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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Lust for life

1 September 2008

Celebrated Sydney-based photographer and performer William Yang was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to produce a new performance work that premiered at the opening of the Gallery's new building.

The gang, 1977 William Yang
The gang, 1977 William Yang

My Generation is a work incorporating spoken word, image projection and live music. This vibrant, dramatic and moving work is a reflection on William’s experience and documentation of the artistic, bohemian, and underground social scenes in Sydney in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

1 Linda Jackson, Peter Tully and Jenny Kee at the opening of the National Gallery of Australia, 1982. 2 Peter Tully assembled his slaves at the Mardi Gras and they pulled a giant statue of Edna Everage, 1982. Both William Yang.

My Generation recalls the glamour of Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson’s fashion events, the strengthening of the Sydney gay and lesbian community and the flowering of the Sydney Mardi Gras, and the theatrical circle of Jim Sharman, Kate Fitzpatrick and Patrick White.

1 William Yang with light meter at John Fink's 21st birthday, late 80s. 2 Flamingo Park, Jenny Kee and celebrity model Kate Fitzpatrick, 1975. 3 Patrick White and Jim Sharman at a lunch at Jim's. Bondi, 1978. 4 Brett Whiteley dancing with Arna Marie Winchester at a party in his studio in Raper Street, 1985. All William Yang.

William Yang’s grandparents migrated from China to northern Australia in the 1880s. Born in North Queensland, William briefly studied architecture at the University of Sydney before embarking on his career in photography. He won the Higashigawa-cho International Photographer of the Year Award in 1993. Since the early 1990s he has exhibited widely and staged a number of performance works that have been acclaimed throughout the world; in 2003 Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre staged a four-part retrospective, The Journeys of William Yang.

1 Martin Sharp, with part of his collection of toys named the Dream Museum. Wirian, early 80s. 2 Martin Sharp. When Luna Park closed the Friends of Luna Park salvaged some of the artifacts from the park and stored them at Wirian, early 80s. 3 Martin Sharp and Tiny Tim, about whom Martin was making a film. Wirian, early 80s. 4 Brett Whiteley at the launch of David Marr's biography of Patrick White, 1990. All William Yang.

The first stage of My Generation was developed while William was the HC Coombs Creative Arts Fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra in 2007. William is managed by Performing Lines, Sydney.

1 Patrick White and Manoly Lascaris at their home in Martin Road, 1985. 2 William Yang's birthday dinner, Surry Hills, 1981. 3 Peter Tully at the Gay Mardi Gras March in 1981. All William Yang.

Related people

William Yang

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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