Without wanting to yuck someone else’s yum (as the saying goes), the breathless list of perversities on view in “Golden Shower”—Wong Ping’s first solo exhibition at a major institution—is enough to make an adult film star blush. There’s the elderly man who gets off on the smell of his pregnant daughter-in-law’s soiled underwear; the husband who darkly fantasizes about turning invisible and sodomizing a police officer; and the teenager who’s obsessed with the, shall we say, unusual placement of his classmate’s breasts on her back. All of this in sharp contrast to the relentlessly cheerful aesthetic of the films themselves, which bring to mind the color-saturated, blocky simplicity of 1980s computer games. It’s this world that the cross-generational protagonists of Ping’s animations must navigate; and they are not handling it well.

Misogynist, violent, and jealousy-fuelled thoughts consume the minds of Ping’s characters, which we hear mostly in first-person accounts, read by the artist himself in deadpan Cantonese. But the activities in each of the seven films featured in the exhibition are communicated free of judgment and—excluding part one and two of “Wong’s Fables” (2018 and 2019 respectively), which are moralistic by design—any discernible lesson. If anything, there is an element of glee to the more profane plots. In four of the five rooms in the show, Ping presents installations that act as environments for his animations, further amplifying the feeling of being inside someone else’s fever dream. In the small, dark room featuring Jungle of Desire (2015), for instance, about a man who encourages his wife to become a sex worker because of his inability to pleasure her, a clowder of Maneki-neko cats sit atop purple fake fur spread in front of the projection screen, beckoning to viewers with ceramic penises in place of arms. In the following space, three short films are shown on televisions mounted onto a massive plinth that is actually a penis with a revolving head. The only room where there isn’t a film includes three mannequins wearing shark costumes hanging limply from springs like broken jack-in-the-boxes (Bestiality rider R, Bestiality rider A, and Bestiality rider T, all 2019). For some reason, their hands are also fitted with little plastic finger “condoms”; not since Jake and Dinos Chapman’s circa 2011 works have child mannequins been treated so badly.

But to only pay attention to the #NSFW content of these animations would be to do them a disservice. Ping’s characters are a result of their environment rather than being examples of individual anomalies. If they’re messed up, that’s because the world is too. The artist has said repeatedly in interviews that sex is the language of his work, not its message, and it’s a statement that rings true. The exhibition’s opening film, Dear, can I give you a hand (2018), focuses on an elderly widower and, despite its explicit content, emerges as a tale about generational differences. This plays out first between the elderly man and his son and “young and successful” daughter-in-law who live with him. They encroach on his space, forcing him to throw away more and more of his belongings, until he resigns himself to getting rid of his most prized-possession: a stack of pornographic VHS tapes. (Before you feel too sorry for him, it’s worth noting he paid for the tapes by diluting his dying wife’s medicine.) After ditching a trash bag full of them on the street, a young woman chases after him, not to chastise him for the content of the tapes as one might expect, but to encourage him to recycle. “She teaches me many new things,” the protagonist explains, “like upcycling, intellectual property rights, gender fluidity…” It’s a rare moment of togetherness in a series of works that more often focuses on how binaries—male and female, young and old, analog and digital, virile and impotent—can cause pain, isolation, and alienation.