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Subscriber: null; date: 23 October 2019

Chang, Pattylocked

(b San Leandro, CA, Feb 3, 1972).
  • Aileen June Wang

American performance and video artist of Chinese ancestry. Chang earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1994. She showed her first solo exhibition at Jack Tilton Gallery, New York, in 1999. Her body of work focused on how people can be deceived, either through sight—what one sees is not necessarily true—or through mainstream assumptions about such topics as Asia, sexuality, and socially accepted behavior. Chang attributed her past stint in a cybersex company as the catalyst for exploring illusion as a theme. She realized that video flattened three-dimensional, live performances into a stream of two-dimensional images, enabling her to engage in visual deception.

Most of Chang’s early works investigated problems of gender and sexuality, using her own body and elements suggesting violence or transgression. The photograph Fountain (1999) depicted her inside a cubicle of a public lavatory, with a urinal visible on the far wall. Wearing a business suit, she knelt on hands and knees, seemingly kissing herself but actually slurping water off a mirror on the floor. The accompanying video focused on Chang’s face and her passionate interaction with her own reflection. While the photograph suggested female humiliation in a male world, the video complicated matters by implying that the act was motivated by narcissism.

Patty Chang: The Product Love, still from two-channel digital video installation, 2009; image © Patty Chang/courtesy of Mary Boone Gallery, New York

Chang’s subsequent works explored Asia and the Chinese woman as invented concepts. Her film Shangri-La (2005) told the story of a town in south-central China, which attempted to boost tourism by marketing itself as the real Shangri-La, the mythical paradise popularized by James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon and a 1937 Hollywood film. The Product Love (2009) offered two interpretations of the 1928 meeting between Chinese American film actress Anna May Wong and the German critic Walter Benjamin. While the first part highlighted the difficulty of translating into English Benjamin’s article about the interview, the second showed costumed actors enacting the meeting as a pornographic scene, made awkward by the mutual failure to understand each other’s needs. These later works showed Chang moving in a new direction and looking beyond her own body as the locus of artistic expression.


  • E. Leffingwell: “Patty Chang at Jack Tilton,” Art in America [cont. as A. America & Elsewhere; A. America], 87 (Nov 1999), p. 145
  • L. Wei: “Patty Chang at Jack Tilton/Anna Kustera,” Art in America [cont. as A. America & Elsewhere; A. America], 90 (June 2002), pp. 121–2
  • E. Arratia: “In Conversation: Patty Chang,” Art Asia Pacific, 44 (Spring 2005), pp. 68–74
  • H. Cotter: “Patty Chang: Shangri-La,” New York Times (29 July 2005)
  • H. Cotter: “Patty Chang,” New York Times (12 June 2009)