open Vault

WGBH Media Library and Archives

Color Schemes

  • Cite

Summary
"Color Schemes" features twelve performers and writers of color who 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?"

The work was broadcast as a segment of episode 507 (1989), and episode 107 (1991), of "New Television." Produced and directed by Shu Lea Cheang.
Topics
Racism, Stereotyping (Social psychology)
Tags (0)
Add Tag Add Annotation

Enter the timecode: