DAN S. WANG
At this moment there are more than a quarter million Chinese nationals enrolled as students in American colleges and universities, a number that has grown for ten consecutive years, the large majority of them traditional undergraduates. Drawn by the recruiting pitches of the dozens of American universities happy to admit them and their full tuition-paying parents, but not well served once arrived, this population is a piece of Asian America in the making. Though frequently pulled in by prospects of academic freedom, personal space, and adventure, these students typically come equipped only with superficial or distorted impressions of the United States—i.e. the little they learn in their primary and secondary education and what randomly bleeds into their spheres through media and pop culture. What would a college course designed to introduce them to the America they do not yet know—the rich traditions of political dissent, social experimentation, and cultural autonomy—look like? And what would such a course have to offer students who are not Chinese nationals, i.e. their American counterparts? And how would such a course help students of any background decode the many controversies, cultural tensions, and political conflicts of today’s United States? Theproject Falling In: American Counterculture for Chinese Nationals is a series of texts, graphics, social sculptures and events built around a syllabus for just such a course.
The centerpiece of Falling In: American Counterculture for Chinese Nationals is a syllabus composed as if for a semester long college course. Considered as a work of art, the syllabus may be read as a formula or set of instructions in the tradition of conceptual art. With an appropriate and committed “installation,” the fictional syllabus can be turned into the reality of a social experience, and depending on the context, a more or less conventional course of study. Nonetheless, built into the concept itself is an experimental dimension, ie a thesis about students from China and the counter traditions that have made American society the complicated field of political and cultural antagonism that it is today. As a component of the programming around the Organize Your Own exhibition, I propose a workshop in which participants condense the Falling In syllabus into that of a one or two-day seminar. The motivation is two-fold. One, a workshop provides for an occasion to discuss theproject concept and the course content in-depth and in an unrehearsed format. Issues covered will no doubt begin with the fundamental question of mutual understanding between people raised respectively in the US and in China, particularly with regard to this student population. Two, the workshop will help to produce an abbreviated syllabus, making the project more versatile and future actualizations of the course more likely. The workshop as envisioned would be a two hour session, participants would number between eight and twenty, and the participants would be a mix of Asian American, Chinese national, and other students; Asian American and other scholars, artists, and political activists. Depending on the number of participants, small group work sessions may be useful. The artist Dan S. Wang would serve as the workshop leader and facilitator. All participants would be acknowledged as co-authoring the final workshop product, ie a usable condensed syllabus.
A full syllabus and reading list for the project can be found by clicking on the file below.
Dan S. Wang (b. 1968) is a writer, organizer, blogger, and printmedia artist living in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Dan’s texts have been published internationally in journals, exhibition catalogues, and book collections. His art projects circulate constantly in functional activist settings and through artistrun networks. Along with seven others he cofounded Mess Hall, the renowned experimental cultural space in Chicago that operated from 20032013, and regularly works in groups, including in Compass, Red76, and Madison Mutual Drift. For the year 2013 Dan was named a Fellow in Arts and Culture Leadership from the Rockwood Leadership Institute of Oakland, California. prop-press.net