Fresh Kill

Shu Lea Cheang

Fresh Kill

1994 | 01:18:41 | Colour | Stereo | 4:3 | 35mm

December 8 – December 17, 2015


Fresh Kill tells the story of two young lesbian parents caught up in a global exchange of industrial waste via contaminated sushi. The place is New York and the time is now. Raw fish lips are the rage on trendy menus across Manhattan. A ghost barge, bearing nuclear refuse, circles the planet in search of a willing port. Household pets start to glow ominously and then disappear altogether. The sky opens up and snows soap flakes. People start speaking in dangerous tongues.

Fresh Kill premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, Berlin in 1994.  In 1995, it featured in the Whitney Biennal, New York and was broadcast on Channel Four in the UK.

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“Fresh Kill operates on a faith in media activism and the emancipatory potential of the digital. Commercial media penetrate into the social and psychological fabric of daily life, but they can be resisted. Fresh Kill offers itself as an example of that resistance while providing models for potential hackers and cable activists in the audience. Like the works of Brecht and Godard, it offers hope for seizing  the means of communication by reflecting on its own production and providing an image of radical media empowerment to inspire others.” Gina Marchetti, 2001.

Shu Lea Cheang in conversation with Lawrence Chua – BOMB Magazine, Winter, 1996

“Lawrence Chua: What was your emotional attachment to the narrative? You came up with the idea and then approached Jessica Hagedorn [the writer], right?

“Shu Lea Cheang: There was a certain political agenda we wanted to deal with, in terms of media and environmental racism. That environmental racism was manifested in the transport of industrial toxic waste to Third World countries. Right from the beginning, we made a parallel between the waste and the dumping of garbage TV programs into Third World countries. Basically, once that was constructed, it seemed like we kept on making parallels. You have First World/Third World, then you have New York City/Staten Island, and even within New York City, you have “Tent City” (a makeshift community of homeless people) as a kind of garbage dump. We set up a bunch of characters with the intention of trying to reverse stereotypes. Right from the beginning we wanted to have this Asian hacker, who was also this quiet sushi chef; a lesbian couple . . . There were all these preset characters we wanted to put into the landscape… [read the whole interview here].”

Courtesy: BOMB Magazine, Shu Lea Cheang and Lawrence Chua.


Fredric Jameson on the ‘conspiratorial text’: “Whatever other messages it [the conspiratorial text] emits or implies… may also be taken to constitute an unconscious, collective effort at trying to figure out where we are and what landscapes and forces confront us in a late twentieth century whose abominations are heightened by their concealment and their bureaucratic impersonality… Nothing is gained by having been persuaded of the definitive verisimilitude of this or that conspiratorial hypothesis:  but in the intent to hypothesize, in the desire called cognitive mapping – therin lies the beginning of wisdom.” Fredric Jameson, The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System, 1995.

Shu Lea Cheang

As an artist, conceptualist and filmmaker Shu Lea Cheang constructs networked installations and multi-player performances. In her film scenarios and artworks, she drafts sci-fi narratives and builds participatory social interfaces and open networks. Engaged in media activism with transgressive plots for two decades (the 80s and 90s) in New York City, in 1998 Cheang concluded her NYC period with the first Guggenheim Museum web art commission BRANDON (see www.carrollfletcheronscreen blog).  Cheang has expanded her cross-genre-gender borderhack performative works since relocating to the Eurozone in 2000. Currently situated in post-net BioNet zone, Cheang is composting the city/the net while mutating viruses and hosting seeds through underground parties.

Cheang has made two feature films, FRESH KILL (permiered at Berlin Film festival, 1994) and I.K.U. (premiered at Sundance film festival, 2000).  Her third film, FLUIDØ is currently in production:

“FLUIDØ  is set in the post-AIDS future of 2060, where the Government is the first to declare the era AIDS FREE, mutated AIDS viruses give birth to ZERO GEN – humans that have genetically evolved in a unique way. These gender fluid ZERO GENs are the bio-drug carriers whose white fluid is the hypernarcotic for the 21st century, taking over the markets of the 20th century white powder high. The ejaculate of these beings is intoxicating and the new form of sexual commodity in the future. The new drug, code named DELTA, diffuses through skin contact and creates an addictive high. A new war on drugs begins and the ZERO GEN are declared illegal. The Government dispatches drug-resistant replicants for round-up arrest missions. When one of these government android’s immunity breaks down and its pleasure centers are activated, the story becomes a tangled multi-thread plot and the ZERO GENs are caught among underground drug lords, glitched super agents, a scheming corporation and a corrupt government. Check yourself in as a fluid junkie for a super hyper viral ride.”

For more details and a cv see

Fresh Kill Credits

FRESH KILL, an eco-cybernoia film. An airwaves project in association with Woo Art International, ITVS and Channel 4, UK.

Director: Shu Lea Cheang

Writer: Jessica Hagedorn

Cast: Sarita Choudhury, Erin McMurtry, Abe Lim, Jose Zuniga, Laurie Carlos, Will Kemp, Nelini Stamp and Rino Thunder

Producer: Jennifer Fong

Associate producer: Shari Frilot

Music: Vernon Reid

Cinematography: Jane Castle

Film editing: Lauren Zuckerman

Production design: Nancy Deren

Art direction: Michael Nino

Sound editor: Margaret Crimmins

FreshKillPoster (1)