Imagine paradise…. is it heaven on earth? Next time you make love to a photograph or take a journey to the Lost Horizon, you won’t believe your eyes. Sara Kealani Takahashi and Patty Chang’s piercing and perverse performances for the camera will force you to rethink the politics underpinning your vacation hotspot.
Sara Kelani Takahashi | 2005 | 22 min | 16mm | USA | Canadian Premiere
Located in Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a self-described living history museum established by the Mormon Church in 1963. In a series of chapters, Sara Kelani Takahashi reveals a number of anthropological tropes, methodologies, and framing mechanisms. Through the use of animated found-photo collections, hand processed ‘archival’ footage, and subject portraits, the film reveals a system that operates smoothly through the participants willing and knowing complicity in their position.
Sara Takahashi is a filmmaker from Kailua, Hawaii, and received an MFA (2004) from the University of California, San Diego. Most recently, she has been pursuing a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology from Rice University. She currently resides in the Bay Area, California.
Patty Chang | 2006 | 40 min | Video | USA/China | Director in Attendance | Canadian Premiere
Like the beginning of Lost Horizon, James Hilton’s 1933 novel, Patty Chang’s journey to Shangri-La begins with a flight descending through the clouds into a mountainous landscape. And like the British diplomat Hugh Conway, Chang and her crew meet a group of monks in the mountains. But unlike the movie adaptation of Lost Horizon (directed by Frank Capra in 1937), these mountains turn out to be the atrium décor of a newly built tourist hotel. In 1997, near the Tibetan border in south-central China, over a dozen rural towns debated as to whether they were the basis for the ‘heaven on earth’ of Hilton’s Shangri-La. After an aggressive marketing battle ensued, the Chinese government intervened by officially designating the town of Zhongdian as the original Shangri-La. Since then, intent on becoming a tourist destination, this rural town has been trying to reinvent itself as an ‘authentic’ Chinese society.
Through the fabrication and dislocation of scaled and remodeled obects, Chang shifts from performer to creative director to examine the everyday aspects of façade. Creating a dysfunctional oxygen chamber, a cake dedicated to the Lost Horizon, and a mountain made of mirrors, she both questions and contributes to the production of this romanticized mythical place. In the process of grounding our desires to reach a pure and higher place, she recognizes her own Asian American perspective. Shangri-La is part of the Three M Project, a series commissioned by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the New Museum of Contemporary Art.
Patty Chang | 2001 | 3 min | Video | USA | Director in Attendance | Canadian Premiere
Best known for her cutting performance art, Chang uses the medium of video to mediate the transitions between fiction and reality. In Love records her eating an onion with both of her parents. By reversing the footage, the image takes on a different visual meaning as the scene appears to show a couple kissing passionately.
CHINOISERIE OUT OF THE OLD WEST
Patty Chang | 2006 | 17 min | Video | USA | Director in Attendance | Canadian Premiere
A Chinoiserie Out of the Old West is a translation of the magazine article written by Walter Benjamin about Anna May Wong in 1923. In his essay “The Task of the Translator”, Benjamin says, “. . . translation does not find itself in the center of the language forest but on the outside facing the wooded ridge; it calls into it without entering, aiming at that single spot where the echo is able to give, in its own language, the reverberation of the work in the alien one.” Wong and Benjamin, both outsiders in their respective cultures, meet at a party in Berlin. The space itself resembles a film set, wavering back and forth between exotic and banal. As if to situate her in an appropriate setting, his language is ornamental, poetic, and peppered with Chinese quotations, reminding us of foreignness and authenticity, of translation and misinterpretation.
Patty Chang was born in 1972, in San Francisco. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.