hat made you decide to become an artist? Is it something you knew you wanted to do from a young age?
I didn’t actually know i wanted to be an artist until i started uni, i always wanted to be a screenwriter! I had a very strong love of photography which is what ultimately made me pick the photography degree at UTS. It was only after being taught and exposed to so many great contemporary artists that I realised it was something I wanted to do.
Your photographic work “You’re a good Chinese girl” explores the plurality of your heritage. Is this a self portrait of sorts? Could you please explain a bit more about the personal experiences that led you to create this work? Are there are any poignant childhood memories that stand out for you in terms of coming to understand your heritage?
All the works that I make stem from experiences I’ve had or materials I’ve gravitated towards either as a child or adolescent. I was never really raised with much exposure to Chinese culture and so growing up it was always a something I wanted more of. I think over time I kind of adopted an orientalist fascination with China and so the works I make become an interrogation of this.
“You’re a good Chinese girl” stemmed from my connection with the Disney animated film Mulan. Mulan was really the first animated character that looked like me, and so naturally I started to look to her as a sort of representation of my Chinese heritage. Ironically though, Mulan was created by white Hollywood, and performed poorly in China as many audience members thought that she wasn’t a good reflection of a Chinese girl. I became fascinated with this push/pull effect of culture, and the impact it might have on people like me who are mixed race. The photographic appropriations of Mulan in this body of work was about trying to become more a part of my Chinese heritage, and yet it being an incorrect view of this heritage.
“I became fascinated with this push/pull effect of culture, and the impact it might have on people like me who are mixed race.”
our series “Lez We Forget” features flowing posthumous tributes to various celebrities and known figures who aren’t actually dead. Could you please explain what you are exploring here?
I started researching about the “lesbian death trope” in TV and movies after reading some outcry articles on a few queer blogs I follow (https://www.autostraddle.com, http://www.afterellen.com). It was something I clicked with straight away; this online communal outrage that all these precious queer female characters were being killed off swiftly and unjustly. The installation “Lez We Forget” was about creating a physical space for this mourning and create a physical acknowledgement of what is happening on our screens. When i was younger and coming to terms with my sexuality, I didn’t have a lot of queer friends or a big queer community and so I gravitated towards these characters on tv shows that sort of made it okay for me to be gay. Surely if Willow from Buffy can deal with her sexual orientation then so can I? It’s always been very clear to me how important good representation in main media is and the power of its effect on people. If queer characters keep dying on screen then what do we have to look up to or hold on to?
If you could pinpoint one overarching message that your work is trying to awaken in the viewer what would it be?
Definitely the overarching theme of my work is about identity (be it gender, race or sexual orientation) and how pop culture influences and effects that within a person. I always make work based off personal experiences because I’m so conscious of not speaking for others or assuming the experience of others. I guess I’m just happy if anyone who views my work finds a little connection with it, be it just an acknowledgment of the movie or tv show I refer to, or a deeper connection with a mutual experience or thought.
“I always make work based off personal experiences because I’m so conscious of not speaking for others or assuming the experience of others. I guess I’m just happy if anyone who views my work finds a little connection with it (…) or a deeper connection with a mutual experience or thought.”
Zoe Wong, “Lez We Forget”, Installation shots. Images courtesy of the Artist.
hat memorable responses have you had to your work?
That’s a hard one! Probably in response to “Lez We Forget” a few of my queer friends looked at the work then at me and it was like “I get you”. It was interesting seeing the responses to that installation because some people wouldn’t immediately recognise that they were fictional TV characters. One man even came up to me really concerned and asked me if they were really dead in real life. I like that blur between fiction and not, and that it might playfully confuse the audience.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
My mother always used to tell me to “trust your gut”, which has always helped me in moments of serious indecision and self doubt.
Favourite book? The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Favourite film? Lost in Translation
Favourite band / musician? Between Beyoncé and Joan Armatrading
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be? A screenwriter or a really good real estate agent
If you could change one thing about the world today, what would it be? That we’d all be a little nicer to one another