Flatfile » Zhiwan Chris Cheung »

Location: Pittsburgh

Website: zhiwan.is

They say that geography defines a person. Born in America, yet raised by Chinese immigrants, I live in a sort of permanent in-between-state of being neither American nor Chinese. In a journey towards a home that doesn’t exist, a rite of passage with no destination, my work is forever searching for a critical understanding of an endless homecoming. My practice focuses on the naming of spaces between identities, examining the feeling of a liminal displacement through sculpture, film, and performance. This journey towards nowhere inherently enters a conceptual spiral of a permanent liminal within social and cultural identity. This mix of pop cultural, art historical, and aesthetical languages creates an allusive visual maze in hopes of guiding the viewer into finding their own rite of passage.

Selected Works



In “Reading the Rainbow,” multiple figures, painted in Chinatown Orange, interact with abstract shapes also painted in Chinatown Orange. Narrated over the film is a creation myth of Glidden Paints’ paint names. The myth covers a long list of colors, culminating with the birth of Chinatown Orange.These colors were chosen because their names contained words with specific cultural elements or referenced a particular place. Separating and segregating the list of colors, the myth pulls ideas from other creation myths and texts from Jacques Derrida’s “On the Name,” Johann Wolfgang von Gothe’s “Theory of Colours,” Maggie Nelson’s “Bluets,” and David Batchelor’s “Chromophobia.” In utilizing the language of body, place, and structure, the film becomes a metaphor for the difficulty in classification, categorization, and the act of naming.




On this dual-screen projection, one side portrays my grandmother moving around her living space while she talks about her life. My grandmother begins with her experience of the Japanese invasion during WWII, touching upon the hardships she and her husband encountered during the rise of the Communist Party of China, and ending with her eventual immigration to America and settling in Golden Heritage Living, an assisted living home. On the second projection, I wear her outfit while attempting to embody her words and wrap myself around her language. The separation of my grandmother’s words and the disjointed lip-sync speaks to the inevitable loss of memory from one generation to the next.




“Homage To My Mother” is a re-enactment of my parents as they discuss the meaning of art as they see it. A disconnect between their conversations and the limited movement of the mouths only further emphasizes the communication breakdown from an artistic and cultural standpoint.




Oedipal Art Wrestling engages with questions concerning art, as well as my own relationship with my father. At the core, the video is of my dad and I arm-wrestling, except I am wearing a mask of my dad. Audio from my dad accompanies the video: he discusses his thoughts of contemporary art, what the video means, and my pursuit of art. As the viewers experience my dad’s real-time perception of the video while watching the very video being explained, the visual, audio, and conceptual grind together into a mishmash of contradicting and complementing postulations about art.