Just Visiting This Planet

Tseng Kwong Chi Was Everyman in a Mao Suit

Artists like Tseng Kwong Chi were part of a transitional moment, from the old white bohemia to a new, far more diverse culture of the margin. On the theory front, the torch passed from postmodernism to multiculturalism. True, the latter has become a dreary term, distorted by both racist attacks from the right and an overdose of political correctness from the left. Still, this ism embodies the new reality of bohemia. It hasn't quite jelled, but the energy is there, from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe to The Point in the South Bronx.

The work of Tseng Kwong Chi perfectly fits the description crafted by one of the framers of the new multicultural discourse, Guillermo Gomez-Peña. We are all, in Gomez-Peña's words, "the weary travelers, the dislocated, those of us who left because we didn't fit anymore, those of us who still haven't arrived because we don't know where to arrive at, or because we can't go back anymore. Our deepest generational emotion is that of loss."

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 planet.

Muna Tseng and Ping Chong (with back to camera) perform SlutForArt, a tribute to the ironic, iconic self-portraits of Tseng Kwong Chi.
Dave King
Muna Tseng and Ping Chong (with back to camera) perform SlutForArt, a tribute to the ironic, iconic self-portraits of Tseng Kwong Chi.

SlutForArt is part of the 92nd Street Y's Harkness Dance Project at Playhouse 91. 212-415-5553.

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