Shu Lea Cheang

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Shu Lea Cheang (Chinese: 鄭淑麗; pinyin: Zhèng Shúlì; born April 13, 1954, Taiwan) is a multimedia artist who works in the fields of net-based installation, social interface and film production. Cheang received a BA in History from the National Taiwan University in 1976 and an MA in Cinema Studies from New York University in 1979.[1]

Over the past decade, she has emerged as a prominent figure in new media art. Cheang is one of the leading multimedia artists dealing with multidisciplinary topics. She is regarded as a pioneering figure in internet-based art, with her multimedia approach at the interface between film, video, internet-based installation, software interaction and durational performance.[2] Her work is often interactive. She is most noted for her individual approach in the realm of art and technology, creatively intermingling social issues with artistic methods.[3]

Cheang's work employs film, video, net-based installation, and interface to explore "...ethnic stereotyping, the nature and excesses of popular media, institutional - and especially governmental - power, race relations, and sexual politics." [4] Cheang has also written and directed feature films I.K.U. and Fluidø.

She has been a member of the Paper Tiger Television collective since 1981. Though originally based in New York, Cheang is currently living and working in Paris, France.[5]

Life events[edit]

Cheang was born during a time when the island of Taiwan was under martial law in 1954. From Taiwan, Cheang moved to New York in the 1980s. She admitted to feeling liberated after moving, calling it a process of “self-acknowledgment and affirmation.” Her art career seeded and bloomed in New York.[6]

After 20 years in New York, she went on a decade of a self-imposed lifestyle as a digital nomad which she says “liberated me from monthly fixed payments of rent, electricity and phone bills.” She lived in Japan, Holland, the United Kingdom,[7] and finally relocated to Paris in 2007, where she currently works and resides.[8]

Tough social themes such as racial politics help progress her work. She recalls, “When I first got to New York, I was more concerned about certain kinds of racial discrimination or stereotypes of being an Asian woman — there were many different kinds of fantasies about Asian women.”[9]

Notable works[edit]

Color Schemes, is an interactive three-channel video installation exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1990. The video features people of different ethnicities and reveals the complex attitudes surrounding ethnic stereotyping embedded in American Culture. [10]

In 1994, Cheang directed the film Fresh Kill. The title refers to a garbage dump in Staten Island.[11] The film "envisions a post-apocalyptic landscape strewn with electronic detritus and suffering the toxic repercussions of mass marketing in a high-tech commodity culture."[12]

Bowling Alley, commissioned by the Walker Art Center and funded by AT&T New Art/New Visions, was exhibited in 1995. The installation linked the Walker's Gallery 7, the city's community bowling alley (Bryant-Lake Bowl), and the World Wide Web. Bowling Alley mixed real-life with cyberspace to illustrate the similarities and differences of how people communicate with one another face-to-face and through the Internet. Bowling Alley was Cheang's first cybernetic installation. Cheang collaborated with other Minneapolis artists to present a work which set to challenge the idea of what is personal and public, popular art and fine art by intertwining these oppositions.[13]

Another major Web-based project Cheang created was Brandon (1998–99).[14] The one-year narrative project explored the issues of gender fusion and techno-body in both public space and cyberspace. The site got its name from Brandon Teena, a trans man who was raped and murdered in 1993 after his biological sex was revealed. Brandon was the first Web-based artwork commissioned by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.[15] It explores Brandon Teena's story in an experimental way that conveys the "fluidity and ambiguity of gender and identity in contemporary societies." [16]

Over time, as web browsers evolved, Brandon stopped displaying correctly. In 2017, the artwork was digitally restored and made publicly viewable again in a joint initiative by the Guggenheim's conservation department and New York University's department of computer science.[17]. Brandon was also featured in Rhizome's Net Art Anthology, an online exhibition of one hundred important net artworks.[18] Brandon is currently accessible at

In 2000, Cheang directed the feature film I.K.U.,[19] a pornographic film which she claimed was inspired by Blade Runner.[20] I.K.U. was nominated for an International Fantasy Film Award.

Recent works[edit]

Cheang's Locker Baby Project (2001-2012) is a playfield of sonic imagery triggered only by human interaction. Her baby series project proposes a fictional scenario set in year 2030. The transnational DPT (DollyPolly Transgency) advances clone babies as an intelligent industry. The Clone Generation holds the key to unlock the networked inter-sphere of ME-motion (Memory+Emotion).

  • Baby Play (2001), the first installment employs a large scale table football field. Opposing rows of 22 ball players are replaced by human sized cloned locker babies. The tracking of ball movement retrieves ME-data (texts and sound) deposited in respective lockers.
  • Baby Love (2005), the second installment consists of 6 large size teacups and 6 clone babies. Each teacup is an auto-driving mobile unit with spinning wheels allowing direction maneuver and speed variation. Each baby is a situated mac-mini engine with wifi linked to the net depository of shuffles and remixes of popular love songs.
  • Baby Work (2012),[21] the third installment designates the public visiting the gallery to collect and rearrange scattered keys and compose words into collective sonic expression. Active participants are the clone babies who are entrusted to store and retrieve ME-data.

Cheang wrote and directed the 2017 science fiction film Fluidø.


The Shu Lea Cheang Papers are part of Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University. This collection relates to Cheang's work from 1989 to 2007 and includes video footage, photographs, sketches, press clippings, installation objects, exhibition ephemera, and digital files.[22]

2019 Venice Biennale[edit]

Shu Lea Cheang is representing Taiwan at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. She is the first woman to represent Taiwan with a solo-exhibition.[23] Her site-specific work will be installed at the Palazzo delle Prigioni, a former prison across from the Palazzo Ducale in Piazza San Marco. Curated by philosopher Paul B. Preciado, the immersive installation will explore pervasive technologies of control, from surveillance to incarceration, drawing from historical and contemporary cases in which people have been imprisoned due to their gender, sexual orientation, or race.[1]


  1. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang Papers (MSS 381) – Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU". Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  2. ^ s[edition] Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Shu Lea Cheang (2004-02-13). "WAC – Gallery9 – Bowling Alley". Walker art gallery. Archived from the original on 2008-11-18. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
  4. ^ Tribe, M., & Jana, Reena. (2006). New media art (Basic art series).
  5. ^ "Portrait : SHU LEA CHEANG's interactive mythologies". 2017-02-09. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  6. ^ Ng, Christina. "At the Venice Biennale, Shu Lea Cheang Surveils the Surveillance System". HYPERALLERGIC. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  7. ^ Guggenheim Retrieved 10 October 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Ng, Christina. "At the Venice Biennale, Shu Lea Cheang Surveils the Surveillance System". HYPERALLERGIC. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  9. ^ Ng, Christina. "At the Venice Biennale, Shu Lea Cheang Surveils the Surveillance System". HYPERALLERGIC. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  10. ^ Furlong, B. Lucinda. Shu Lea Cheang's Genre-Bending Affirmations.
  11. ^ Cheang, Shu Lea (1996-01-12), Fresh Kill, Sarita Choudhury, Erin McMurtry, Abraham Lim, retrieved 2018-03-03
  12. ^ "Fresh Kill | Video Data Bank". Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  13. ^ "Bowling Alley :Introduction". Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  14. ^ "Brandon". Guggenheim. 1998-01-01. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  15. ^ "Brandon". Guggenheim. 1998-01-01. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  16. ^ Tribe, Mark; Jana, Reena (2007). New Media Art. Germany: Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8228-3041-3.
  17. ^ "The Guggenheim Restores 'Brandon,' its First Web-Based Work". Retrieved 2017-10-13.
  18. ^ "NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Brandon". NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Brandon. 2016-10-27. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  19. ^ Aja, Shu Lea; Akira; Ariga, Miho; Asô, Myû (2001-05-03), I.K.U., retrieved 2017-03-12
  20. ^ Miguel, Yolanda Martínez-San; Tobias, Sarah (2016-03-22). Trans Studies: The Challenge to Hetero/Homo Normativities. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813576428.
  21. ^ "2012 ZERO1 Biennial". Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  22. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang Papers (MSS 381) – Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU". Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  23. ^ "Artist Shu Lea Cheang to Represent Taiwan at 2019 Venice Biennale". eflux.

External links[edit]