Patty Chang (b. 1972)
Flotsam Jetsam (2007) with David Kelley
Exploring what they describe as “the intersection of site and the imaginary,” the work of Patty Chang and David Kelley merges performance, photography, and digital video. Set near the Three Gorges Dam, on China’s Yangtze River, Flotsam Jetsam is inspired by a broad collection of sources: Chairman Mao’s much-publicized swims in the river, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, journalistic accounts of China’s rapid economic development, and Western ideas about Asian modernization. Wavering between documentary and fictional forms, the project examines the relationship between landscape and identity in the midst of the dam’s construction, which required the relocation of more than one million people. The film details the fabrication of a large submarine, its launch on the Yangtze with a crew of local actors, and its progress through a hydroelectric dam to a reservoir. Along the journey, various performances are enacted, dreams are recounted during a psychotherapy session in a swimming pool, and a play is filmed in a ship factory to elicit submerged realities both literal and symbolic.