LEE Wen, Ping-Pong Go Round, 1998-, plywood, table tennis paraphernalia, mixed media, 75.5 × 640 (diameter) cm. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Marcos Sebastian.
LEE Wen, Ping-Pong Go Round, 1998-, plywood, table tennis paraphernalia, mixed media, 75.5 × 640 (diameter) cm. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Dominic Tschudin.


Ping-Pong Go Round
Table tennis has been around for nearly a century now. As a sport it is said to be almost equal for the women’s game as compared to that of the man’s.

The game itself is like a dialogue between players on opposite sides. Would it be possible to change its shape to that like a conference table? By making it a doughnut round shape with no borders towards the left and right side, a different perception of the limitations of the preceding game gives new possibilities of a broader dialogue.

A round Ping-Pong table was made out of plywood. It was made up of 15 tabletops to be set up as doughnut shaped. The diameter was 6 meters across. Players play from inside to another player on the outside.

After constructing it, the table was set up for a day in a community center for play by casual visitors. It looked like a sculpture by itself and yet when it is being played it becomes a structure for a sport or game.

The next day it was set up in front the General Post Office, in a pedestrian mall in Melbourne. Again casual passers-by were encouraged to play on the Ping-Pong table. On the third day it was set up in a vacated building where various other installations were also set up for a month long exhibition.

Ping-Pong Go Round at other locations:
The project was re-enacted in the exhibition, “Lee Wen: Lucid Dreams In The Reverie Of The Real” in 2012 at the Singapore Art Museum with two versions. An Olympic standard length large version that was located in the front of SAM@8Q the annexe block and a smaller one in the main museum where the other works of the exhibition was shown.

At first I was not too happy to present the smaller one as it was scaled down to fit into the classroom dimensions of SAM that was after all a renovated building from the old St. Joseph Institution. But as it turns out the smaller table had its advantages, as Margaret Tan of Taiwan's Bamboo Curtain observed the smaller one is more intimate where players have to hit the ball with more care, just like a more considered speech at the international meetings or conferences of globalisation and diverse societies and countries of multi-culturalism.

As Ping-Pong Go Round continues to be featured in exhibitions around the world, the work has invited and encouraged dialogues in and challenge to the perception of the possibilities in art as well as in sports and games.

In this work, the structure and rules of table tennis are reinvented with the thought of new possibilities, as the artist seeks alternative models of player interaction. By reinventing the shape of a traditional ping-pong table to present a version without fixed places for player location, Lee opens different perception of the game’s playing regulations, providing possibilities for broader and more variable player interaction.

As a sport, ping-pong is said to be as much a woman’s game as it is a man’s. Ping-Pong Go Round evolves the game into a multi-player game and enables dialogues and player interaction around a doughnut-shaped table between numerous people, regardless of gender or age.



Born in 1957, Singapore.
Lives and works in Singapore.