Chinatown Abecedario: A Folk Taxonomy of L.A.’s Chinatown (2012)

Audrey Chan, Chinatown Abecedario: A Folk Taxonomy of L.A.’s Chinatown, HD video with voiceovers in English, Cantonese, Spanish, and Mandarin, 14 min. running time, 2012

From the exhibition catalogue of (de)Constructing Chinatown:

“In deconstructing Chinatown’s shrouded myths and histories, perhaps it is not necessary to dwell on their origins, nor how and why they function. Rather, the answer may lie in examining the systems in which people learn and disseminate information about the community, as Audrey Chan suggests. Through her video installation, Chinatown Abecedario: A Folk Taxonomy of L.A.’s Chinatown, Chan explores, appropriates, and ultimately undermines these systems of knowledge. As an aspiring urban folk taxonomist, she views Chinatown through the science of vernacular naming systems people use to give meaning and order to their surroundings and experiences. Chan’s perspective is influenced by Émile Durkheim and Claude Lévi-Strauss, who propose that the process of learning draws upon the knowledge and beliefs within a local culture, thereby creating a set of ideas that are passed on within a community. Chan’s Chinatown Abecedario presents twenty-six vignettes about Chinatown, structured after the English alphabet, with Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin translations. These vignettes combine disparate elements associated with Chinatown, often teasing out the absurdities where the imagined becomes real and where hybridity becomes known.” —Steve Wong, Curator, Chinese American Museum


Written, directed, and animated by Audrey Chan
Translation: Susy Chan (Chinese), Miguel García (Spanish)
Voiceover: Audrey Chan (English/Spanish), Hsiao-ling Mao (Cantonese), Kay Wang (Mandarin)
Animation Advisor: Emery Martin
Producer: Chinese American Museum (Los Angeles, California) with support from the James Irvine Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services

14 minute running time


(de)Constructing Chinatown
Chinese American Museum

425 N. Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
July 26-October 28, 2012

“(de)Constructing Chinatown” features new work that breaks down commonly-held notions about Los Angeles’ Chinatown, while re-envisioning new perspectives that reflect a more genuine understanding and appreciation of the community’s history, culture and role as an essential part of the city’s changing landscape. The exhibition was curated by Steve Wong and features artists: Betty Lee, Audrey Chan, James Rojas, Phung Huynh, Matthew Winkler, Shizu Saldamando, Michael Sakamoto, and Heimer Bjorgulfsson.


“High hipsters at Hop Louie” by Catherine Wagley, LA Weekly, August 16, 2012

“‘Deconstructing’ Chinatown Clichés” by Phoebe Unterman, Los Angeles Downtown News, July 27, 2012

‘N’ is for Neighborhood: A Family Art-Making Workshop
Led by Audrey Chan
Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles, California
September 23, 2013