New Television Workshop Collection

New Television Workshop Collection Program MaterialsNew Television

Video clip of Color Schemes

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Color Schemes

Alternative Title:
America's Washload in Four Cycles

See the records for "New Television, Episode 507 (1989)" and "New Television, Episode 107 (1991)" for descriptions of videos containing this work.

Copyright Date:

Copyright Holder:
Shu Lea Cheang

Cheang, Shu Lea

"Color Schemes" was broadcast as Episode 507 of the 1989 season, and Episode 107 (replacing "Son of Sam and Delilah" in some venues) of the 1991 season of "New Television." Shu Lea Cheang is a video artist/independent producer based in New York. Her video work has been widely exhibited at museums and film festivals in the United States and Europe, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and the American Film Institute in Los Angeles." -- press release

See the records for "New Television, Episode 507 (1989)" and "New Television, Episode 107 (1991)" for descriptions of videos containing this work.

Twelve performers and writers of color collaborate to recount incidents of racism, particularly racism in the entertainment industry. The work uses the metaphor of washing a load of colored clothing and is divided up into four sections based on laundry cycles. Cycle One, "Soak," opens with an archival piece of animation about the price of labor, with a particularly offensive rendition of a Chinese man who is referred to repeatedly as a "coolie." In a staged vignette, three of the actors are standing at a chicken-packaging factory line in an open air alley. Phones keep dropping down, and they take calls as they work, responding with mock enthusiasm to offers to play stereotypical parts. In Cycle Two, "Wash," another trio of actors are shooting pool, singing fragments of songs, and telling stories that reflect cultural stereotypes they have faced. At one point, a Native American actress says, "We used to watch the cowboy movies backwards, so that way we would always win." Footage of a black-and-white cowboy movie played backwards is superimposed onto a bank of windows on a building in the background. In the Third Cycle, "Rinse," three more actors are seated at a bus stop. One of them unloads animal bones from his sack. One of the performers asks another, "Have you been waiting long?" "So long I could be a statue," she responds. Cycle Four, "Extract," features the final three performers delivering monologues, first individually and then simultaneously in front of a projected film of street scenes. Between each section or Cycle, we see the entire ensemble of performers seated at a dinner table, cutting in unison into TV dinners. In the last scene of this scenario, the performers slowly break out of this superimposed mode of restraint and begin laughing, singing, and playing with their food. The text, "Can you identify the model minority?" flashes across the screen. The work concludes with the performers' voices improvising with the query, "What do you do with the native tongues that keep bursting out?"

Cheang, Shu Lea
Hoch-Guinn, Klaus (Director of Photography)
Shulman, David (Director of Photography)

Cheang, Shu Lea

Cheang, Shu Lea
Feist, Rick (Online Editor)

New York State Council on the Arts
New York Foundation for the Arts
Art Matters, Inc.

Aponte, Maria
Baez, Rafael
Burns, Diane
Durham, Jimmy
Edwards, Vincent
Esteves, Sandra
Hagedron, Jessica
Hampton, Verna
Miguel, Gloria
McCanley, Robbie
Paraiso, Nicky
Yamasaki, Emily Woo


See Also:
New Television, Episode 507 (1989)

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