Chorong Chong, installation view

 

CHORONG CHOW – HOW TO MARRY A BRITSH GUY

In television and film, women have consistently looked for alternative routes to the travails of meeting a potential mate through humorous anecdotal stories and slapstick comedy. Women bereave the disappearance of chivalry and bemoan the painstaking process of dating. It’s a universal sentiment, a global problem, and a predictable annoyance. Charong Chow’s recent exhibition, “How To Marry a British Guy”, seemingly the bastard progeny of Absolutely Fabulous and Sex In The City, responds to these stereotypical complaints with a three-dimensional answer of “How” instead of “Why”.

According to Chow, “[American Women] have everything a British guy would want from women. We are always right, we smell good, we look good, we are not pale and pasty, and we do not have mad cow.” Chow’s multi-media installation is the Pop-catalyst for cultivating British boyfriends and a satirical glimpse at communication. A double-CD outlines twenty-four chapters on “How To Get A British Guy”, aptly designed with the consumer-friendly Union Jack. But Chow doesn’t want to simply give advice, she is an investigator and archivist, taking physical specimens as well as documenting social attitudes.

In the gallery, remnants of the British Guy (BG) are placed individually on white shelves, resembling a Post-Modern medical museum. Each object, such as New Castle Beer Bottles, Marmite, and a photo of Prince William, is accompanied by headphones cued to the precise chapter in the audio book where Chow’s smooth alto voice identifies and explains significance. Chow details British culture, language differences, stereotypes, sex, and marriage.

After familiarizing her viewers with the trappings of British Guys, Chow practically offers a money-back guarantee in a sickly sweet slideshow of Chow’s own courtship, engagement, and marriage. The images are like a Hallmark Presentation, including a photo of the happy couple looking into a Santa Monica sunset. In another area of the presentation room stands a mannequin in front of a British Flag and a BBC broadcast, wearing the uniform of guys who frequent art schools and Belle and Sebastian concerts. On an adjacent wall, a short film of American-British couples interacting is projected. Women converse freely to the quiet nods of their British boyfriends. They acknowledge and embrace the camera, exactly the way Chow encourages listeners to adopt her suggestion. Chow proves that her self-help audio is well worth the one hundred and four minutes of unwavering tone, which never reveals that her advice is anything but sincere.

Months and years of research, practice and success have made “How To” a well-informed thesis on dating and British culture. Her delicious bubble of Anglophilia never bursts. It keeps getting bigger and better. She started this project in response to her friends’ persistent pleas for finding British boyfriends, but somewhere it mutated into a subtle commentary on communication. On the surface, this piece is humorous in its self-satire, but the irony is revealed after listening to the audio book. You can’t help but digest every word, think about what motivates you, and how you allow yourself to express emotions like love, fear, and anger.

Erica Firpo
Los Angeles, California
2001

reviews