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Hung Van Lam, hELLA HUNG and the Hung Dynasty: Agency and Social Intelligibility in Performance on the Margins


This paper is a character study of performance artist hELLA HUNG. Presented through the lens of a documentary filmmaker and confidant, an argument for the life and performances of hELLA HUNG as a boundary breaking figure who helps illuminate and reshape our societal boundaries as Asian Americans, boundaries imposed by both mainstream American society and ourselves. Significant not for his virtuosity, but rather the transitive way his performances bend and distort existing ideas of the model minority and the distorted racial and gender perceptions rooted in orientalist perceptions held by the mainstream American hegemonic forces, foundational theoretical concepts within Asian American studies. Using the archetypes of the reality show contestant, comic superhero, schizotypal/Asperger's/autistic performance, refugee, b-boy (breakdancer), professional wrestler, minstrel, and trickster figure, to frame a series of interviews, life observance, and recorded performances in order to illuminate the way his performances break and recreate our social boundaries.

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