A monologue from the play by Christopher Chen
WANG MIN (thirties)
Wang Min is a Chinese conceptual artist and she is speaking to an interviewer onstage in front of an audience.
The interview follows the performance component of her theater/art hybrid installation piece that takes
the audience through several levels of deception. Here, she describes her initial influence for the piece.
The piece was first inspired by the many incidents of scandal involving lying and plagiarism in the United States.
Recently Jonah Lehrer, then James Frey, Stephen Glass. But I was particularly interested in the Mike Daisey scandal that occurred here about a year ago.
Okay, so he goes on this program to talk about the Chinese workers, and receives a lot of publicity for this,
and then when the host, this Ira Glass, is told of the inaccuracies, Daisey is brought in a second time and is in essence . . .
crucified on the air for lying, by Ira Glass and the reporter who uncovered him. One of my main points of interest has always been America’s relationship to truth,
particularly in relation to other countries. America places a high premium on “truth.” No persons of any other culture get more defensive when questioned over their “truth.”
This piece of journalism must be absolutely, empirically true. This piece of art must be emotionally truthful.
So when a glitch in “truth” occurs, the impulse is to defend and argue your own “rules of truth” to the death.
And in the meanwhile the real content of truth- workers’ conditions in China- gets sidelined in the conversation.
This is what captured my imagination- how arcane American truth battles reveal the hollowness of her global outreach.
So Mike Daisey is a theater artist; and as per his perceived rules of his medium, he allows himself to stretch truth in order to craft a compelling narrative.
But when placed in the context of NPR and This American Life, he runs into problems. Different medium, different rules.
There has been a lot of this. Take James Frey for example, who is crucified by Oprah for his book A Million Little Pieces.
Again, a confusion of category—if he had called it a fictional memoir, no problem. Non fiction? Big problem.
What interests me is this rift that occurs when different sets of rules bump against each other. We open a great chasm of unknowing.
We see we do not know anything other than the architecture of our own rules. So it is this rift I seek by mixing theater with visual art.