THE MUSEUM OF DURIAN
November 2nd–November 24th, 2019
Opening: Saturday, Nov 2nd, 12–3pm
321 Canal Street, New York City
“I’m from Asia.”
“Don’t Google Me. Follow me!”
For Performa 19, Yu Cheng-Ta will explore the cultural phenomenon of “influencers” in Western social media alongside celebrity and food trends in a series of live and filmed performances that appropriate the visual and narrative language of reality television. Developed through the character of Fameme, an Asian farmer drawn to New York City to promote durian—a thorny, odorous, tropical fruit indigenous to Southeast Asia—the project depicts an outsider’s quest for fame and acceptance in American culture. Fameme’s ambition draws him to the world of social media influencers and influencer events as he attempts to utilize the latest marketing trend and media obsession for his own capitalist needs.
FAMEME blends naivety and disingenuousness while playing on tropes of the alien visitor in a new land. Drawing on American perception and stereotypes of East Asian cultures, American marketing and promotion, the pivotal position of social media, and the framing of fiction as truth in reality television, Fameme explores the meaning of celebrity, cultural differences and challenges to acceptance in trend-obsessed Internet cultures.
The commission follows on Yu’s previous performance and video-based works in which the artist plays with Asian cultural identities and stereotypes. At the Haus der Kulturen de Welt’s Flaneur Festival (2019), he assumed the androgynous character Sha Sha—a Taiwanese geisha that hybridized the traditional Japanese hostess/entertainer and Chinese opera—to host a karaoke night. In mixing and mixing up these two culturally-specific performer archetypes, Yu comments on the complicated interrelationship between Asian cultures and their interchangeability through Western eyes. The Watermelon Sisters duo (with collaborator Ming Wong), similarly envisions a queering of binary gender. In their 2019 performance The Watermelon Sisters Go Camping in Paris (Centre national de la danse, Pantin), Yu and Wong examined ideas of race and gender at the nexus of the real and virtual. In this way, lived and constructed national and racial identities are satirized through modes of costume and play, where one’s nationality is really just cosplay, another outfit to slip on and off.
Yu Cheng-Ta (b. 1983, Tainan, Taiwan) currently lives and works in Taipei. He often involves verbal communication with the subjects and viewers in a playful manner to create the concept of “life theater.” Yu earned both an undergraduate and a master’s degree in fine arts from the Taipei National University of the Arts. He was a recipient of the Beacon Prize at Art Fair Tokyo (2012) and Taipei Arts Award (2008). Yu participated in the Shanghai Biennale (2014), CAFAM Biennale (2014), Queens International (2013), International Biennial of Media Art (2012), Venice Biennale, Taiwan Pavilion (2009), Biennale Cuvée 08 (2009), and Taipei Biennial (2008). In 2018, he presented his film project Tell Me What You Want (2015- 2017)” at Centre Pompidou and Kunsthal Charlottenborg.
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