In 1992, Ping Chong was working on a visual art installation titled A Facility for the Channeling and Containment of Undesirable Elements, commissioned by Artists Space in New York. Just before the opening, the curator asked Chong to create an accompanying performance piece. Ping Chong gathered together a group of multi-lingual individuals who shared little in common besides their status as recent New Yorkers, and the first UE production was born.
Each UE piece is created in a specific community, with local participants. All productions are made in partnership with a local host organization such as a university, performing arts center, community-arts group, or social service agency. A residency and rehearsal period commence during which Ping Chong + Company collaborators conduct intensive interviews with participants. Performers are selected from an interview pool and their interviews form the basis of a script that weaves individual experiences together in a chronological narrative touching on both political and personal experiences. The final production is a chamber piece of testimonies by the performers, sharing their own personal narratives with the audience. Many of these individuals have never spoken publicly before, and are representing the marginalized voices whose experiences are rarely presented on a professional stage.
Since 1992, Ping Chong + Company has created nearly 50 original Undesirable Elements productions in cities including Atlanta, New York, Charleston, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago, Rotterdam, Washington DC, and Tokyo. In recent years, the form has expanded beyond issues of cultural identity and we have developed new productions based on themes such as disability and survivors of child sexual abuse. See here for a complete list of Undesirable Elements productions over the years: http://www.pingchong.org/undesirable-elements/complete-production-list/.
In 2008, Ping Chong + Company launched an arts-in-education program, known as Secret Histories (http://www.pingchong.org/education--training/), that brings Undesirable Elements methodology in to schools to foster academic skills and peer understanding.
In 2011, we held our first annual summer training institute on the campus of Amherst College where students, artists and community practitioners learned techniques for creating ensemble-based oral history works by conducting interviews and developing original scripts.