‘I’m interested in how storytelling contributes to our perception of reality, and how I can reconstruct that reality’.
Alice Wong is story designer en geeft les aan de Design Academy Eindhoven in het departement Information Design.
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Ze is geboren in Nederland en vanaf haar vierde opgegroeid in Hongkong. Later kwam ze weer terug naar Nederland voor haar studie, en is hier sindsdien gebleven.
Alice vertaald haar onderzoek naar audiovisuele verhalen, en probeert op deze manier haar publiek uit te dagen om kritischer te denken over waar we precies elke dag door de media aan blootgesteld worden: is het de ‘echte’ waarheid, of is het allemaal geconstrueerd?
Alice was aanwezig als spreker op de tweede PAC x Pakhuis editie PAC, Meet Global Citizens, the Chinese community 2.0. Ook was haar indrukwekkende videoinstallatie ‘Double 11’ te zien, verspreid over 7 grote schermen, wat gaat over de succesvolle commerciële Chinese feestdag ‘Singles Day‘ gaat.
PAC interviewde haar onder meer over haar werkfilosofie, het verschil tussen de Hongkongse cultuur en de Nederlandse cultuur, en hoe Nederland haar wereldbeeld heeft beïnvloed. (Engelstalig)
PAC: Why did you decide to come back to the Netherlands?
Alice: ‘I grew up in the village of my grandparents, in Hong Kong. My mother’s family are part of the natives of Hong Kong. This means they are very traditional and conservative. There are certain gender roles that are also always pushed onto me. For example, if you are on your period, you cannot enter a temple or a group meeting with people of the village. There’s also a lot of rituals, traditional beliefs and superstitious acts. I did not really feel like I belonged in this kind of place.
I think the creative scene here is very interesting. If I were in Hong Kong now, I probably would have done work that’s consumer-related. I’m more interested in working on a cultural and educational level. In the Netherlands, I have an audience that challenges me more: they like to discuss things with me and be critical about my work, which is very stimulating on an intellectual level. In Hong Kong, we would be having business-oriented conversations instead.
The people in the Netherlands are very individualistic, doing things by themselves, which confronted me as I was not used to that mentality. It made me start thinking about who I am exactly, and how my reality is different from someone else’s reality. That’s why I am interested in how storytelling contributes to our perception of reality, and how I can reconstruct that reality.’
PAC: What do you mean by the ‘reconstructing reality’?
Alice: ‘Let’s take the word ‘shooting’ for example. Everyone will have a shooting scenario in their head, even though the majority of us haven’t really witnessed one. Then where do we have this image from? It’s from the media, the news we saw, and the movies that we watched. Your mind clusters all the shootings you’ve seen in the media and constructs one image that is your truth.
So whether I have a project about Jack Ma, Alibaba, or traditional weaving, I always think about the construction of our minds on these subjects, and how I can reconstruct that reality into something that makes us conscious of the influence of media on our perceptions.’
PAC: You’ve been everywhere with your projects, to film festivals and exhibitions, but mostly in Europe. Have you also shown your work in Hongkong yet?
Alice: ‘No, they don’t accept me. When I uploaded my videos for a film festival, they told me I violated the intellectual property rights, because I work with found footage. But that footage is necessary for me to illustrate exactly the point I’m trying to make: the images you create in your head are shaped by the media. By borrowing that footage, we can create a familiar feeling in an unfamiliar context. I’m glad the Dutch film festivals understand the significance of this. I still get requests sometimes to show my old movies to an audience. It makes me thrilled to see that this topic is relevant to the people here.’
PAC: Do you feel more like a Hong Konger, or more Dutch?
Alice: ‘It depends. It’s mainly certain events that happen around one of the cultures that will make me feel close. For example, what’s happening in Hong Kong, the protests, makes me feel like I really am a Hong Konger. And if anything is happening in the Dutch creative community, I will feel like ‘yeah! I’m a Dutch designer’. I don’t mind being in between and I don’t need to be defined. Not only culture-wise, but also when people refer to me as a filmmaker, while I’m also a designer. And other people put me as an artist. But it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, we are here to share and to create something meaningful.’
PAC: Any prejudices in the Netherlands that bother you?
Alice: ‘Last year, I went to a dentist. They saw my passport is Dutch, and they asked: ‘Which Dutch prince did you find to marry?’ and I said ‘Dutch prince? I am my own prince!’ I know I don’t have to take these people serious, and most of them mean no harm, but it does depend on my mood how I take it.
We tend to think stereotyping is bad, but after working on a project about ‘us’ and ‘them’, about how they depict the Chinese-American in America, I started to learn that stereotyping is not necessarily bad, it’s just the first step to get to know a certain thing. Of course we tend to stereotype, because our mind is so limited. We think we understand something, and that’s it. So I think it’s a very important first step to take: we start with stereotypes, but then we have to debunk it by creating even more stereotypes. By creating more stereotypes, we can neutralize it in the end. That’s what I hope at least. So when people are stereotyping me, I don’t get mad, I try to talk to them. If they don’t listen, the problem lies with them, not me.’