Wu Tsang (born 1982) is a filmmaker, artist and performer currently based between New York and Berlin, whose work is concerned with hidden histories, marginalized narratives, and the act of performing itself. In 2018, Tsang received a MacArthur "genius" grant.
Tsang re-imagines racialized, gendered representations beyond the visible frame to encompass the multiple and shifting perspectives through which we experience the social realm. Tsang is equally interested in how movement can articulate emotional experiences that exist outside of language.
Tsang's feature documentary, Wildness, documents the Los Angeles trans bar "Silver Platter". Wu Tsang directed and produced the film. It was co-written with Roya Rastegar. The film was premiered at the MoMA Documentary Fortnight in New York and has been screened at festivals in Canada, the US, and Chile. Since 1963, "Silver Platter" has been a historic bar that patronised by a predominantly Latin LGBT community. Wildness documents what happens when a group of young artists host a weekly performance night at the bar. Documenting the collision between the two LGBT communities, the film poses questions about community, space, and ownership. In an interview, Tsang describes how this film represents a number of people who are often stereotyped, such as trans people, people of color, and queer communities, and she experiments with how to be accountable to the communities that she documents. Her collaborators include poet and scholar Fred Moten as well as performance artist boychild.
Wu Tsang's short films include:
- Duilian (2015): The film explores the life and writings of Qiu Jin, a Chinese feminist revolutionary who was executed at the age of 31 for attempting to foment revolution against the Qing dynasty. Lesser known, and highlighted in the film, is her long-term queer relationship with calligrapher Wu Zhuying. Wu Tsang plays Wu Zhuying, and long-time Wu Tsang collaborator, Boychild, plays Qiu Jin.
- You're Dead to Me (2013): In suburban California, a Chicana mother is mourning the death of her teenage daughter two years earlier. On the eve of Dia de los Muertos, everything changes when Death offers her a choice she could not make in life. The cast includes Laura Patalano and Harmony Santana. The film was widely show in LGBT and other film festivals, and won various awards, including best short and best actress.
- Tied and True (2012): Co-written with Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, the film takes place in a fictional post-colonial African city, inspired by Île Saint-Louis, Senegal. It tells the story of two star-crossed lovers while exploring the themes of assimilation, alterity and racism.
- Mishima in Mexico (2012): Starring Alex Segade and Wu Tsang, the film is inspired by the 1950 novel by Yukio Mishima, Thirst for Love. It takes place in Mexico City, where a writer and director check into a hotel together to work through their creative process, while integrating Mishima's work into their own, and into their lives.
- Wildness (2012): This film tells the story of the weekly party and clinic Tsang hosted at the Silver Platter bar in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles, CA. The film is a "whimsically fictional account" of the events that transpired at the Silver Platter, and is narrated by both Tsang and (in Spanish) the Silver Platter. As Tsang stated in a 2016 interview, "The more subjective I could be in telling my own experience of the situation, the more ethical I could be to my subjects and collaborators."
Performance, video, and installations
In a 2014 interview, Tsang states, "For me performance is like research; lived experience is fundamental. I have to do these things to understand or have any critical analysis. I've never been someone who's going to stay behind the camera and observe. I don't perform onstage that often, but when I do it's often part of a process—it's a way of thinking through things."
- Shape of a Right Statement (video, 2008)
- The Fist is Still Up (neon sign in the Silver Platter, Los Angeles, 2008)
- P.I.G. (Politically Involved Girls) (with Zackary Drucker and Mariana Marroquin, performance at New Original Works Festival, Los Angeles, 2009)
- The Table (with NGUZUNGUZU and Total Freedom, Jalisco Bar, Los Angeles, 2010)
- Damelo Todo, ("Give Me Everything") (Silver Platter, Los Angeles, 2010 and Clifton Benevento, New York, 2011)
- Full Body Quotation (performance at Performa 11, New Museum, New York, 2011)
- For how we perceived a life (Take 3) (installation, New Museum Triennial, New York, 2012)
- Green Room (installation, Whitney Biennial, New York, 2012)
- Tied and True (video, co-written with Nana Offoriatta-Ayim, 2012)
- Mishima in Mexico (video, with Alexandro Segade, 2012)
- Breakdown (performance, with Ashland Mines and Kelela Mizanekristos, Tate Modern Tanks, London, 2013)
- A Day in the Life of Bliss (2-channel video installation, with boychild, 2013)
- We hold where study (2-channel video installation, 2017)
Awards and honors
In 2012, Tsang was named one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film". At Outfest 2012, Wildness won the Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary. Also in 2012, her work was featured in the Whitney Biennial and the New Museum Triennial. She won the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists award (2013). In 2014, she was included in the Hammer Museum's 2014 "Made in L.A." biennial. In 2015 she received a Creative Capital Award for A Day in the Life of Bliss. Tsang received the MacArthur Genius Award in 2018.
- Wildness (external link)
- "Wu Tsang - MacArthur Foundation". www.macfound.org. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
- "Artists on Artists: Wu Tsang on Hito Steyerl". The Museum of Contemporary Art. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
- "¿Qué pasó con los martes? - WILDNESS THE MOVIE - trailer". wildnessmovie.com. Retrieved 2014-07-25.
- "Wu Tsang | Filmmaker Magazine". filmmakermagazine.com. Retrieved 2014-07-25.
- Trigger : gender as a tool and a weapon. Burton, Johanna,, Bell, Natalie,, New Museum (New York, N.Y.),. [New York, NY]. ISBN 9780915557165. OCLC 1011099218.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
- "Artist Wu Tsang on her new film exploring the life of 'China's first feminist', Qiu Jin". Time Out HK. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
- "Official Page, You're Dead To Me - Short". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
- Knight, Christopher (2013-06-06). "Wu Tsang at Michael Benevento Gallery". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
- "Wu Tsang". art-agenda.com. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
- Cheh, Carol (June 30, 2014). "Artists at Work: Wu Tsang". East of Borneo. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
- "CLIFTON BENEVENTO | 2011 Wu Tsang PR". cliftonbenevento.com. Retrieved 2014-07-25.
- "Outfest 2012". outfest.org. Retrieved 2014-07-25.
- "Wu Tsang :: Foundation for Contemporary Arts". www.foundationforcontemporaryarts.org. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
- "Made in L.A.: Wu Tsang". Hammer Museum. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
- "Wu Tsang - MacArthur Foundation". www.macfound.org. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
- Wu Tsang on IMDb
- "WU TSANG". wutsang.com. Retrieved 2014-07-25.
- Stanley, Eric A.; Tsang, Wu; Vargas, Chris (2013). "Queer love economies: Making trans/feminist film in precarious times". Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. 23: 66–82. doi:10.1080/0740770X.2013.792634.
- http://wildnessmovie.squarespace.com/storage/Dean%20Spade%20make-shift%20web.pdf "Wildness" essay by Dean Spade
- http://wildnessmovie.squarespace.com/storage/WB%2712_Tsang.pdf "Wildness" essay by Wu Tsang in the Whitney Biennial Catalogue
- http://wildnessmovie.squarespace.com/storage/nifstc_wu%20roya.pdf A Conversation between Wu Tsang and Roya Rastegar
- Sister of the sword: Wu Tsang, the trans artist retelling history with lesbian kung fu
- Judah, Hettie (2017-05-17). "Sister of the sword: Wu Tsang, the trans artist retelling history with lesbian kung fu". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-23.