oblong oriental aka
matthew (matta) haide zheng



Oblong Oriental (长方东方), otherwise known as Matthew Haide Zheng (郑海德), is a drag artist. Oriental takes up and hybridizes the forms and symbols of Beijing Opera with the aesthetics of modern American drag. Her objective is to shatter and recompose her diasporic memories of pariahdom and desperate dreams of belonging, putting them back together as a modality of finding forgiveness and redemption. Ultimately, Oriental rejects the delusion of a so-called queer “community” as a locus of transnational belonging, opting instead for a vision of queerness as a spiritual connectome. To operationalize this, her work incorporates cosmetics, fashion design, video art, theology-theory, and film photography.

Artist Statement

In this photoseries entitled “DESPERATE BELONGING”, Oblong is inspired by and reinterpreting the legendary East Meets West by Tseng Kwong Chi. Painted in high-abstract Beijing opera face, and donning ornate qipao gownery, Oblong is shot on film in broad daylight throughout SF Chinatown. DESPERATE BELONGING is a portrayal of unflinching resentment, alienation, and fear. It is also a meditation on redemption, presence, and forgiveness. In this composition, Oblong situates herself as a strange and brutal object amongst a diasporic urban geography. Her body is an organizing axis for the transmission of pain, grief, and despondence from the self to their resting place, and an artifice for the simple art of observing the heart and mind.

The process of creating this photoseries is also detailed into a short film titled "ORIENTAL SPEAKS" shot on a handheld phone, narrating Oriental’s travel across geopolitics, citizenships, diasporas, queernesses, and communities.

You will find both pieces below.

Email: mhzheng@stanford.edu


Please ensure that you view the photoseries in order, from left to right. You can do this by selecting the first image at the upper left to activate the large view. Please note that due to this website's limitations, this gallery is not at full quality. If you wish to view the photoseries at maximum resolution, please visit this link: https://adobe.ly/3g4fuQr

Thank you to A-lan, Amara, Grace, and Evelyn for believing in me, and for giving me the grace and support I needed to make this photoseries a reality. Learning from the IDA Team has been one of the greatest privileges of my entire life.


Thank you to Sensei Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu for inspiring me and giving me the vocabulary, hope, and courage to produce this short film.