Sweeping Away Evil: W.O.W. Shadow Puppet Theater
By Emily Mock
文: Emily Mock
Before February 16th this year, I will mend my clothes, cut my hair, flip my mattress, sweep the floors, and prepare myself and my spaces to regenerate and receive the good will of the new year. A large part of celebrating Chinese New Year is performing actions that expel the bad luck and evil spirits of the old year while opening space to the new year’s good luck. We sweep our homes to sweep away evil. We come from legacies of confronting evil to realize power and healing for ourselves and our communities.
W.O.W. Shadow Puppet Theater is a community project in Manhattan Chinatown centered on the question “what do you do to sweep away evil?” From October through January, as the 店面 Storefront Artist-in-Residence, I held workshops in the Wing On Wo studio and Columbus Park, teaching paper cutting and shadow puppetry. Participants made their own puppets and devised short plays based on a memory, practice, tradition, or imaginary about how they sweep away evil. These plays were filmed and can be viewed in a month-long storefront window installation at Wing on Wo & Co. at 26 Mott Street NY, NY. It opens on Tuesday, February 13th from 7-9pm.
Paper cutting is a deeply old art that has its roots as an intergenerational and communal activity practiced across classes and regions. As an artist and educator interested in what heritage means creatively, I see my role as facilitating time, space, community, and resources to support Chinese diaspora in accessing ancestral arts of paper cutting and shadow puppetry.