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The multiculturalist of Oz

William Yang, the Chinese-Australian performance artist

By Samantha Ellis   November 2003

When William Yang started taking photographs in the 1970s, he set out to document Sydney’s gay subculture. In New York, Nan Goldin was taking similar, snatched snapshots of Bowery drag queens. But whereas Goldin’s images are beautiful and vulnerable, Yang’s are blank, hurried, even cold; social reportage captured without time for composition. In the 1980s, Yang started staging one-man shows, which occupied a space somewhere between photography and performance art. With a mode of performance as affectless as his images, he developed a form of presentation made to match his deeper subject: the banal detritus of migration. Where Goldin had…

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