Globalization and the Image
Session VI
2001 MMLA Convention
Cleveland, Ohio
2-3 November

Ivy I-chu Chang
Department of Language and Research
National Chiao Tung University


The Portrait of the Asian American Queer as an Artist: Tseng Kwong Chi's Photographs and SlutForArt

Do not cite without permission of the author.

Tseng Kwong Chi, an Asian American photographer, drew art critics' attention with his ten-year project, "East Meets West: the Expedition Series." The series includes more than 90 mythic travel snapshots Tseng took of himself over the course of a decade. From the Statue of Liberty to Cape Canaveral, Disney World to Kamloops, the World Trade Center to the Grand Canyon, whether he appears prominently in the foreground or as a small figure in the distance. In these mostly black-and-white self-portraits , Tseng always wears Mao suit, black sunglasses, and a badge attached to his upper breast pocket saying "Visitor: SlutForArt." Tseng's face was expressionless, an effect aided by the reflective sunglasses he wears; his right hand usually held the cable release which triggered the camera's shutter. A blend of photograph and performance art, they invoke a transient trying to prove that he has been here, the modern everyman alienated from time and space. As he described himself in Chiristine Lombardi's film East Meets West: Portrait of Tseng Kwong Chi, " I am an inquisitive traveler, a witness of my time, and an ambiguous ambassador."

Tseng was born in Hong Kong and immigrated together with his family to Vancouver, Canada, at the age of 16. At twenties, he received most of his formal art training in Paris. In 1978, Tseng moved to New York City to pursue his career as of an artist and later became very active in East Village and Club 57 scene. It is tragic that AIDS destroyed him in the midst of his prime and he died at the age of 40, in 1990. In 1999, nine years following his death, Muna Tseng, his sister, collaborated a visual dance theater with Asian American director Ping Chong. This dance theater titled SlutForArt combines recorded oral interviews, multi-media, Tseng's family photos and art works, in memory of Tseng and those artists who died of AIDS. Invoked by the images in Tseng's photographs and diaries which documented the work and lives of New York City's downtown artist in the 1980's, Tseng Muna's dance theater was the interaction of performance, photography, painting, and other media that defined the urban sensibility of a generation, of a community of artists, who were also his friends. This paper is aimed at analyzing Tseng Kwong Chi's "Expeditionary Series" and Tseng Muna's memorial dance theater SlutForArt, and then discussing: first, during the paradoxical process of cultural reproduction, how an Asian American artist appropriates the westerners' stereotype of "Chinese" to fabricate his identity and to interact with the commercial institute; Second, how Asian American artists employ artistic tactics of over-presence, excess, and absence to suture the slippage between everyday experiences and memories and then pastiche portrait of self and other; Third, where the global meet the local, how a queer photographer who travels like a flaneur projects Eros and death via fashion and photography, the technologies of fetishization; how he infiltrates like an alien in and out the cultural borders to play with the oblique meanings of cultural objects and to map queer cartography.

Portrait of Self and Other

It was by accident that Mao suite was used by Tseng Kwong Chi as his trademark; however, it became his short cut to art business as well as a pass to the social gatherings of New York's celebrities. In an interview with the New York Time's reporter, Muna Tseng recalled, as her brother and she moved to New York in 1978, they were both poor. One day their parents from Canada visited them and were about to treat them with a hearty meal at the Windows on the World restaurant in the World Trade Center. "I was with my parents already," Muna Tseng said, " And then Kwong Chi arrived. Since the dress code was suit and tie and he didn't have a suit and tie, he showed up in this uniform, carrying his chic black leather camera bag. The maitre took one look at him and treated him like a V.I.P., like a dignitary." (Margarett Loke 1996) Tseng's parents, especially his father who used to be a KMT member fleeing to Hong Kong after Chinese communists' take-over of the mainland China, were mortified by their son's get-up. However, Tseng was inspired with this anecdote and found his photographic persona. The severe gray Mao suit gave him an identity that allowed him entry to any event he cared to photograph because people believed he was possibly an ambassador or some Chinese dignitary. To complete the image, he dropped the name he had always used, Joseph, and began using his Chinese name, Kwong Chi. And he insisted on the traditional last-name-first sequence, as in Mao Zedong (Margarett Loke 1996).

For work and partying, Tseng donned his Chinese outfit, which sometimes ironically coincides with the saying "you are what you wear." Tseng Kwong Chi wearing the outfit once crashed Diana Vreeland's "Party of the Year" in 1980 on the opening night of "The Manchu Dragon: Costumes of the Ching Dynasty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Muna Tseng recalled. "No one knew he had crashed the party. This get-up got him in, got him to greet the guests as they came up the steps. Henry Kissinger posed with him. Yves St. Laurent and he were speaking in French and St. Laurent said: 'Oh, your French is so good. Were you in the embassy in France." Kwong Chi also used the suit to photograph the first Concord landing at Kennedy International Airport. He rented a van and got security clearance. He drove the van right to the tarmac and photographed the Concorde. (Margarett Loke 1996).

Mao Suit was used by Kwong Chi to fabricate his photographic persona as well as identity. Ironically, he has never set foot on the mainland China. For a man who was born in Hong Kong and resided in Canada and then the States, Mao suit and what it symbolized might seem more "foreign" and "exotic" than American things. However, yearning to draw immediate attention, Kwong Chi tactically appropriated Americans' stereotype of "Chinese" and picked out Mao suit as his trademark, which at that time coincided with Americans' rising interest in Chinese culture following the United States' normalization of its relationship with the mainland China. Employing Mao suit as an artifice reflects Tseng Kwong Chi's contradiction with his Asian American identity. His sister said that Kwong Chi would rather be identified as an artist than an "Asian American artist." To Tseng Kwong Chi, being identified as an Asian American artist means being ghettoized and marginalized. Tseng's ambivalence was a response to the cultural atmosphere of the States in the late 70's. At the turn form the 70's to the 80's, insofar as American government and academia had not started promoting multicultural program and curriculum, those literary and art works emphasizing Asian American ethnicity could hardly find a place in market. Comparatively speaking, the consumers of cultural products seemed less interested in the works highlighting Asian American live experiences than those depicting China as their backdrop or those emphasizing "authentic" Chineseness. Not until the early eighties when multiculturalism was promoted and practiced by the government and academia had the situation been changed (King-kok Cheung 1999: 4). Under such cultural atmosphere, it is quite understandable that Kwong Chi refused to be labeled as an "Asian American artist" yet but picked out Mao suit as a decipher of his "Chineseness." To an Asian American artist like Tseng Kwong Chi, Mao suit not only works as a fashion which fabricates his photographic persona, but also operates as a sign which allows him for interplay with the signifying system of American cultural reproduction. In his early semiotic analysis of the rhetoric of fashion, Roland Barthes notes that, like language, fashion is "a system of signifiers, a classificatory activity, much more semiological than sociological" (Roland Barthes 1983: 280). In other words, the meanings of fashion lie in the signifiers repeatedly reproduced by fashion system such as vogue magazines and fashion discourses which "naturalize" fashion and relate us to it. Furthermore, in the signifying system of fashion, always arises the arbitrary replacement, slippage, and displacement between the signifier and the signified as time goes by. At that time when the United States broke the ice over the decades and established diplomatic tie with the mainland China, Mao suit became a fashion which projected the west's narcissistic gaze onto the oriental. In a paradoxical process, it signified the leftists' mourning for the loss of their ideals following the end of ten-year cultural revolution in the mainland China (1966-1976); on the other hand, it projected the capitalist and imperialist gaze and desire onto the vast Chinese market made accessible by the normalization of the United States-China relations. With artifice, Tseng made use of the best timing to employ Mao suit as a sign to fabricate his ideal ego, and then conducted his role enactment along the circuit mirroring the leftists' mourning for the loss of ideal, the imperialist gaze, and the artist's primary narcissism.

Kwong Chi's photos of "East Meets West: The Expedition Series" were taken at the world's most iconic tourist spots, which provide people with great opportunities for cultural and economic exchanges. In those places where the global meet the local, the scenic spots together with local attractions have become cliche for being reproduced again and again by numerous post cards, mass media, advertisements, and the tourists' camera. These cliché icons with their familiarity more or less relieve the tourists' anxiety when they are faced with uncertainties on their routes of travel. After arriving at their destinations, the tourists took out their cameras to shoot pictures of those historical sites, national monuments, and natural scenery over and over. By repeatedly reproducing these cliche icons, the photographs help people take imaginary possession of the past that is unreal; they also give people the possession of spaces in which they have been insecure. However, the framed "time" and "space" are negations of continuity and interconnectedness.

At first glance, Kwong Chi's self-portraits in Mao suit taken in the world's most iconic sites seem like post card cliché, but these cliches have been recycled with alienation from time and space. Rather than blending in with the scenery, Kwong Chi's posture makes him look all the more alien. In Disneyland, Kwong Chi with sun glasses and austere expression posed beside Mickey. One hand clenching remote shutter release and another hand hanging onto a bunch of balloons, Kwong Chi looked like an alien visitors who looked oddly at home. In a stark photograph of the Statue of Liberty, Kwong Chi's alter ego was imposing as the Lady with the Torch as both leant at the same angle and were captured in three-quarter view. In contrast with the Liberty's upheld torch, his arm extended rigidly downward, fist clutching the bulb of his shutter-release-cable. At Cape Canaveral, Kwong Chi shook hands with an astronaut in full regalia. Kwong Chi's rigid stance and his stoned face reinforced by the mirror shades made him monolithic. Both traveler and astronaut were as otherworldly as the contraption behind them.

Kwong Chi's self-portrait series were inflected with "camp." Camp, according to Susan Sontag, "is a certain form of aestheticism [...] in terms of artifice, of stylization." (Susan Sontag 1966: 279). As a performing artist, Kwong Chi added ironic twist to the familiar. He subtly superimposed his Mao-suited image with the stance of Everytraveler. However, rather than blending in with the scenery, the persona in Kwong Chi's photographs --- unsmiling, ascetic, unknowable --- made him look like an alien. It was through alienation and displacement that Kwong Chi pastiched two sets of cliche images --- Mao suite and tourist icons, which were incongruous contrast with each other. With ironic twist and campy style, Kwong Chi created "meta-cliches" as termed by Susan Sontag, According to Susan Sontag, "there is a steady recycling of the artifacts and tastes o the past. Cliches, recycled, become meta-cliches. The photographic recycling makes cliches out of unique objects, distinctive and vivid artifacts out of cliches. Images of real things are interlayered with images of images." (Susan Sontag 1990: 175). In the creative process, Kwong Chi recycled cliches by making distinctive and vivid artifact, and layered images of real things with images of images, which forms "strata of images" (Susan Sontag 1990: 175), multiplying the visual effects and meaning of those images.

Kwong Chi's Camp is also his self-reflexive queer performance (Dan Bacalzo 2000: 7). Queer scholar Jack Babuscio regards "camp" as politics---especially in its irony- to interpellate gay sensibility by highlighting "any highly incongruous contrast between an individual or a thing and its context or association." (Jack Babuscio 1993: 20). As mentioned above, in Kwong Chi's self-portrait series, he always wears a photo identity (almost without the viewers' notice), "visitors: SlutfForArt." The word "slut" implies promiscuous woman, which playfully forecloses the rigidity and masculinity of Mao suit and also aligns with Tseng's private desire for gender crossing. As Tseng traveled like an obscene flaneur with his photographs taken with monuments, statues, mountains, and lakes, he infiltrated across borders like an alien with queer desire, mapping various countries into queer cartography. Semiologically, Kwong Chi's self-portrait series are composed of three sets of incongruous contrasted signs: the masculine and rigid Mao suit recycling political cliché; the identity badge of SlutforArt implying the private desire of gender crossing; and the tourist icons displaying aesthetics of uselessness. The three sets of signs confront and empty out meanings of one another. To note Roland Barthes, fashion and tourist icons like Eiffel Tower are analogous to each other since both display aesthetics of uselessness and induce pleasure of excess (which is also a kind of waste); their uselessness makes them indefinite signs. The empty theme is expansive; the empty sign is open to all meanings. Empty theme and sign are most possible registers, which anticipate the enlargement and proliferation of meanings, and the suspended moment of euphoria (Barthes 1983: 255-66). Kwong Chi's self-portrait series which are "camped" with sets of incongruous signs seem both useless and expansive, empty and indefinite, unconscious and sensual.

Most photographs of the "Expedition Series" Kwong Chi took in the course of ten years are imbued with the same tone: Kwong Chi's robotic stance, his monochrome geometrical costume and his austere expression reinforced by impenetrable mirror shades render him virtually monolithic. The overall views of more than ninety self-portraits seem like simulacra in void of historical depth and verisimilitude. In simulation which blurs the divide between depth and surface, the signs no longer reflect a definite reality but are self-reflexive signifiers in a closed system. Baudrillard puts it, simulation is the ultimate form of representation. In contrast to representation which starts from the principle that the sign and the real are equivalent, simulation "stems from the utopia of the principle of equivalence, from the radical negation of the sign as value, from the sign as reversion and death sentence of every reference" (Baudrillard,1994: 6). Kwong Chi's self-portrait series could be regarded as simulacra of queer performance which fabricates identity in a closed, self-reflexive system, a system stemming from incessant negation of value and reversion of reference.

A photograph invites different ways of reading. In terms of the genre of visual arts, Kwong Chi's "Expedition Series" should be categorized as self-portrait. However, those mystified and totemized self-portrait series have not equipped us with personal understanding of Tseng Kwang Chi. On the other hand, they look like a young artist's portraits of self-alienation and portraits of other. We can explore the tone of eroticism and death of these portraits by investigating the dialectic relationship between subject and object via the fetish transformation of photography. Kwong Chi's ten-year project of "Expedition Series" are less records of verisimilitude in different parts of the world than the geographical movement of the camera which takes snapshots of Kwong Chi's mutation in different backdrops-the simulacra of death, the eulogy of a man who died of AIDS. Susan Sontag compares shooting camera to "soft murder" :

To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them by symbolically possessing them. Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder-a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time. (Susan Sontag 1990: 14-15).

To take a photograph is to participate in another person's mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Every moment when Kwong Chi snaps the shutter, he is narcissistically participating in his own vulnerability and mutability. Freezing the endlessly suspended moment of mutation, he is recording how time has eroded himself and how death has stealthily approached himself. To take photograph of someone is to transform him into an object. Roland Barthes has put it, the photographic image is the place of both a constitution and a fading of subjectivity; photography never ceases in its attempt to restore the lost object, the reference that has been but is no longer (Barthes 1981: 76). He also writes about photography's mechanical transformation of subjects into objects:

...the Photograph... represents that very subtle moment when... I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I then experience a micro version of death (of parenthesis): I am truly becoming a specter. (Roland Barthes 1981: 14)

Tseng Kwong Chi's "Expedition Series" allow us for glimpses into the micro vision of Eros and Death. The young queer artist with a cable release at hand casts a narcissistic look at himself and fixes his own image; photography captures the critical point where he is both subject and object; neither subject nor object. In retrospect, the viewers looking at these photographs feel like seeing that the photographic persona returns from an unreal past, revisiting monuments, memorial towers, and historical sites, the spatialization of the eternal death.

Photography mechanically transforms the photographic persona into the fetish, turning him into excess and representational waste. Diana Fuss analogues photography to "the technology of abjection" (1994: 222), which embalms each subject by captivating and fixing its image. Fuss writes, "Photography functions not merely as a technological analog for the psychical workings of fetishism but as one of its internal properties--- that is, the fetish itself has the frozen, arrested quality of a photography" (Fuss 1994: 216). Kwong Chi's self-portrait series captivate and fix the "plane of abjection", where "subject" and " object" push each other away, confront each other, collapse, and start again (Kristeva 1980: 18). Utilizing the technology of abjection, the Asian American queer photographer freezes and arrests the process of his own abjection, recording his being transformed from desiring subject to fetish object. The art of abjection allegorizes the process in which gay has been expelled as abject to the border of the heterosexual symbolic realm yet but returns from time to time to haunt the symbolic system.

To some viewers, Kwong Chi's photographs also invite political reading; his self-portraits may project the "other" in their mind. The so-called "other" first reminds us of the "other" under the "Orientalist gaze." Esther Kaplan remarks, "Kwong Chi's self-portraits invite a string of Orientalist associations --- he is Asian tourist, revolutionary, Cold War icon and émigré--- but they also stir up a sense of the viewer's own dislocation." (Esther Kaplan 1999). The "Orientalist gaze" mentioned here corresponds to Edward Said's term of "Orientalism," as the orient is one of Europe's "deepest and most recurring images of the Other," which reflects the asymmetrical power relationship between the east and the west (Edward Said 1978: 1); the orient is often associated with the secondary, the subordinate, or, at best, the exotic, projecting Europeans' fear, anxiety, and desire of "other." Kwong Chi appropriates Mao suit to stir up Orientalist associations, and then employs tactics of camp and displacement as a parody of the "Orientalist gaze." Margo Mechida comments, Kwong Chi Chooses to take snapshot-like images of himself in association with "the monuments and icons that Westerners consider to be the symbols of their power and glory" in order to seek, albeit mischievously, to "counter the long history of Orientalist painting and photography by explicitly re-presenting the West as if seen through a possessive 'Occidentalist' gaze" (Margo Machida 1994: 96-97). Through role reverse, Kwong Chi, the traveler dressed in Mao suit, produces self-portraits in front of the symbols of western power and glory, making parody of those western colonizers who have long exploited the Orient through predatory acts and possessive gaze.

Some viewers associate Tseng's portraits of "other" to "alien." of dislocation. Barry Blinderman describes Kwong Chi as "an extra-terrestrial who, having miscalculated his decades and hemispheres, has just beamed down to earth in a Maoist 'everyman' disguise." (Barry Blinderman 1999: 12). C. Carr, a cultural critic in East Village, New York, regards Kwong Chi's alien traveler as the symbol of Bohemian spirit of the East Village. In the 1980's, inspired by the carefree and playful spirits of the East Village, New York, .Kwong Chi has reached the prime of his career as of an artist, while his life was cut tragically short by the AIDS virus in the winter of 1990. The East Village in the eighties, to note C. Carr, was perhaps the last bohemia that could be pinpointed on a map, in which playfulness and sense of exile allowed artists more freedom for artistic creation. Artists like Kwong Chi are part of the transitional moment from "the old white bohemian to a new, far more diverse culture of the margin. On the theory front, the torch passed from postmodernism to multi-culturalism" (C. Carr 1999). However, Kwong Chi's image of an alien traveler also foreshadowed the dislocation and displacement of the artists in the Village: turning to the nineties, AIDS, and real estate speculation continued to compress its cultural space, turning it a theme park. In terms of theoretical front, "multiculturalism became a dreary term, distorted by the racist attack from the right and an overtone of political correctness from the left." (C. Carr 1999). Carr considers that Kwong Chi's work conveys the dislocation, alienation, and sense of loss experienced by the artists in the East Village. Carr further comments, "Tseng's sense of being alien took the form of wearing that infamous Mao suit. He literally played the traveler, but we're all deterritorialized now. Just visiting this planer."(C. Carr 1999).

In terms of queer cultural practice, Tseng's image of alien could be regarded as queer performativity which resonates to Cindy Patton's theory of queer diaspora. By examining the results of dispersion of discourses of sexuality across national borders, Cindy Patton proposes globalization of "alterity" with queerness: like stealth bomber of desire, bodies pack and carry multi-forms and tropes of discourses of sexuality, installing in the Other elsewhere a queerness that had always lain in want of re-categorizing discourse. Discourses of sexuality, which have been carried by body and travel the paths of international policy, global media, and MUD, inflect the nationalist discourse while in return threatening the nationalist imaginary. The meaning of "queer" does not lie in constructing a paradigm for identification and fashioning; "queer" exists as the evidence of "alterity", which emerges like a stealth bomber, proceeding under the surveillance of nationalist apparatuses (Cindy Patton 1998: 322). Kwong Chi disguised his queer desire with the badge of "SlutForArt" attached to Mao suit, a trope of nationalist imaginary, and then infiltrated like an alien along the paths of global capitalism, dispersing queerness under the surveillance of heterosexual and nationalist apparatuses. With his body packing the form of queer alterity, he traveled across national and cultural borders to play with the oblique meanings of cultural objects, mappimg those iconic landmarks into queer cartography. Resonating to Cindy Patton's discourse of globalization of "alterity" with "queer", Kwong Chi's photograph series invite meta-discourses of sexuality as well as imagination of queer nation.

The Dance Theater of SlutForArt

Kwong Chi's photographic self portraits depicts him as alien of dislocation. However, not until SlutForArt, a multi-media dance theater produced by his sister Muna nine years after his death, were most audience allowed for a closer look at Kwong Chi as "everyman in everyday life." SlutFor Art is composed around simulacra of contemporary existence, and features Muna Tseng as herself and her brother, weaving movements with projection of more than 300 Kwong Chi's images, his documentation of New York's downtown artists, and an oral collage created by Ping Chong of Kwong Chi's travel writings, and anecdotes about him told by his friends including Magnuson, Scharf, and Jones. Since it addressed to contemporary issues of AIDS, it drew great attention from newspaper like the New York Times, Village Voice, and many art magazines.

The dance theater of SlutForArt starts with an overture, Mock 98.6 (a fifteen-minute dance collaborated by Muna Tseng and Ping Chong in 1996). As Muna Tseng slowly enters the stage, Ping Chong's voice-over repeated, "The things they share.... The full mystery of other." In the second scene, Chinese pop from the '50s arises. Black and White Hong Kong slide fades up. After Hong Kong image turns to color, along the top of the image appears over the course of the scene Black and White portraits/close-ups of Kwong Chi. Through voice-over, Kwong Chi's cousin, Jenny, recalled Kwong Chi's childhood (with children's laughter as background): Kwong Chi was a very delicate and fragile child whose mother is very intellectual but always pushy. Being an eldest son in a traditional Chinese family, he was expected to get married and have a son to inherit the family's surname.

Interacting with Kwong Chi's projected images, Muna presents three dances. In "First Dance for My Brother," Muna wears a red dress, and is lit by red lighting. Her dance is fast-paced and energetic. In fluid, child-like motions, she seemed caught up in a series of games and attempting to capture the memory of her brother's personality, a playful boy. Moments later, she slowly crosses the stage, back to the audience, triggered the camera's shutter as her brother used to do. A frame appears on the projection screen. Sometimes all white, sometimes an outline, these are blank photographs, or a portrait of an absent person. Kwong Chi is presented to the audience from the recorded voices of his friends, lovers, and relatives. In everyday life, he is in contrast with the photographic persona he fabricates in the self-portrait series. "The persona in Tseng's photographs ---silent, unsmiling, ascetic--- was everything the photographer was not. A talker, tireless party crawler and ham, he was part of the neo-Dadaist East Village art scene of the late 1970's and 80's." (Margarett Loke 1996). The recorded voices of his friends put together the portrait of Kwong Chi as everyman: he was very inventive and did everything professionally; he frequented Twilight, the only Asian American gay bar in New York City at that time; he was also seen in Club 57 in Lower East Side or in Andy Wahol's party joined by celebrities in midtown, Manhattan; he was considered elegant by some friends but recalled as always hysterically laughing by other friends. The interweaves of Muna's dance with Kwong Chi's documents, art work, anecdotes told by his friends depict the urban sensibility of New York's downtown artists and the shameless, carefree time of 80's club life.

Tseng's good friend Kristoffer talked about how he first met Kwong Chi in Twilight:

Ping (Voice-over): What's Twilight like? Kristoffer (Voice-over): Asian men go there to meet Caucasian men and Caucasian men go there to meet Asian men and people drink and try to pick each other up. I thought he looked very sexy in his Mao suit. (Ping Chong and Muna Tseng 1999: 391)

Through Kwong Chi's photographs and diaries, a record of brief and shining history of New York's downtown artists would survive. In the early 80's, Tseng decided that Keith Haring's subway drawings were an ephemeral thing he had to capture on film. He then shot over 25,000 slides of Keith Haring, documenting the work in the subways that first brought Haring fame. Today, all that remain of them are the photographs that Tseng took.

Though responding to President Nixon's historic trip to China with a lifelong exploration of being both Chinese and American, Kwong Chi, in his friend's words, "doesn't really enjoy being Asian." (Esther Kaplan 1999). His work implied a protest that was often private but now theatrically made public. Dancer Bill T. Jones says that he senses the silent protest in Kwong Chi's works:

Bill (Voice-over): I think he described himself to me once as a snow queen, any person of color who prefers white men and but yet by the same token, he was very aware of the races and the way in which Asian people were viewed, and I think that's what I see a lot in his work. He was taken aback that I was in a way, before people were really talking about identity politics. (Ping Chong and Muna Tseng 1999: 391)

Tseng is always caught in the status of cultural schizophrenia. Being an Asian American, Tseng was living in the white Bohemian community. On the other hand, being a gay, he was also the eldest son in a traditional Chinese family who expected him to get married and have a son to inherit the family's surname. Tseng's dilemma and suffering was told by a recorded voice of his friends:

Kenny (Voice-over): Well, I think he had difficulties with his father. The whole gay thing. I think was really hard on your dad, right Muna?

Muna (Voice-over): Yeah.

Kenny (voice-over): Yeah, that was a big issue all through his life, all the way until the end and hey, Kwong was gay! I mean, come on, I mean! I wish that his dad, your dad, your dad could heave been more....

Muna (Voice-over): wanted to understand or accept it, you know.

Kenny (Voice -over): that's always a hard thing, but most of us we're like almost misfits in a way and outcasts from our communities and our families, for whatever reason. And that was, we had adopted each other as our, as family.

In the second dance, "Things My Brother Liked Dance," Muna is dressed as her brother's photographic persona: Mao suit, black, and identity badge. She seeks to engage her brother in dialogue. At times she play herself, dancing to him in spare lyrical moves; at times she appears to inhabit her brother's body, clicking the ever-present shutter. She is accompanied by slide projections of The Expedition Series: pictures of Tseng Kwong Chi in his Mao suit taken in Paris, London, Provincetown, San Francisco, Mt. Rushmore, Hollywood, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and more. After the dance, she/he sits on a stool placed center stage and speaks the words of her brother, taken from published interviews.

In "Last Dance for my Brother," Muna in Mao suit moves slowly along the stage, striking some poses which the audience members have seen Tseng took in his projected self-portrait, as if she is invoking Tseng's presence: she/he stands still, back to the audience, with both hands folding behind her/him similar to Tseng's photograph in front of Lincoln Memorial; she/he sits on the floor, with both hands paddling back and forth as in the photograph of Tseng in a small canoe on Lake Ninevah. Halfway through her dance, she/he removes Mao suit as the music swelled to a feverish pitch. She hangs her jacket on a camera and tripod. Now dressed only in a black leotard, she completes her dance. Her movements are elegiac, slow, and sustained. She ends in a sitting position, delivering to the audience a final monologue about the death of her brother in the hospital (Dan Bacalzo 1999). It is a brutally poignant monologue in which she describes Kwong Chi's loss of eyesight, his cremation and his wish to have his ashes scattered in New York Harbor from the Statue of Liberty.

Muna: when his eyesight started to go it really freaked him out. He needed his eyes. He was still talking about all these photographs he was going to shoot in Alaska. He was fighting so hard for life, for something to live for. When his left eye started to fo he said, "Oh, thank god I focus with my right eye!"

One day I was cooking him lunch in the hospital, no hospital food for Kwong Chi, and tears were dtreaming down his face. I said, "What's the Matter He said. "Oh, I just love that song!" It was Edith Piaf singing "Je Ne Regret Rien."

In the end of her monologue, Muna exits. Sound of wind in a canyon. Slide fades up of image from the expeditionary series of KWONG CHI with his back to the camera looking into the Grand Canyon. The image establishes itself, then Kwong Chi vanished from the landscape. After a beat or two, Kong Chi's full name appears on the top of the image, dead center and the dates of his birth and death, the names of celebrities and friends who die of AIDS in the last decade and a half appear around the image of the Grand Canyon. These friends include Keith Haring, Ron Vawter, John Sex, and Robert Mapplethorpe. (Ping Chong and Muna Tseng 403)

In the dance theater of SlutForArt, the protagonist Kwong Chi has been absent throughout the whole performance. However, his absence implies the "lack" of the individual subject and the community, and hence "memory" is a vain but indispensable form of mourning. On the other hand, the protagonist's absence invites imagination and allows his beloved and friends to take snapshots of him from various viewpoints and angles. During his life, Kwong Chi, an alien traveler, carried his camera and dispersed queerness with his Expeditionary Series along the wake of global capitalism. In retrospect, Muna danced like a shaman who makes a journey back and forth between the present and the past, coming in and out the roles of her brother and her own. Weaving the shuttle of memory, she traced the slippage between the living and the dead. With the convergence of sounds, images, and recorded voices of oral interviews, different phases of Kwong Chi's life collide, overlap, and confront one another. As various layers of "the past" has been disclosed and washed out, the ritual of memory digs and probes into details of everyday life, suturing the cleavage and gap between a young artist's portrait of self and other.

The ritual of memory and mourning also repeatedly inscribes and measures the incurable stigma. The stigma is not only personal but also collective: the memorial names which stay up one after another on the fading Grand Canyon not only refer to those artists who die of AIDS, but also connoted the repressed primary trauma. The disease of AIDS has been threatening the Bohemian artist community in the East Village in New York City, taking one life after another while the mainstream discourses of AIDS continue to stigmatize lesbian and gay artists by making AIDS analogous to moral plagues. Nevertheless, as gays and lesbians are expelled as abjects to the boundary of the heterosexual symbolic realm, the plane of abjection also makes possible the star trek where the queer alien strikes back. The unspeakable, irrepressible queer desire continues to haunt the boundary of the symbolic realm, turn inside out, and return as a specter from the plane of abjection where subject and object confront, collapse with each other and re-start again.


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