areas as diverse as paleontology, Taoist cosmology, and telepathic human-animal communication (three subjects that are driving my studio practice this year).

Art goes best with… snacks.

Three words that best describe art according to you... liminal, dynamic, difficult

An art exhibition you have enjoyed recently... I really enjoyed Theaster Gates’ most recent solo show at White Cube, “My Back, My Wheel, and My Will.”

Best city to go to for art... Los Angeles

Your favorite museum in the world... My favorite museum would have to be the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago. It was where I got my first taste of contemporary art, and has never failed to impress on my countless return visits.

The artist you would like to have lunch with... I have already had lunch with the artist I would like to have lunch with, but if given the opportunity to have lunch with him again, I’d take it—Pierre Huyghe. 

The artwork you’d like to have hanging in your living room... One of John McCracken’s polyester resin sculptures from the 1960’s—not one of the leaning ones, but one that stands on its own weight. I think I’d take a brown one. 

Chinese contemporary art for you is… not, or at least should not be, immune to the level of criticality expected of its non-Chinese counterparts.

Something I would like to share

I was walking down the street on the evening of Monday, February 28th in Tai Hang, with a good friend of mine, when we happened upon a hotdog. It lay there on the sidewalk, flattened like a pancake, but otherwise unaffected –as if some cartoon penguin had moments before, rolled over it with her Zamboni on its virgin voyage. We both took pause and marveled at this wonder for a moment, and just as we had had our fill, a car peeled out from an adjacent alleyway and came screeching to a halt. The driver emerged from the nondescript vehicle (an olive-toned Honda Accord, possibly a Toyota Corolla), lifted the hotdog carefully from its resting place –using his thumb and index finger, not unlike a photographer handling an albumin print, and proceeded to place it into the trunk of his car. He subsequently drove away, and we were left dumbstruck, puzzling over what we had just witnessed.

Having lived and worked in Hong Kong for the bulk of the last half-decade, I have been inspired by the boundless intersections and overlapping narratives (visual, linguistic, sonic, and anthropological) that live as vestigial fragments of history in a city renewed, reclaimed, redeveloped, and rebuilt almost beyond recognition. My research and works have run the gamut from secret cabals of revolutionaries in Kowloon at the turn of the century, to the invocation of ghosts from beyond the gates of hell and their banishment (from my body itself) via exorcism by Taoist holymen, to the uncovering of personal ties to the region through a mapping of estranged relatives and long severed branches of my family tree, to the propagation and organic development of false histories superimposed upon false histories manifesting in a constructed and transient truth more rich and fruitful than the Truth itself, which returns us to the mystery of the hotdog collector, whom I have affectionately dubbed Frank, who strikes at the heart of the present investigation.


SCENARIO 1. A deeply moral individual, Frank is stricken with guilt after dropping his lunch (a seitan-based frank purchased from a local organic eatery) on his way back to the office. Having landed beside a puddle of dog urine, the bun had absorbed the surrounding liquid, rendering it inedible. Later that evening, Frank’s conscience forces him to return to the scene of the crime and clean up his mess. Upon arriving, he discovers the hotdog well trod, but preserved by the ambient uric acid concentration.

SCENARIO 2. Frank and his beloved, Francine, in a moment of emotional frisson are unable to control their building intolerance towards each other’s dietary restrictions: him, a vegetarian with celiac disease, her, a diehard carnivore with a penchant for processed meats. Frank wrestles Bernice’s kielbasa from her grip, and in his frustration, maliciously flattens it beneath his size 47 Sperry Top-Sider. Bernice bursts into tears and they part ways. Before retiring for the evening, Frank returns to the scene of the altercation to retrieve the lifeless carcass of his relationship.

SCENARIO 3. A hotdog pressed between two dictionaries, on a 13th floor balcony, heats in the afternoon sun. Oils released from the warming meat permeates, via osmosis its intestinal casing, the surrounding bread, and the bindings of Mssr. Webster and Mssr. Coleridge’s life work. Dislodged from its position, the flattened sheet of meat (and bread) falls to the ground below and catches the eye of conceptual artist and amateur philosopher Frank [sur. Senbeyns], headed to his car. The impression of that image builds and by the time he reaches his car, he’s convinced that the meat sheet is a sign from above. It’s quickly retained for future contemplation.

Ultimately, we may never know Frank’s true intentions. We may never know how that hot dog came to be flattened just so. But through that not knowing, Frank and the frank both are disentangled from the constraints of static truth. Frank can simultaneously be a clumsy moralist, a spurned lover, an aesthete… Therein lies the oft-overlooked bright side to Hong Kong’s famously poor historical preservation efforts. Nearly all of Hong Kong’s early films have been lost to humidity or water damage; locally produced television programs were almost exclusively shot live and broadcast directly into homes (many of the rest, lost in warehouse fires); countless numbers of the city’s most revered landmarks have been sacrificed in the name of progress –some neighborhoods, razed in urban renewal efforts; and much of the collected history that remains, systematically redacted in the name of saving face. These are not things to be proud of –they are unquestionable tragedies- yet they highlight the enduring, irrepressible quality of Hong Kong’s underlying spirit. Without the tether to empirical facts, the city’s past expands into a rich and palpable phantasy fueled by an infinite regress of Franks and franks and franks and Franks, strewn backwards and forwards through our collective consciousness.


My paternal grandfather, Eddy Wang (sic) Yee Hang was a prolific soundtrack composer for the Shaw Brothers’ kung fu films of the 1960’s and 70’s. Through this branch of the family tree, I am also related to early Hong Kong television personality, Calvin Wong Hay (Kar-Ming Sook-Sook), and children’s magician Harry Wong (Harry Gor-Gor).

I was formerly the tenant of a haunted studio in the New Territories, where I experienced several strange events including: viscous black sludge, which would periodically run from the pipes; doors which repeatedly bolted themselves from the inside; an attack by a large monkey-like creature; and bouts of unexplained internal bleeding. The situation was rectified during a public exorcism (designed to expel evil spirits from my body) that took place in October 2007.

Two of my current studio assistants are juvenile rabbits. Ernesto is a Mini Rex Netherland Dwarf cross and Michael is a Harlequin Netherland Dwarf cross. The third is a very talented local artist, Roy Ng Ting Ho.

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