Ming Wong was the second Pearson Creative Research Fellow to join the Learning team at the British Library. His Fellowship began in November 2003 and culminated with the performance piece HOMOFONIA in February 2005.
As an artist, Ming explores performances, language, moving images and cultural identity. During his time with the Learning team, his research focused on recordings from the British Library Sound Archive, particularly those featuring 'nonsense' English. Material that interested him included historical recordings of experimental literature read by the authors, or interpreted by acclaimed voice actors; recordings of 'sound poetry' from the 1970s; extracts of British comedians; and English translations of foreign language texts. His focus was principally on material that 'made sense' only when heard or read aloud with meaning forever remaining ambiguous, slippery and elusive.
HOMOFONIA - an interactive live art event held at the British Library in February 2005 - featured eight actors aged 12 to 70 who were transformed into 'human gramophones' and who performed pieces inspired by the recordings of 'nonsense' specifically from the Drama and Literature collection of the Sound Archive. The event was an attempt to breathe life back into what was essentially recorded data by returning the historical work back to its original source - the human voice.
The limitations and artefacts of sound recording technologies remained as much a part of the work as the words themselves: the 'human gramophones' hissed, skipped, slowed down or got caught in a groove. It was also up to the audience to keep winding up the gramophones and to place their fingers on the records to play them.
In this way, a 'sonic garden' was created at the British Library, with different voices coming from all directions intoning, muttering, singing and proclaiming 'nonsense' in English.
Click on the link below to watch a short film of HOMOFONIA
Click on the links below to listen to extracts from individual performances.