Tarfest - September 22, 2018
La Brea Tarpits
Diane Williams and Ching Ching Cheng
“Hybrid Altar” is a collaborative, interactive installation by artists, Cheng and Williams. It explores identity that traces back from their cultural lineage and identity as immigrants from Taiwan and Philippines. Colonization heavily influenced their customs and traditions. Taiwan was under Japanese rule and the Philippines was colonized by Spain, United States, and briefly by Japan. Under foreign rule, the countries developed unique cultures and rituals that are practiced today but as time passes, people forget the “what” and the “why” of these practices and their origins. A popular tradition in the U.S. is the Wishing Fountain (toss-a-coin-make-a-wish), a European folklore where any spoken wish would be granted. It is a ritual that everyone performs yet very few know of its history. It originated from early European tribes who believed that the water from potable holes was a gift from the gods.
The structure is constructed with an environment made of yarn, fabric and plastic woven into wires that are supported by two, 6’ and 4’ metal poles in cement blocks, and a fountain for the offering ritual, surrounded by Chinese gods on Greek columns made of plaster and wood.
The yarn and fabric are recycled from friends and family or salvaged from stores that are traditionally owned, operated and supported by immigrants. They provide connections with the histories and memories of Diane’s community as well as the Catholic religion she was brought up in. Under the Chinese gods and fountain is a woven mat, made from the same materials, with the word, “TULOY” meaning welcome in Tagalog, the main language in the Philippines, referencing the Filipino hospitality during a religious fiesta. Ching explored the popular Chinese gods in Chinatown located in Los Angeles, then modified and mass-produced these statues with Greek mythology influences. The immersive display of the gods and the offerings are based on the ceremonial tradition in Taiwanese temples.
This collaborative work is an experience of mixed ceremonial practices. It addresses cultural structures, questioning norms and assumptions that we all have, regardless of where we are from. These traditions are often seen in our daily practices, beliefs and routines. “Hybrid Altar” is the artists’ version of an altar that combines iconic symbols and representations of their cultures with figures and materials that are reminiscent of their present lives in Los Angeles. The public is invited to participate in a scavenger hunt, looking for iconic symbols: baby Jesus, flowers, angels…. hidden near the installation then placing them in the “Hybrid Altar”