William Yang, Shadows

Review in Issue 15-4 | Winter 2003

The notion of transferable skills in artmaking is one that interests me greatly. Is writing so very different from creating visual images? In recent years, artists have been more willing to apply their ideas to a number of different disciplines-the same starting points working their way into many means of creative expression.

William Yang is a prime example of this artistic mobility: having established himself as a playwright, he next became a renowned photographer - and then created a series of autobiographical performance pieces reflecting on his life as a third-generation Chinese-Australian.

'Shadows' is the first of his works 'to tell stories other than my own', using his trademark theatrical style of monologue with slide projection. And what slides! Two large screens show stunning images - of the Sydney gay scene, of a kangaroo hunt in the South Australian bush, of Checkpoint Charlie and desolate streets in East Berlin. He weaves together a number of lives: we follow the fortunes and misfortunes of an Aboriginal Australian family, run parallel with the story of the oppression of the German immigrants of South Australia intered during the war. Many of the images are of meals: the basic human needs of sustenance, comfort and community reflected on through the slides used as windows into the lives of many different souls. Yang does not compete with his images: his performance style is to recite his complementary story-in-words with a gentle, deadpan humour and soft, reflective intelligence.

He is accompanied by multiinstrumentalist Colin Offord, whose music is well used as a scenographic tool: setting the scene and denoting scene-change or passing of time. Words, music and visual images unite to create a poignant and beautiful piece of theatre.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 2003

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-4
p. 28