Contortions: The Performance Work of Patty Chang

There is performance that exalts bodily discomfort and performance that renders actions boldly metaphoric. Patty Chang accomplishes both, startling us with images that challenge physical limits and ironically celebrate the feminine through exaggerated acts of display. Some of these acts denounce indignity: for instance, in Melons (At a Loss), Chang slices through her bra, which contains a cantaloupe, and spoons pulp into her mouth; in Fountain, water reflecting Chang's image is loudly slurped from a mirror like a bathroom Narcissus. The icky Eels displays Chang, dressed in parochial garb, squirming with displeasure as live sushi slops around in her blouse. Other works stridently reference the cultural misrendering of Asian women. Both Contortions and Shaved (At a Loss) disclose postures of humiliation as the artist, in traditional dress, contorts into impossible positions or shaves her pubic hair. Chang's most ambitious work, Shangri-La, takes on the myth of paradise, journeying to Zhongdian, the Chinese town that claims to be the model for James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon. Here, cultural production is no different than its make-believe knock-off.

Artist-in-residence Patty Chang performs at the Berkeley Art Museum on Thursday, November 15.

This page may by only partially complete. For additional information about this film, view the original entry on our archived site.