Patty Chang was born in 1972 in San Francisco. Originally trained as a painter, she graduated with a BA from the University of California at San Diego in 1994 and shortly after moved to New York, where she became involved with the Performance scene. Her performances, recorded in short films, became notorious for testing the limits of endurance and taste. In Gong Li With the Wind (1996), performed at the New York University Film Center, she consumed and defecated a staggering quantity of beans. For Paradise (1996), an indictment of the international sex trade in Asia, she played a prostitute servicing a customer. In a series of performances titled Alter Ergo (1997), the artist balanced her body in a variety of torturously uncomfortable poses as a critique of female passivity. In recent years, she has incorporated photography and video into her performances. For Fountain (1999), Chang drank water from a mirror placed on the floor while projecting the performance onto monitors behind her and outside the gallery as though she were upright and “drinking” her own image. The photographs of Chang in seemingly impossible physical positions in the Contortion series (2000–02) were faked, adding an element of play while again commenting on exoticized images of Asian women in popular culture. Stage Fright (2003), performed at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, incorporated video projection, more excessive eating, and the 1950 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. Chang’s 2005 video installation Shangri-La examines the effect of the James Hilton novel Lost Horizon (1933) and the subsequent film by Frank Capra (1937) on China, since they catapulted the mythic utopia into the collective imagination and catalyzed the resultant competition amongst rural Chinese towns to declare themselves the “real” Shangri-la.
Chang has had solo shows at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid (2000), Baltic Art Center in Visby, Sweden (2001), Jack Tilton Gallery in New York (1999 and 2001), Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2005), and Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine (2008), among others. She has appeared in group shows and performances such as the Performance Festival at Kunstpanorama in Lucerne (2000), Quadrennial of Contemporary Art at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst in Ghent (2001), Mirror, Mirror on the Wall at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams (2002), Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self at the International Center of Photography in New York (2003), Still Points of the Turning World at SITE Santa Fe (2006), Family Pictures at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (2007), and New Directors/New Film Festival at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2008). She produced Revolver, a show for European cable television, in 2002. Chang has received grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts (1999), Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation (2000), Rockefeller Foundation (2003), and Tides Foundation (2005). In 2003, she served as resident faculty at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
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