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Blood Links: William Yang's Tale of Family Migration

You have done many autobiographical performance pieces. Is it a therapeutic experience for you?

It is definitely therapeutic because I talk it all out so it is a bit like therapy.

How did photography become a means of expression for you? When did your work transition from still photography to performance art?

I have been taking photographs for 30 years. I struggled for 15 years being a photographer and I started doing slide projections and performance pieces and I discovered that just from my own work alone I could generate enough money to survive so I didn't have to do freelance work. This way I could put all my energy into my own work. I have been very productive but I just had to put in those first fifteen years to get there. I never dreamed that I would be doing performance pieces.

When I started to do slide shows my projects were with just images and music. But There is an actual tradition of showing slides and talking. It has a terribly reputation, but I started doing that. So the first piece with the nine stories was when I started doing this type of work. Everyone liked it and I realized there was potential in this form. I kept doing them until I had my first very successful piece, and then people wanted me overseas, and so these performances have become my main work.

Do you see yourself as more of a theater artist or visual artist?

I have never really thought of myself as an actor. I showed an early interest in theater and I do know how to assemble a piece. But it is a combination of both.

What do you think of digital photography and editing? Has this new technology changed the way you approach your work? Do you use traditional slides projectors or have you moved to creating digital slide shows with sound?

I will turn digital although I haven't yet. I am in the process. It is just the convenience of it that appeals to me. I will follow but with a bit of a lag. Technology doesn't interest me because I am not technical. I use it as a means to an end. I am more interested in content and things I want to say. But this form that I have developed, monologue with slide projection, no one else really does so I think that is part of the reason I have been successful with it. It is a unique form.

What sort of technology do you use?

I use seven slide projectors and have one person helping me. There is a computer program to help with the transitions.

You recently performed in Shanghai, how was your work received and what was that experience like for you?

I participated in a symposium and extracted from Blood Links and from Friends of Dorothy, which is about the gay community in Sydney. Blood Links did extremely well. The Chinese just loved it because it is the sort of Chinese story they are interested in - a story about when their countrymen leave. I am sure deep down they are curious about what really happens after you leave China. So I am pretty sure I could do a successful season of Blood Links in China.

For Friends of Dorothy, everyone thought it was very important to start a dialogue about homosexuality in China, especially the Australian side of it thought it was very important. There is AIDS in China and people need to talk about these issues. I probably would choose to do it differently now. It was a little too in your face. But still I got a very good response and the students asked questions and were very curious. They didn't just ask superficial questions. The reaction and feedback were more than I could have hoped for.