The video “Shangri-La” refers to the mythical city of James Hilton’s novel “Lost Horizon” written in 1933 and is exemplified in a film by Frank Capra which speaks of eternal youth in a city of happiness. In 1997, a small town in an agricultural region of central China near the Tibetan border was proclaimed as the place that inspired Shangri-la. Thereafter, a dozen other cities in the same area have claimed to be paradise on earth, prompting a marketing battle without mercy, raging on until the government’s intervention. The mirror used to build the model of the mountain is highly symbolic and often appears in the work of the artist. In literature and art, it represents the transition between reality and the dream world composed of projections and desires. Chang’s work focuses on the reality and fiction inherent in an existing space in both its concrete embodiment and its myth. She explores the idea of a real journey to an imaginary place. This work exposes contradictions: the search for a city’s roots and traditions leads to a falsification of its history, and cultural conflicts inside of touristic and financial goals.
When she arrived in New York in the mid 1990s, Patty Chang became involved in the performance scene. Staging her own body in intensely difficult situations enables her to denounce problems she observes in contemporary society such as various excessive behaviors like eating disorders, as well as the sex trade, gender and cultural stereotypes, identity issues. Soon, she also used video and photography (like the Contortion series 2000-2002) to document her actions and extend her practice. By appropriating cinematic conventions, popular culture, pornography, literature and translation, Chang ceaselessly explores and subverts historical and current relations between East and West.
Patty Chang was born in San Leandro, California, in 1972. She lives and works in New York.