This program was online only.

Artist, writer, and publisher Paul Chan will join Hirshhorn associate curator of media and performance art Marina Isgro for a talk on Chan’s evolving approach to the moving image and his recent writings on art’s role in moments of crisis.

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Nebraska, American artist Chan addresses sprawling themes including violence, joy, apocalypse, and utopia across a variety of media. In 2002, he traveled to Baghdad with Voices in the Wilderness, an aid and activist group opposed to the US-led invasions. His film series, Tin Drum Trilogy (2002–05), examines American involvement in the Middle East during the administration of George W. Bush alongside other US socio-political issues, such as religion in the Bible Belt. In the early 2000s, Chan also gained attention for his animated digital videos, including Happiness (Finally) After 35,000 Years of Civilization (After Henry Darger and Charles Fourier) (1993–2003), which address historical utopian movements and the horrors of war. In his acclaimed 7 Lights series (2005–07), the artist projected silhouettes of falling objects onto floors and walls, evoking Biblical images of creation and destruction as well as the September 11 tragedy. In 2010, he founded the experimental publishing house Badlands Unlimited, which was devoted to publishing writings by and with artists in print and digital forms.

In recent years, having hit what he calls “peak screen,” Chan has turned away from video and projection to create moving sculptures, or “breathers,” that are powered by air. He exhibited one of these works in his 2015 Hugo Boss Prize exhibition Nonprojections for New Lovers, and has since shown them internationally. In 2019, he organized the exhibition Sex, Water, Salvation, or What Is a Bather?, selecting works from the Guggenheim Collection for the Museum’s artist-curated project Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection. A recent online survey presented with Art Basel Hong Kong presented twenty years of Chan’s works, talks, and writings.

During the ongoing pandemic, Chan has lectured and written on the role of art during periods of social and political upheaval. His “Letter to Young Artists During a Global Pandemic” was published in 4Columns in May, and his article “Can Metaphysics Help Us Heal the World?” appeared in Frieze in June.


11:50 am EDT | Zoom broadcast opens
12:00–1:00 pm EDT | Paul Chan in conversation with Marina Isgro

CART (real-time captioning) will be provided for this program. If you have any questions about accessibility for this program, please email

This virtual event is part of #HirshhornInsideOut, the Museum’s initiative to bring art into your home.