Patty Chang: Invocation for a Wandering Lake: Part 1 & 2

Patty Chang, Invocation for a Wandering Lake Part 1 & 2, 2016, Color, two-channel video12 min. Image courtesy of Patty Chang. Selected by Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, Texas.

In Patty Chang’s (b.1972, USA) Invocation for a Wandering Lake: Part 1 & 2 (2016), the lifeless body of a whale floats off the coast of Newfoundland’s Fogo Islands, a former fishing hub. The artist is seen meditatively washing the deceased animal. With similar attention, she scrubs the shell of an abandoned ship in the desert of Muynak, Uzbekistan, a defunct seaport on the receded Aral Sea affording rituals of care to non-human entities.


Artist Q&A

Where are you from and how did you become interested in moving image work?

I was born in California, US. I began by working in live performance and when I had access to video cameras, I started using video.

What inspired/influenced you to make the work?

When I was in Newfoundland, I heard there was a beached whale not far from where I was staying. When I saw the whale corpse in the water, I felt very overwhelmed by sadness.  I felt that I needed to do something about it and decided I wanted to wash the whale’s body. I bought a sponge and waders at the local department store and went into the cold water to try and wash it. A few years later when I was working near the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan, I saw a fishing boat moored in the sand. The sea had shrunk and the boat was in the desert. I felt a similar feeling of loss for the boat and the past, and decided to wash it as well.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am installing a 5-channel video installation at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn NY called Milk Debt. The work is a multi-part video project consisting of videos of lactating women pumping their breast milk as they recite lists of fears drawn from multiple communities across different geographical regions.

I am also working on a collaborative project thinking about endings and climate change by thinking about necropsy with Astrida and Aleksija Neimanis.


Patty Chang (b.1972) is a Los Angeles-based artist and educator who uses performance, video, installation, and narrative forms when considering identity, gender, transnationalism, colonial legacies, the environment, large-scale infrastructure projects, and impacted subjectivities. Her work has been exhibited nationwide and internationally at such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; New Museum, New York; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; BAK, Basis voor actuele Kunst, Utrecht; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, England; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Times Museum in Guangzhou, China; and Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. She has received a United States Artist Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, a Creative Capital Fellowship, short listed for the Hugo Boss Prize, a Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship in the Visual Arts at the American Academy in Berlin, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and an Anonymous Was a Woman Grant. She teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.