Allen Hall guest explores freedom, race

By Tracy Douglas

Allen Hall hosted Unit One’s first guest-in-residence program of the year Sunday night – “Subversive Art and Activism – The Art of Kristina Wong.”

Wong is a performance artist from California who is currently performing Free in Chicago. She started her program at Allen Hall last night with an excerpt from that show.

“In the show, I play with the idea of freedom,” Wong said. She began by “auctioning” items from her life that had emotional baggage, such as a vase from her high school prom, Chinese back-scratchers and her Catholic high school skirt. Wong said audience members issue new meaning to the items in her show.

By the end, she auctioned herself, accepting bids of compassion, hope and freedom.

Wong is a writer, director and filmmaker. While a student at UCLA, she noticed Internet sites for ordering Asian brides. Wong said the sites, which feature women who are very delicate and hiding behind fans to give an exotic feel, inspired her to create an online project at www.bigbadchinesemama.com.

“It is my version of exotic,” Wong said. “It’s not what you’d expect.”

The site feature Wong and her friends posing as mail order brides to make the statement that real Chinese women don’t fit those stereotypes.

She said she initially did not want to be called an activist because of the word’s connotation.

“I wanted to be part of a dialogue,” she said, adding that she wanted to confront the way people look at activism and tried to figure out what kind of activist she was.

As a third generation Chinese American, Wong often does art based on identity. One of those is a character called “Fannie Wang, Miss Chinatown Second Runner-up.”

She made a video of her performances as Fannie Wang where she shows up at places where the real Miss Chinatown is that day. Wang said the performances created an interesting dialogue about how Asian women are supposed to behave and be.

Wong also mentioned that at one art event at UCLA, her university performance art group created a fake Asian sorority for all ages and genders, named Kero Kero Pi after a Sanrio character.

“I have always been fascinated by sorority culture,” Wong said. “At UCLA, there was a phenomenon of the Asian sorority.”

She said some people thought they were a real sorority, and there was a feeling of bonding by the end.

Wong said that after all her experiences, the life of an artist is still very difficult. To raise money, for example, Wong sells merchandise at her performances.

“The arts are very important with what’s been going on in the world,” Wong said. She said her next move after the play Free is to be an arts educator in Los Angeles.

Those in attendance at Wong’s first night in Allen Hall said they came because they too were interested in the arts.

Zoe Schwartz, freshman in FAA, said she was really into Wong’s type of art and performance art.

“I love it,” Schwartz said.

Susan Kim, a University student, said she found the program very interesting.

“I don’t know much about performance art,” Kim said. “It seems like a different process, a deeply personal process.”

Wong will be living with residents at Allen Hall until Thursday. Her next event is a physical writing workshop in Allen Hall at 7 p.m. tonight, followed by a solo performance workshop at 9 p.m.