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The Rat Cheated: Duke Riley Restages the Race for the Chinese Zodiac #elizastamps

Posted on the 20 September 2013 by Jlipnack @jlipnack

It's a little hard to headline this one. Last year, Duke Riley, the Boston-born, Brooklyn-based artist, with degrees from RISD and Pratt, decided to right a 5000 (or so)-year-old wrong. According to legend, when the race was staged to determine the order of animals in the Chinese Zodiac, the rat cheated and thus secured its place at the head of the pack.

Named as one of the US State Department's visual-artists-as-cultural-ambassadors in 2011, Duke and a few artist-colleagues traveled to a small village outside Shanghai in 2012 to restage that race. "The Rematch" took place on April 15, with a gondola bearing each animal of the zodiac. 

The group was able to secure a real animal for each of the 12 signs (ok, the dragon was an iguana or a lizard or something reptilian) except for a tiger...which is how I know about this imaginative project.

Liza in Zhujiajiao

Eliza Stamps, artist and tiger-impersonator, filled the gap. In addition to being a life-long tiger lover, she is my daughter. Eliza and Duke became friends when both were getting their master's in art from Pratt, which is also how I first became aware of Duke's work. At the very first Open Studios at Pratt, we went to Duke's studio where he had, among other things, a book that he had collaborated on with artists around the world. (A quick search is not producing its name but I do recall that artists each added to the book then sent it on. Talk about collaboration!) The cutline for this picture on Duke's site says, "For ethical reasons, instead of transporting a tiger from Guangxi we transported a performance artist."

Just a few minutes ago, I watched documentary filmmaker Kitty Joe Sainte-Marie's film about The Rematch ("Duke Riley // China // smARTpower"). Check out the tiger (Eliza) and you too can eagerly cheer on your favorite animal. 


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