Ping Chong

Article Bio Works Projects Images
crossroads:
globalisation, identity, mysticism
genre(subgenre):
Performing Arts (docu-performance)
region:
America, North
country/territory:
United States of America
city:
New York
created on:
May 21, 2003
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since March 28, 2008. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
information provided by:
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Ping Chong
Ping Chong. Courtesy: The artist

Article

Statement of the artist for the «Postcard Project» of the House of World Cultures ´The themes haven’t changed only the methods of exploring them! Then as now I am interested in the “other” in relation to the whole and the passage of time.´ Ping Chong, 2007 Ping Chong was born in 1946 as a child of Chinese immigrants in Manhattan, where he then grew up to be an actor, theatre director and expert on Chinese drama. His play ‘Undesirable Elements’ is the fruit of more than a decade of developing a documentary approach to drama and is meant to draw the attention of the general public to the problems of migrants in increasingly mixed societies. The play focuses more on persons than on lands of origin, has so far been performed in 18 versions and turns from the theatre of artifice of the 1970s and 1980s to a theatre of realism. Bruce Allardice, who has long been responsible for Chong’s company, notes a shift ‘from allegory to biography’, and Chong agrees: ‘Whereas my work used to be deemed foxy and fuzzy, some levels are now overt.’
The parts are played not by actors but actual migrants recovering from culture shock. Long interviews lead to a script read out on a semi-circle of chairs with a microphone in front of them and a sanded or salted floor. Migration is often due to warfare, expulsion, oppression and flight, so the recitals often begin with historical overviews, but these soirées are widely said to be no ‘multicultural reviews’ or exotic commercials ‘in the style of Benetton adverts’ since the focus is not on the general but the specific. The lives are specific, the interviews ample, the sifting thorough and the speech cool, whereby the onslaught of events and their crippling effects are brought into sharp focus.

At the end of 2002 ‘Children of War’, a version for children and youths, was premiered in Washington D.C. and homed in on trauma and healing. It was not only a work of art but also a study into the months needed by immigrant youths to gel in a new culture without losing their ethnic and political roots.

Ping Chong’s Asia project from the years 1990 to 1998 was about the problems of folk from various cultures trying to deal with each other without starry-eyed admiration or suicide-belts, and the plays ‘Deshina’, ‘Chinoiserie’ and ‘After Sorrow’ were likewise about peoples’ effects on people and vice versa. Thus ‘Deshina’ from 1990, the centenary of Vincent van Gogh’s death, is about the cultural contact between the Netherlands, Japan, and Indonesia and ends with a Japanese buyer who paid nearly 40 million Dollars for a version of van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ in 1987. Deeming himself a rover, Chong feels personally involved in the question of ethnic identities. He spent years in Manhattan without mixing with Whites, or rather with Jewish, Irish and Italian factions, though occasionally brushing shoulders with Blacks. ‘We all lived peacefully side by side,’ says Chong, ‘but knew next to nothing about each other.’
Author: Franz Anton Cramer

Bio

Ping Chong was born in 1946 as the son of Chinese immigrants in Manhattan and grew up in Chinatown. After learning filmmaking and graphics for several semesters he studied at the Pratt School to be a director of plays. In 1977 he gained his first Obie award for ‘Humboldt’s Current’, has since been working on projects of his own and in 2000 gained an Obie for lifetime-achievement. His dramas focus on cultural reconciliation and the effects of peoples on people and vice versa. Since 1992 he has been working on ‘Undesirable Elements’ and has shown it in many US cities as well as in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Rotterdam.

Works

Cathay: Three Tales of China

Production / Performance,
2005

Undesirable Elements/Twin Cities

Production / Performance,
2005

Native Voices/Secret History

Production / Performance,
2005

God Favors the Predator

Production / Performance,
2004

Secret History/Seattle Youth

Production / Performance,
2004

SH/Journeys Abroad, Journeys Within

Production / Performance,
2004

BLIND NESS

Production / Performance,
2004

Undesirable Elements/Pioneer Valley

Production / Performance,
2004

Undesirable Elements/Berlin

Production / Performance,
2004

Children of War

Production / Performance,
2002

After Sorrow

Published Written,
1997

Chinoiserie

Production / Performance,
1995

Deshina

Production / Performance,
1990

Kind Ness

Production / Performance,
1988

Nosferatu

Production / Performance,
1985

A.M./A.M. – The Articulated Man

Production / Performance,
1982

Humboldt’s Current

Production / Performance,
1977

Projects

This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Postcard Project

(01 March 07 - 31 December 08)

IN TRANSIT 2003

Customs – Nothing to declare

(30 May 03 - 14 June 03)
images
Postcard from Ping Chong