Wong Kit Yi

By turning her research into lectures and films with sing-along subtitles, Wong Kit Yi makes entertaining and conceptual use of karaoke. When not creating and performing karaoke lectures, she exists as her alter ego Ali (Wong’s given English name), who is like the artist in every way only far more professional and organized. Perhaps it’s Ali who takes care of applying for artist’s residencies. In 2015, Wong participated in the Arctic Circle Expeditionary Residency, which brings artists and scientists together just ten degrees shy of the North Pole. The opportunity to spend time in a remote place with an extreme climate is also what drew her to Chinati.

At her open studio event, Wong screened Dial 432 to See the Light as a work in progress; the video is accessible on Chinati’s website as an online program. Through an improbable web of associations, a series of pseudoscientific and playful propositions gained traction and complexity. “Marfa, Texas, is an island in an ocean of desert,” begins the female voice-over, speaking slightly hesitantly, in karaoke cadences. The focus quickly shifts to China and the workers who built the Trans-Pacific Railroad, then toggles back to Texas, where the only Chinese cemetery in the state is located in El Paso. “Does heaven have strict immigration policies and hell an open door,” muses the narrator. The border between life and death conjures bagpipe music for Wong, who remembers that it often accompanied televised funerals in Hong Kong under British rule. Donald Judd’s record collection—with its sixty bagpipe recordings—naturally follows. From here, the rumination on pipes turns industrial (Judd’s use of metal pipe to plumb his first sculptures with space) then astronomical (the tube of the telescope at the nearby McDonald Observatory). Wong’s curiosity culminates in a calculated attempt to open her third eye by setting the drone of a homemade trash-bag bagpipe to hertz 432 and 852 (the area and country codes of Marfa and Hong Kong respectively) in order to see the light.

Wong Kit Yi (born 1983 in Hong Kong; lives in New York City and Hong Kong) studied traditional ink painting at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; she received her MFA in sculpture at Yale University. Recent commissions include Yes-Jet-Lag / 你好時差 for 50 Artists: Art on the Grid (2020), Public Art Fund, New York, and Inner Voice Transplant for FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art (2022). Inspired by Judd’s furniture, her project based on the Chinese ceramic pillow is presented at the Times Museum in Guangzhou, China this fall.