Zhiwan Cheung (b. Long Beach, CA) received his BFA from Cornell University and his MFA from Carnegie Mellon University. Zhiwan first got a taste of performing in front of a camera as a book reviewer for Reading Rainbow, the 1990’s television show advocating reading for children. Since then, Zhiwan has continued to probe the intersection of national identity and the personal psyche, focusing on how and where they join and diverge. As an odyssey toward a home that does not exist, a rite of passage with no destination, Zhiwan uses his work to search for a critical understanding of an impossible homecoming. Zhiwan also hosts a podcast, Seeing Color. This podcast (seeingcolorpod.com) talks with cultural workers and artists of color in order to expand the area of what is a predominantly white space in the arts. Zhiwan has exhibited work both nationally and internationally in venues such as NURTUREart Gallery in New York, Pica Pica Gallery in Berlin, and The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. More recently, Zhiwan received a Fulbright grant to research the Fluxus art group in Berlin, Germany. Currently, Zhiwan is currently a Professor of Media Arts at the United International College in Zhuhai, China.
My work deals with how site and place intersect identity and performativity. Born in America and raised by Chinese immigrants, I live in a permanent in-between state of being neither American nor Chinese. I find inspiration through this in-between state of identities that permeates a critical examination of postcolonialism, posthumanism, and an endless homecoming. Narratives about specific experiences, about my own Chinese-Americanness, can become universal stories about what it means to be human. Seeking out the personal stories inside everyone about who we can be and what we can do centers the individual, while allowing the intimate to become universal. A presentation of the personal can become an act of dignity, by insisting that society face the individual – not looking past or through them.
For “Disoriental Flavors (after Edward Said),” the video-essay takes inspiration from Edward Said’s seminal book, “Orientalism.” A computer generated British voice takes and repurposes Said’s ideas as its own. Footage from San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum plays in the background, with many of the artifacts originating from both the near and far East. Over 60 possible countries span the area of the undefined Oriental borders, each with a messy history that stretches to a time prior to Western civilization. Yet, the culmination of these countries become essentialized into a singular reductive category: Eastern / Asian / Oriental. The video grapples with the issues brought into focus by Said while spinning a new absurd tale. These stories where the narratives join and diverge drive both our lives and the world around us. This is precisely why it is so important to continue expanding the pool of stories, both real and mythological. These stories are guided by an allusive visual language, with a mix of pop cultural, art historical, and aesthetic signals and choices that also lead audiences into finding their own rites of passage.