Eight Observations of my TAKEOVER: KRISTINA WONG of the ASIAN ART MUSEUM
November 3rd, 2016 → Leave a comment
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!
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!
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!
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.