Shu Lea Cheang

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Shu Lea Cheang
Person standing in front of a podium with a laptop
Cheang in 2019
Born (1954-04-13) April 13, 1954 (age 69)
Notable workFresh Kill, I.K.U., Brandon
StyleNew media art

Shu Lea Cheang (Chinese: 鄭淑麗; pinyin: Zhèng Shúlì) (born April 13, 1954) is a Taiwanese-American artist and filmmaker who lived and worked in New York City in the 1980s and 90s, until relocating to Europe in 2000.[1] 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.[2][3] Since the 1980s, as a multimedia and new-media artist, she has navigated topics of ethnic stereotyping, sexual politics, and institutional oppression with her radical experimentations in digital realms.[4] She drafts sci-fi narratives in her film scenario and artwork imagination, crafting her own “science” fiction genre of new queer cinema. From homesteading cyberspace in the 1990s to her current retreat to post net-crash BioNet zone, Cheang takes on viral love, bio hack in her current cycle of works.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

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."[8] Cheang has also written and directed the feature films I.K.U. and Fluidø, and directed Fresh Kill.

Life events[edit]

Cheang was born during a time when 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.[9] Shortly after she moved to New York, she joined the collective Paper Tiger Television and started producing live weekly programs that used public-access channels to reach cable subscribers.[10]

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,[11] and finally relocated to Paris in 2007, where she currently works and resides.[12] Cheang concluded her 20 years spent in New York with Brandon (1998–1999), the first Guggenheim Museum web art commission/collection.[13]

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.”[14]

2019 Venice Biennale[edit]

Shu Lea Cheang represented Taiwan at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. She is the first woman to represent Taiwan with a solo-exhibition.[15] Her site-specific work was 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 explored 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.[16]

The Influencers 2019[edit]

In her talk for The Influencers 2019, "Genre Bending Gender Fxxxking", Cheang reflects on her eventful trajectory mixing, messing genres and genders in her multi-disciplinary art practices, from BRANDON (1998-1999, Guggenheim Museum), 3x3x6 (2019, Venice Biennale) to her current projects in process, UNBORN0x9 and UKI, an interruptive cinema.[17]

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.[18]

In 1994, Cheang directed the film Fresh Kill. The title refers to a garbage dump in Staten Island.[19] 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."[20]

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.[21]

Another major Web-based project Cheang created was Brandon (1998–1999).[22] 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.[23] It explores Brandon Teena's story in an experimental way that conveys the "fluidity and ambiguity of gender and identity in contemporary societies."[24] In addition to the website, Brandon included live public events at the Guggenheim Museum, the De Waag Society for Old and New Media in Amsterdam, and Harvard University.[25]

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.[26] Brandon was also featured in Rhizome's Net Art Anthology, an online exhibition of one hundred important net artworks.[27] Brandon is currently accessible at The project was a major achievement in the conservation of net.born art.[28] Contemporary web browsers could no longer recognize much of the early HTML code used on the site, or support the unique Java applets used to animate its text and images. In December 2016, Conserving Computer-Based Art (CCBA), a joint initiative of the Guggenheim and NYU, obtained approval from Cheang to restore the work.[29]

In 2000, Cheang directed the feature film I.K.U.,[30] a pornographic film which she claimed was inspired by Blade Runner.[31] 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),[32] 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.

In 2021, she was one of the participants in John Greyson's experimental short documentary film International Dawn Chorus Day.[33]

Cheang directed the film UKI in 2023, a piece presenting a digital collage of game software-generated animation combined with live-action film and visual effects. UKI is presented as a sequel to I.K.U., Cheang's 2000 cyberpunk feature.[34]



  • 1990 – How History Was Wounded: An Exclusive Report on Taiwanese Media (Short film; director)
  • 1994 – Fresh Kill (director)
  • 2000 – I.K.U. (director, screenwriter)
  • 2000 – Love Me 2030 (Short video; director)
  • 2017 – Fluidø (director, producer, screenwriter)
  • 2017 – Wonders Wander (director, producer, screenwriter)
  • 2023 - UKI (director)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang | Video Data Bank". Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  2. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang Papers (MSS 381) – Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU". 7 November 2016. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  3. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang's CV (2020)" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang". ArtAsiaPacific. MAR/APR 2019, ISSUE 112: 160.
  5. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang". The Influencers. 2019-10-03. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  6. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang". Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Tribe, M., & Jana, Reena. (2006). New media art (Basic art series).
  9. ^ Ng, Christina (5 June 2019). "At the Venice Biennale, Shu Lea Cheang Surveils the Surveillance System". HYPERALLERGIC. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  11. ^ "The Guggenheim Museums and Foundation". The Guggenheim Museums and Foundation: Shu Lea Cheang. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  12. ^ Ng, Christina (5 June 2019). "At the Venice Biennale, Shu Lea Cheang Surveils the Surveillance System". HYPERALLERGIC. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang". Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  14. ^ Ng, Christina (5 June 2019). "At the Venice Biennale, Shu Lea Cheang Surveils the Surveillance System". HYPERALLERGIC. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  15. ^ "Artist Shu Lea Cheang to Represent Taiwan at 2019 Venice Biennale". eflux.
  16. ^ Gleichenhaus, Becca (2018-11-29). "Taiwan's Pavilion at Venice Biennale presents "3x3x6" by Shu Lea Cheang". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  17. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang". The Influencers. 2019-10-03. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  18. ^ Furlong, B. Lucinda. Shu Lea Cheang's Genre-Bending Affirmations.
  19. ^ Cheang, Shu Lea (1996-01-12), Fresh Kill, Sarita Choudhury, Erin McMurtry, Abraham Lim, retrieved 2018-03-03
  20. ^ "Fresh Kill | Video Data Bank". Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  21. ^ "Bowling Alley :Introduction". Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  22. ^ "Brandon". Guggenheim. 1998-01-01. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  23. ^ "Brandon". Guggenheim. 1998-01-01. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  24. ^ Tribe, Mark; Jana, Reena (2007). New Media Art. Germany: Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8228-3041-3.
  25. ^ Engel, Deena; Hinkson, Lauren; Phillips, Joanna; Thain, Marion (2018-09-05). "Reconstructing Brandon (1998-1999): A Cross-disciplinary Digital Humanities Study of Shu Lea Cheang's Early Web Artwork". Digital Humanities Quarterly. 012 (2). ISSN 1938-4122.
  26. ^ "The Guggenheim Restores 'Brandon,' its First Web-Based Work". Retrieved 2017-10-13.
  27. ^ "NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Brandon". 2016-10-27. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  28. ^ "Restoring Brandon, Shu Lea Cheang's Early Web Work".
  29. ^ Evans, Jill Blackmore (2017-05-23). "The Guggenheim Restores 'Brandon,' its First Web-Based Work". Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  30. ^ Aja, Shu Lea; Akira; Ariga, Miho; Asô, Myû (2001-05-03), I.K.U., retrieved 2017-03-12
  31. ^ Miguel, Yolanda Martínez-San; Tobias, Sarah (2016-03-22). Trans Studies: The Challenge to Hetero/Homo Normativities. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813576428.
  32. ^ "2012 ZERO1 Biennial". Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  33. ^ Sarah Jae Leiber, "International Dawn Chorus Day Premieres April 29". Broadway World, March 29, 2021.
  34. ^ "". Retrieved 2023-09-11.

External links[edit]