Wu Tsang

Wu Tsang is a filmmaker, visual artist, and performer who incorporates strategies of activism, art making, event planning, and stage production across a range of multi-disciplinary projects. Tsang combines or juxtaposes the avant-garde and cerebral with sensual, often emotionally charged representations that prompt deeper inquiries into how individuals and communities resist ingrained social prejudices. Her work also considers prescient debates about a generation's claim to a subculture, social gathering as a form of insurgency, and the political capacity of contemporary art.

These are important themes in Tsang's feature-film WILDNESS (2012), a resonant portrait of a Latino Los Angeles LGBT bar, the Silver Platter. WILDNESS integrates elements of fiction and documentary structures to vividly portray Tsang’s multi-layered relationship with the bar, one that explores her role as an artist and activist, and a member of a younger generation introducing itself into a gay scene that started before the Stonewall riots – the Silver Platter’s birth year is 1963. The impact of gentrification and a changing city on the bar’s working class, Hispanic and immigrant patrons is something Tsang implicates herself in when the weekly Wildness party brings art world crowds and attention.

Mindful of the art world's privileged culture, Tsang takes advantage of its embrace of critique and theory-driven practice to consider her own involvement in constructing representations. Through activism, Tsang applies critique and theory outside of art making. For instance, alongside her Wildness party at the Silver Platter she and her collaborators operated a neighboring legal clinic, offering a service that could sustain, rather than merely give visibility to, the local transgender community. This distinction is a public manifestation of something deeply personal for Tsang. In an artist statement, she writes: "A central theme in my work is the 'voice' as a metaphor to explore questions of representation such as 'who is speaking for whom?' and 'whose voices are heard, whose are silenced?' I studied bel canto opera technique, and learned how the medium of voice relates to the boy and affect. I’m also informed by working as a grass-roots organizer and being involved with social justice movements. Living in Los Angeles defines my practice because I draw inspiration from civic life and the landscape."

Before moving to L.A., while still an undergraduate at the Art Institute of Chicago, Tsang was an organizer of PILOT TV: Experimental Media for Feminist Trespass!!! (2004), a temporary, DIY queer and feminist television studio offering sets, props, cameras, and technical support to over 250 participants, for the creation of short skits and thematic "trans-feminist" programming. Formed in the spirit of media collectives including DIVA TV, Paper Tiger Television, the Videofreex, and Raindance, PILOT TV encapsulated the participatory, community-based "sweat-space" that Tsang would activate in later projects.

While Tsang’s work has a rich visual style, her attention to shifting identities, and transitional spaces and communities, emphasizes contingent identifiers such as language, voice, and persona. Like the generations of artist activists and collectives who preceded and inspired her, Tsang uses media – and the frameworks of popular media forums such as cinema, television, theater and dance clubs – to consider how a public persona might be crafted to embody resistance.

Wu Tsang was born in 1982 in Worcester, Massachusetts. She received a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an Interdisciplinary Studio M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has had solo exhibitions at Clifton Benevento, New York; Migros Museum, Zurich; Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin; Diverse Works, Houston; Michael Benevento, Los Angeles; Gallery TPW, Toronto; The New Museum; Spring Workshop, Hong Kong; FIAC Hors les Murs, Paris; and 365 Mission Road, Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in a number of group exhibitions, including at The Whitney Museum of American Art; MACBA, Barcelona; Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Bétonsalon, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles; Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Orange County Museum of Art; Kunsthal Aaarhus, Denmark; Art Sonje Center, Seoul; the Tate Modern; and Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart. Tsang exhibited at the Gwangju Biennial (South Korea), Liverpool Biennial (UK), the 2012 Whitney Biennial (New York), 2012 New Museum Triennial (New York), and the 2014 Hammer Museum's "Made in L.A." Biennial (Los Angeles). Tsang is a 2014 Rockefeller Bellagio Creative Arts Fellow and a 2015 Creative Capital Fellow. She is a 2017 visiting faculty member at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles.