Eight Observations of my TAKEOVER: KRISTINA WONG of the ASIAN ART MUSEUM

November 3rd, 2016

I’m back from my monster tour of Oregon and giving a long overdue wrap-up on my successful TAKEOVER of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco last month, September 8.  I previewed the show in August in this blog for Angry Asian Man!

YouTube Preview Image

Here is a video with highlights of that epic night. 

The idea was simple:  Troll the art world by re-staging famous (infamous?) works of art with people of color.  Would the results be more hilarious?  More profound?  A good way to kill three hours?

Once people got over the initial anxiety that my TAKEOVER was a durational performance art show (not a linear stand-up comedy performance), they relaxed into the idea that they were free to explore this big ass museum animated by simultaneous performances.

But man was it stressing me out to have Chinese aunties coming up to me asking, “When are you doing your act Kristina?” (Auntie, THIS IS MY ACT.)

HERE ARE EIGHT OBSERVATIONS FROM MY TAKEOVER OF THE ASIAN ART MUSEUM

1.  People have no idea who I actually am.  But whoever they showed up for, they helped me break an attendance record!

Between the old couple who claimed to know my father from his fraternity days (“Sorry, wrong Chinese frat boy”) and another couple who complimented me on my Netflix special (hint: Different comedian, same last name),  I began to wonder if people knew who the fuck they even came to see.  But no matter! 1007 people showed up!  Breaking a five year attendance record at the Asian Art Museum!  I will take them how I can get them!

Also, how much are you loving my outfit?  For the first time in my fancy life, I sought the skills of a professional stylist.  I figure if the cast of Love and Hip Hop can get stylists for their reunion episode, I can also treat myself!  I gave stylist Kiki Stash a few adjectives (“crazy museum patron lady”) and viola she produced this vintage jumpsuit and Jackie Collins turban.

2. Hands down– Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is so much better when it’s just Short Round!

YouTube Preview Image

My father asked me: “Is that actually the actor who played Short Round?”

That’s how good Jeffrey Lei was at this role!!!

Jeffrey Lei is one of the Bay Area’s most under-appreciated actors.  I met him a million years ago when I was a young drunk of a performance artist.  I had seen his odd mockumentary (“Dick Ho, Asian Male Porn Star“) and immediately thought he’d be perfect to memorize and perform all of Short Round’s lines from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a single monologue.

Jeffrey jumped at the task, transcribed the lines within days and was memorized by the end of the week.  He even made his costume.  And Matt Abaya who put the video together dressed up like Indiana Jones.  Jeffrey was scheduled to perform the nine minute monologue just six times that night, but bust it out more than twice that.  I’m not sure if the audience appreciated the connection between the artifacts in the gallery and the stolen artifacts that Indiana Jones is always trying to recover, but I think I’m brilliant for making that connection.

3. The best Pokemon gyms are socialist!

YouTube Preview Image

The most difficult performance to “capture” (literally) was the roaming performance of Socialist Pokemon (or as I like to think of it “WOKE-emon”).  I am including this live raw video clip above because very little documentation exists of Takeo Rivera and Jai Lei Yee  roaming the museum as socialist mash-ups of Pokemon (“PikaChé,” Ho Chi Mander,” “MaoTwo,” “ArtiCastro” and “MarxChamp”).  People would spot them, chant a socialist phrase, and they would be rewarded one of five stickers for their Little Red Pokedex (though, there was no reward… just being shamed for bourgeois aspirational desires).

Apparently Takeo and Jai were getting stalked by hardcore Pikache hunters!

 Check the Little Red Pokedex game card we handed out!

 

4. Dead stuff in the museum is not as fun as the LIVE STUFF!

The placard that was propped by live Dhaya in exhibition.

In the spirit of Tilda Swinton sleeping on display in at the MOMA (to echo the snooze-worthy reviews of her performance from critics?), we put comedian Dhaya Lakshminarayanan on display as a “Live Indian Artifact”.  Her museum placard was priceless as was the commentary from docent comedian Justin Luc.  They got a really good crowd and the banter was super ridiculous.

What was my mom’s favorite joke?  “This museum is so full of dead things. Dhaya went to MIT and is now a comedian, so she’s practically dead to her parents.”  Ha!

And what enterprising live exhibition would be complete without a list of special activities! Apparently they cleaned the audience out of $36 giving out new Indian names and mantras!  See below…

5.  Move over Marina Abramovic! We got deeper in 3 hours as you did in 736!

Ok, so I’ll never know if the emotional impact of our three hour recreation could match Marina Abramovic’s “Artist is Present” because I never put on the adult diaper and sat in line overnight at MOMA to look into her eyes.  But shit got deep up in here!

I’m so proud of Faiza Farah who performed “The Black Woman is Present”  and connected this performative action to the history of solidarity between Black and Asian activists.

Faiza was the only performer of the night who did everything as scheduled for all three hours (most performances that attempted to adhere to a “schedule” fell way off it).  My friend’s six year old sat in front of her and then said “I’m bored” then got up to leave.  It’s pretty intense to engage people for so long!

 

6.  Yoko Ono would be proud

Drag Legend Khmera Rouge offered up her gorgeous “Final Walk  Gown” for the snipping.  It was stunning and easily the most photographed performance of the night.  Khmera had to get on a flight and could only sit for two hours and there was so much fabric in that dress that we never got it down to the last threads.  But man, was she great at keeping a straight and serious face!  And people were transfixed!!!  I really felt like we brought Yoko Ono (with a drag twist) into 2016.

 

7.  That Jeff Adachi guy does not sit still.

When I proposed to San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi that he do a three hour reiteration of Shia LeBeouf’s “All My Movies,” I thought I had hit the performance art jackpot.  A real politician doing performance art!  I imagined pain, regret, thoughtful reflective smiles as Jeff Adachi watched three hours of footage of himself (campaign speeches, keynotes, public statements) that I had tediously culled from all corners of the internet.

This would be Jeff Adachi not sitting in his chair and NOT watching himself for three hours.

Alas, you can turn the politician into a performance artist, but you can never get him to stop being a politician.  I went to check on him throughout the night and he was networking, shaking hands with his beloved constituents and completely ignoring the footage of him that we were screening.  He also gave away copies of his Documentary You Don’t Know Jack. And the audience had brought him drink after drink.  I almost needed to make an announcement to the museum, “Please stop buying the Public Defender cocktails.  Thanks.”

But there was something kind of cool about putting a Public Defender on display in the museum.  Was his networking non stop hamming it up for his fans, actually a performance art piece?

 

8. That Philip Huang guy does not keep his clothes on (and neither do his audiences).

 

Berkeley based performance artist Philip Huang has been on my crawl for years.  More than one person had introduced him to me and told me he was my kindred freak spirit.  And so I gave him all my trust in jeopardizing my relationship with major art institutions and possibly jerking off in front of people (but under a blanket), in the spirit of Vito Acconci’s “Seedbed”.

I went upstairs to the China Tomb room, expecting to see a sticky blanket with a body writhing under, instead, I was greeted by five half naked audience members and Philip conspiring to parade them through the museum.

I yelled, “You are supposed to be masturbating under a blanket Philip!  What are you doing?”

“Oh you know how it is, performance just evolves.”

After failing to corral Jeff Adachi to stay in his seat for more than ten minutes watching himself, he said, “Kristina, I need to piss and I want to see the other performances.”

I took Jeff upstairs to where Philip was performing. And there were even more butt naked guys dancing in a circle. Who knew Philip had the power to get so many audience members naked?

I assumed Jeff Adachi would explode in anger and scream How could you include me in such a lewd performance Kristina?  I’m an elected official!

 

Instead, Jeff put his arms around the guys and said, “Somebody take our picture.  This will be my Christmas card photo.”

God bless Jeff Adachi, Performance Art, and San Francisco.

→ Leave a comment

Category: Blog

I LOST THE FREAKING PULITZER PRIZE TO HAMILTON.

April 19th, 2016

YouTube Preview Image

While I may have lost the Pulitzer Prize to Hamilton, I should probably get an award for “Longest Dragging Out of an Inside Joke Between me and Performance Artist Brian Feldman Whilst Misleading the Internet About The Quality of My Work”

Here are the transcripts of the three speeches I prepared to give.  Because I was neither a winner or nominee, the only speech I could deliver was the “concession speech”.

Pulitzer Prize Concession Speech

“Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”

This is a quote on losing from Donald Trump.  A man who I will not be voting for in the upcoming Presidential primaries, or ever. In fact, I completely dislike him.  But I think it’s a good quote on losing.

I lost this battle today.  Specifically, I lost an opportunity for my mother to have ultimate bragging rights that her daughter was a Pulitzer Prize winner, thus redeeming all the grief I have caused her all these years by choosing art as my profession. I lost an opportunity to be the first Asian American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in the prize’s 100 year history.  Most significantly, I lost an opportunity to stand out as the only Pulitzer Prize winner on Tinder.

My sincerest congratulations to Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton.  I have no idea if your Broadway Musical Hamilton is more worthy of a Pulitzer Prize than The Wong Street Journal.  I don’t say this as a slight to your work, I say it as someone who cannot sell enough blood and organs to buy Hamilton tickets that are already sold out through the end of this year.  But I am sure Hamilton is amazing even though, you didn’t sew your set or become a rap star in Northern Uganda.  And Lin-Manuel.  I congratulate you on this well deserved honor.

I appreciate so many people for supporting me on the road to be a Pulitzer Prize contender.   To my friend, the conceptual performance artist Brian Feldman whose play Dishwasher was in direct competition with mine for this award.  I thank you Brian for daring me to send my hard earned $50 to apply for the Pulitzer and for not once acting out in ways that were competitive. That we were able to stay friends on this long road to the Pulitzer is a testament to our friendship.  To my director Emily Mendelsohn, you share this loss with me, but I believe we are victorious in other ways.  To my commissioners, thank you for your support.  I hope the fact, that I did not win this honor, does not stop you from giving me lots and lots of money down the road.

I lost the battle today. But I did not lose the war.   I will continue to write my stories and the stories of marginalized people into existence.  I will continue to perform.  I will continue to talk about my genitals  and bowel movements on social media and it will be profound.  It will be meaningful to humanity more than humanity itself.

Thank you.

 

Pulitzer Prize Acceptance Speech

Wow.  This is an incredible surprise. My life has been marked by a series of failures and near misses.  Brushes with greatness.  And intense falls from Grace.  I’ve not won a lot in my life. And I credit my mother’s intense gift for guilting me, into what has kept me going.  All we can do, prize or not, is keep going.

 

There were so many people who encouraged me to this moment.  My friend, the great performance artist Brian Feldman who encouraged me to drop the $50 to apply for this award.  Brian’s conceptual performance “Dishwasher” was in direct competition with “The Wong Street Journal” for this prize, and sadly the Pulitzer Committee could not announce a tie. I hope there are no hard feelings Brian.  To Emily Mendelsohn, who directed this play.  Who knew, we’d find ourselves, on the top of the world today? To my commissioners, I share this honor with you. And to my mother.  Finally, the gods have answered your prayers to the gods and you no longer have to hang your head in shame when asked what your daughter does for a living.  You are now the mother of a Pulitzer Prize winner.   Now go forth Mommy, and start texting your friends.  Because my success is all you have.  And my success today, is everything.

 

It’s an honor to be the first Asian American woman to be the  Pulitzer Prize winner in Drama in its 100 year history. We have always existed.  Our labor has always existed.  Our stories have always existed.  We stand on the backs of mothers and grandmothers who sacrificed everything so that we could live in full expression of our lives.  And from this point forward, the world will recognize that we aren’t going out quietly.  Ever.

 

To Lin-Manuel Miranda whose play Hamilton is sold out on Broadway until the end of the year, I am stunned that the committee picked The Wong Street Journal over your masterpiece of Hamilton. This is an upset that you nor I could have anticipated.  But, I guess it’s clear who the winner is.  Suck it Lin-Manuel!  My play is cheaper and better than yours.  You never heard of me before!  You heard of me now sucka! Who’s the Ham 4 Ham now, biatch?!

Thank you.

 

Pulitzer Prize Nominee Acceptance Speech

The great 90s actor, and former ex husband of Angelina Jolie, Billy Bob Thornton once said…

“Getting the nomination is like gravy. Winning would be like whatever is better than gravy.”

Today’s nomination is not only gravy, it is what is better than gravy.  Gravy that drips across the mashed potatoes of my 15 year professional career as a performance artist.  It is a gravy that is moist, flavorful and incredibly validating. And today, finally, I lick that gravy.  I swallow that gravy.  I let that gravy drip down my chest like at the end of a video I downloaded on Pornhub.

My mother was never content with me being in second place.  I know this because she had told me this my entire life and I was constantly reminded that 2nd place was like the B-average of life.  And when I explained to her a few months ago what Hamilton was, she reluctantly relented that being named a nominee to Hamilton would be a sufficient honor.  Today, I am so honored, to be sufficient.  To be a Pulitzer Prize nominee.  To be able to sit in the waiting room of an audition for Geico, and tell my fellow actors, “Hey, I’m a Pulitzer Prize Nominee.  Now I’m going to try to book this commercial for insurance”.

I share this honor of this nomination with the conceptual performance artist Brian Feldman, who encouraged me over Italian food last year to spend $50 to apply for his award.   I thank my mother for praying to the gods for this.  I share this with my director Emily Mendelsohn and with my commissioners.

I share this nomination for all the Asian American women in this country who so often pass through life anonymous, our work unseen, or strife unheard.  This is for you and for all the marginalized women in the world who deserve to be named, to be acknowledged by history, to be nominated in the game of life.

Thank you.

→ Leave a comment

Category: Blog

15 Things that happened to the WONG in 2015

December 17th, 2015

Untitled 

It’s that end-of-year blog where I pat myself on the back and I make you watch.

1.  SOLD OUT SHOWS of WONG STREET JOURNAL!

YouTube Preview Image

My newest show is the best one yet.  I sold out previews in Orange County and Burlington, VT.  Then sold out all five shows (and the 6th add-on show) before the San Francisco World Premiere run started.  In Los Angeles, I sold out three shows at the REDCAT.  This show is a hilarious hit and 2016 will have me all over the country with it!

 

2. Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show”
YouTube Preview Image

Check my new media reel.  So fancy.

So this was awesome.  Twelve hours after being in flight and travel for 40 hours, I got on a red-eye headed back in the direction I just flew from to talk about yellowface casting in Aloha (a movie disaster that not even Bradley Cooper could save).

 

3. Wong DaFunkee Professor at Cal Arts!

Untitled

My first time being on an institutional payroll in TEN YEARS.  I was asked to teach a class at Cal Arts in the MFA Creative Writing Program.  I named the course Cake or Death: Making Performance in Post Post Post Post Post Post Post Post Modern Times.  My students made site specific performances and invented fake twitter profiles and were assigned a lot of reading (much of which got skimmed over… ahem).   Yo, I tip my hat to teachers everywhere because managing a classroom is a lot of work!

4. Led a mind blowing comedy workshop on Skid Row!

YouTube Preview Image

Thanks to an Artist-in-Residence award I received last year, I learned a lot about working in this very special community.  We made performances about the issues of police brutality, systemic racism, and the poverty they are up against daily.  I feel so honored to have new talented colleagues, some who are also hard working community organizers.

5. What the Frack Jerry Brown videos!

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

Fracking is like eating a bunch of toxic waste and then taking a dump in your drinking water, then drinking that drinking water.  I was so glad my friends at Movement Generation invited me up to Bakersfield to meet people whose live right by fracking sites and make these commercials with them that will hopefully lead to a ban on fracking in CA.  These spots aired during the commercial breaks of The Daily show in Sacramento last month.

6. I went to the Philippines

I found a $400 flight leaving from NYC and flying the wrong way around the world to the Philippines and one a crazy whim, I bought it.

Here is a blog by famous travel blogger Anton Diaz about my first day in Manila.

YouTube Preview Image
Here I am eating balut.

YouTube Preview Image
Here I am playing referee at a “midget” boxing match.

7.  Buttload of awesome press

The Guardian “Kristina Wong:  Pushing the Envelope on Race, Rights and America”

KQED Radio

YouTube Preview Image
I was on this panel with Frangela and women from SNL!

8. I didn’t get a single grant or fellowship I applied for but so what?

2015 was an exceptional year in bureaucratic rejection.  I applied for a a ton of stuff only to get a ton of rejection letters back, thereby ending a long multi-year streak of grant success.   It didn’t stop me from being an artist and I still managed to turn out one of the highest gro$$ing years of my career.  The hustle my friends.  Always, the hustle.

9.  Shot a new web series that rolls out in 2016!
Untitled

Without revealing too much detail, my new web series is going to be HILARIOUS and we shot several episodes worth of content in two long days.  I got a bunch of all-stars too like Asa Akira, Amy Hill and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons to be in it!

 

10.  Helped raise about $2600+ in (documented) donations to support microloans in Uganda!

Untitled

 Bukenya at his KPFK interview.

I decided a long time ago that as a working artist I would not forever sit on the “taking/begging/asking” end of the economic equation.  I wanted to be able to give to artists and organizations I care about.  I wanted to be able to mobilize my resources to support other organizations.  When Bukenya Muusa, who I worked under in Uganda came to Los Angeles,  I introduced him to my community, got him on the airwaves, and coordinated $2600 in cash donations and sales of merchandise made by women in Uganda!  Thank you friends! All of it will go to support the self determination of Ugandan women.

11.  Broke Ground on a New Play
Untitled

I started writing a new play about Vermont and China at New York Theater Workshop’s theater residency in New Hampshire. (That’s a lot of places to engage in this play about place!) Right now it’s looking like a musical.

12.  Three Queer Weddings in One Month!

September was the month of #LoveWins.  After having one completely traumatizing hetero wedding experience early this year, my chosen queer family reminded me that weddings could be awesome and need only be guided by love love love and not pomp and circumstance to be awesome.

13.  Funeral for the White Man’s Penis at MOCA!

YouTube Preview Image

My comedy and visual art got some play at the Museum of Contemporary Art this year.

14.  Hella Tours all over the country!

This year my art had me racking up airline miles.   Artist life brought me to Chicago, Burlington, VT, New Hampshire, Baltimore, NYC, Sacramento, Dallas, San Francisco, Indiana, Poughkeepsie and Portland (where I write you now!).

15.  Wrote some amazing essays

This essay for San Francisco Magazine broke their publication record for most read/shared non-gentrification essay.  It actually found its way to my mother before I sent it to her– that’s my way of testing to see if something has really gone viral.

My Comedy Central appearance went by faster than I thought imaginable. I wrote “How I Failed to Save all People of Color from Oppression in My Six Minutes on The Nightly Show” to decompress about how high pressure it is to be on those panel shows, esp as the only woman of color.

 ”Sew Privileged” my essay about crafting my set for The Wong Street Journal appears as part of the RACECRAFT online exhibit.

 

Sad stuff that happened:  Jeremy Lin still has not proposed to me.  I had to put my cat Octavia to sleep last week ($$$ and tears). I never cleaned my house the way I swore I would.  Other stuff.

 Stuff I’m looking forward to next year: Now that The Wong Street Journal is up and running and not in that pregnancy phase, I look forward to touring the whole country/ world with it and getting rolling on other madness.

 

Thanks for hanging in with me.  It trips me out when I realize how long I’ve been at this and I finally have realized that I’m not quitting ever.

→ Leave a comment

Category: Blog | Tags:

Swimming Downstream

June 29th, 2015

At the risk of sounding like a cornball client testimonial for an overpriced life coach, I can finally say that after swimming upstream for fifteen years, I’m finally living with full faith that everything is going to work out ok.  The world is still a mess but I finally feel like I’m in a position where I can do something about it.   I can speak up and create from a space where I’m not so panicked about my own livelihood that I can actually just make really good art that people will respond to.  I can create creative community and spaces where people can find liberation in small doses.  And I feel like there is an audience that really gets what I’m saying.

Will I save the world?  Nah.  But I will put a few good dents in the system.

The lesson?  Don’t ever give up.  Just keep finding new ways to crack the code.  And the way to do that is you owning what you do the best.  And stop waiting to be rescued. And take every opportunity that comes as a big deal because everything is an opportunity.  And work your ass off.  And pick yourself up after multiple nervous breakdowns.  And give up alcohol.  And read lots of self help books.  And stop dating losers.

But mostly, don’t ever give up.

12 hours after I got back to LAX from the Philippines, I got an invite to be on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show”.  This involved getting on a red eye flight after already having had traveled 40 hours by plane.  But their make up artist cleaned me up real good and I got a few meme-able moments during the panel.

 

I wrote about the crazy that is the the multi-comedian panel experience for Scenarios USA…

YouTube Preview Image

Then I got back to the West Coast where I celebrated another trip around the sun (my birthday).  But first, earlier in the day, I did this interview with Halo Halo TV in Los Angeles!

YouTube Preview Image

Then headed to San Francisco for the WORLD PREMIERE of The Wong Street Journal.  It was a homecoming of epic proportions.  All FIVE SHOWS SOLD OUT the Monday of show week. We added a SIXTH show– that SOLD OUT in 24 hours.  I got a commendation from San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  And the audiences seemed to get what the heck it was that I was laying down.

And the press was incredible…

Radio Appearance on KQED Forum

Hyphen Magazine

San Francisco Chronicle INTERVIEW

San Francisco Chronicle REVIEW

Reappropriate – Feature, June 16

Blogher.com – Feature, June 17

BeyondAsiaPhilia: Review by Valerie Soe

Now it’s a more relaxed July but the work has stacked up considerably on my desk.

→ Leave a comment

Category: Blog

Please someone, tell me that it’s ok to slow down….

May 15th, 2015

This may have been the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.  And I’ve done a lot of stupid.

I scheduled a vacation BEFORE my World Premiere of the Wong Street Journal, rather than after.   A world premiere is a lot of work and while I haven’t had a real vacation in a couple of years, I am hoping I am not pacing around the beach trying to find wifi to promote my show.

At the time when I spotted the $400 RT tix to Manila (except it flies from NYC, adding more $$ to the trip), it seemed like a good idea.  But now I’m like running and running and running out the door to get everything done.

THE GUILT IS KILLING ME!!  I CAN’T STOP WORKING!!!!

Ever since my infamous blog post for xoJane about white dudes with Asian fetishes I’ve pretty much been running around non-stop.  Even in Gulu, Uganda, the locals remarked how I never slowed down. I actually hate slowing down.  I kind of love the adrenaline.  So I’m not sure how well I’ll do in a situation where my job is to RELAX.

I’m typing fast that’s how unable to slow down I’ve been.

I squeezed this TV appearance last week in with Florence Henderson on the Huffington Post Show last week!  She talked about how she got crabs from the ex-mayor of NYC.  Childhood dreams come true!  I can’t stop running around.

I’ve joked with my travel partners that I will be so bored on the Island of Palawan that I’ll likely build a school with my bare hands or something.

Anyway, enjoy the trailer of my show below and tell everyone in San Francisco to buy tickets!

YouTube Preview Image

 

→ Leave a comment

Category: Blog

Page 1 of 102123...102030...Last »