Posted 05 December 2022
Interview by Ashley Tan
Mention Dan Chan

Visual and performance artist Dan Chan on reconnecting with their mixed Chinese heritage through queerness and politics

Community, heritage and identity. In a nutshell, these are what inspire Liverpool-based visual and performance artist Dan Chan. Bringing their fantasy worlds to life through a variety of media – from scent, to projection, textiles and drag – their queerness and politics are vehicles with which they express their active reconnection with their mixed Chinese heritage. Having recently gone full-time as a freelance artist and performer, Dan credits their strong community, both online and in Liverpool, with helping them secure opportunities. Here, they share how social media has led to increased work as a visual artist and performer, and how they’re seeking to create a safer space for East and South East Asian creatives and audiences in the North West.

Dan Chan

Dan Chan

Job Title

Visual and Performance Artist



Selected Clients

Homotopia, Convenience Gallery, Museum of Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, Bluecoat, The Secret Circus, Eat Me, The Bitten Peach, Vogue Ball

Previous Employment

Customer Sales Advisor (2021-2022)
Night Concierge (2020-2021)
Admin Assistant (2019-2020)
Sales Assistant (2018-2019)

Place of Study

BA Fashion Textiles: Print, University for the Creative Arts (2015-2018)


Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do as a visual and performance artist?
I bring my own fantasy worlds to life through printed textiles, projection, sound, scent, poetry and drag performance. There is always a strong sense of colour, exploration of identity and a political influence in the work I create.

What’s the main motivation for your work?
To reconnect with my mixed Chinese heritage and expressing this with queerness and politics.

“The main inspiration for my work is reconnecting with my mixed Chinese heritage and expressing this through queerness and politics.”

What’s the weirdest thing in your workspace right now?
I am in the middle of a house move so I would say my mirror is the weirdest thing in my would-be workspace as I spend so much time looking at it when getting into drag.

Dan chan visual drag artist creativelivesinprogress 1 Archway final

Archway, by Dan

Dan chan visual drag artist creativelivesinprogress 2 Green and Lavender final

Green and Lavender, by Dan

Dan chan visual drag artist creativelivesinprogress 3 Yellow Peril Spirit

Yellow Peril Spirit, by Dan

Dan chan visual drag artist creativelivesinprogress 4 Mountains

Mountains, by Dan

Can you tell us about some of your favourite projects to date?
My favourite project to date was my immersive art-cabaret show, Blip!, at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool. This was the perfect way to combine all the elements of my practice, whilst platforming East and South East Asian (ESEA) artists in the North West. I sought to create a safer space for audiences to feel represented and experience these artists if they were not from the same cultural background.

I am still so excited by this show as I am taking it onto the next stage of development to spotlight more ESEA artists and performers.

How I got here

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
I wouldn’t say there is specific training to do what I do. However, I wouldn’t be creating the work I make and to the scale I make it if it wasn’t for my BA in printed textiles. This also has influenced my approach to drag, as I make some of my costumes and wigs – it really adds layers of visual storytelling to all parts of my practice.

I think having an open mind in terms of the approach to creating work and being a combination of resilient and sociable to help build a network of connections is important, even if you do have to “fake it til you make it” at times.

The Helping Hands of the Ball Machine, by Dan

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I started off trying to work in textiles and fashion upon moving home from university. However there just isn’t that much of an industry here. I took a year out to travel and just enjoy my time. Looking back, it did help me reflect on my goals and what I want in my career and life more generally.

When I came back, I pretty much jumped straight into the art scene in Liverpool and the surrounding area. The work just picked up as time went, which I’m super grateful for as I’ve achieved a lot of my career goals so far.

Gateway To A New Realm, by Dan

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
People are inspiring. I mean this in the way of being a part of the arts scene in Liverpool, supporting fellow creatives and making connections with artists and performers that I admire.

My identity is definitely an inspiration as I centre my practice around this – whether this is my queerness, mixed heritage or non-binary identity, or a mixture of some or all of this.

Leigh Bowery has been a huge inspiration to my work as I discovered him whilst studying fashion and textiles. His subversive, flamboyant attitude is something I aim for in my work, especially when performing.

“Being a part of the arts scene in Liverpool, supporting fellow creatives and making connections with artists and performers that I admire is inspiring to my career.”

Dan chan creativelivesinprogress Vogue Ball Haus of Chan rehearsal

Dan at rehearsals for the Vogue Ball

Dan chan artist drag creativelivesinprogress 02 BLIP production shot

Dan performing at their art-cabaret show, Blip!

Dan chan artist drag creativelivesinprogress 07 Blip backstage

Dan backstage at Blip!

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Time management has been and is still a challenge for me. I used to work full-time and freelance on the side, which led to me working on creative projects only in my spare time. Now, I work full-time freelance and I usually never say no to work (unless already booked) – which is great, but this means lots my time is spent on juggling many jobs at once!

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work? Do you have any advice or learnings to share?
Social media and self-promotion have had a big impact to my work, as I’ve had so many exciting opportunities as a visual artist and performer.

Not only this, it also helps maintain connections with those who work in the arts – especially in institutions and organisations, as these are the people who book you! For example, I connected with a producer last year, which led to me facilitating an in-conversation panel talk with Turner Prize nominee, Sin Wai Kin, at Tate Liverpool, which is a huge moment in my career.

Dan chan artist drag creativelivesinprogress 05 Queer Power Queer the City

Dan in front of a poster for Homotopia Festival

Dan chan artist drag creativelivesinprogress 06 Queer the City Museum of Liverpool

Dan at the Homotopia Festival X National Museums Liverpool Takeover

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Take the opportunities when they come and learn to be strong in how you discuss your fee with companies, galleries, organisations and so on, because they often do have the budget and no artist should be underpaid or working for free and ’paid with exposure’. I used to take on supplementary work to support my practice, but I would say doing this doesn’t make anyone any less of an artist. We’ve all got bills to pay and it’s an expensive world we live in, so we all have to do what’s best for ourselves!

“Learn to be firm when discussing your fee because commissioners often do have the budget. No artist should be underpaid or simply “paid” with exposure.”

How did you go about landing your first commission?
As a visual artist, my first commission was at university (I think in my first year?) – I saw a call out to exhibit in an amazing gallery and reached out to them to see if they were interested in my work.

For my drag, I was working with a gallery to facilitate a workshop as part of my visual practice, and they had an event and asked if I wanted to perform so of course I said yes!

Don’t be scared of asking for opportunities, because the worst they can say is no, which is often a ’not right now’, and it’s a great chance to get some feedback on your work.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Have ‘yes attitude’: saying yes to jobs, yes to going for a coffee to network and yes to new ideas and approaches to work – even if this is an internal conversation with yourself.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar career?
Make connections with people in arts organisations, galleries, cabaret producers and so on, as these are the people who offer the work. It’s great to be making artwork and performances, but without these connections it would be very difficult to make this into a career.

Interview by Ashley Tan
Mention Dan Chan