• Ideas
  • Apr 19, 2018

Decades in the Making: Interview with Shu Lea Cheang

Portrait of SHU LEA CHEANG. Photo by

I was first introduced to Taiwan-born, American filmmaker and multimedia artist Shu Lea Cheang’s film I.K.U. (2000) at Spectacle, a small, dimly-lit screening room in Brooklyn, New York, in 2017. Curious about the collective experience of watching porn, and perhaps dizzy from the array of graphic imagery that makes up the cyberpunk, technologically-saturated world of I.K.U., I impulsively emailed Cheang, not expecting anything. Being a self-proclaimed “digital nomad,” however, Cheang replied. One thing led to another, and we managed to organize a screening of her new feature film, FLUIDØ (2017), at Columbia University. The zigzagging trajectory of these encounters bounced between the virtual, the physical, and underground media circulation, not without technical glitches, temporal-spatial discontinuities, and some mispronunciations. They mirrored the potent themes that Cheang has dealt with throughout the years in her practice. I sat down with Cheang (in person), on behalf of ArtAsiaPacificto talk about cyberfeminism, pornography, and identity-making, as well as how Cheang’s densely-layered works either prefigure or embody concerns relating to each of the historical time frames she was working in. From media activism and fighting racism in the 1980s, to the machine-body interface emblematic of the ’90s, and then thinking about viral contagion and biotechnology in the 21st century, Cheang’s vision is truly decades in the making.