Kip of All Trades

Ted Lai, Yolk Magazine

Winter/Spring  1998

Standing at a well-toned 6’1″, it’s a surprise that Kip Fulbeck lacks definition.

In a world where we are often defined by what we do, Fulbeck, a recently tenured professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is also a photographer, a standup comedian, a performance artist, a former state lifeguard, an award-winning filmmaker and a writer.  He pushes the boundaries of expression via his artwork and emerges as a Renaissance man.

Born of a Chinese mother and a Caucasian father, Fulbeck’s life and work revolve around his identity as an Asian American man, a Hapa man. Although most writers and artists base their work on life experiences, his material often goes much deeper than that. His work becomes a soul piece, baring all his pain and frustration for the audience to see, experience, and learn from.

Currently Fulbeck is working on his first book, Paper Bullets, a collection of stories and life experiences, that deal with everything from growing up Hapa to Nancy Kerrigan to surfing. Written in his own unique style, he says, “It really pushes the envelope of traditional poetry, or prose, or whatever you want to call it. And that way, it’s not just the politics I’m pushing, it’s also the stylistics … the composition of it.”

Like much of Fulbeck’s other work, the stories in Paper Bullets often focus on sex and death, and offer a mix of humor, sadness, offensiveness and edge. No matter what, the work is always thought provoking.

“Hopefully I’m putting enough fluff, like the funny sex stories, so that people are gonna want to read it. Those are funny, and I think they’re important, because it does form identity. But there’s so much shit I’m hiding in there. I’m putting in all these little things that people will find. The real shit is the stuff that I think people don’t want to pay attention to sometimes. You have to do a lot of fluff to put in one real part.”

Fulbeck is also working on numerous other projects, including three more films. One deals with Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, the second focuses on euthanasia, and the third features him in Speedos, wrestling with a dog. He stays busy with these projects, Paper Bullets, and the many classes he leads.

Also a performer, Fulbeck has done his stand-up routine, Speakin’ Up the Yin/Yang, to packed audiences. It’s a fast-paced, funny group of skits that jump around and keeps the audience thinking. His films, including Banana Split, Asian Studs Nightmare and Some Questions for 28 Kisses, have won numerous awards.

Like a master musician, he is able to use his voice to convey the feelings and thoughts perfectly. Regardless of how successful he’s been, his work has also received its fair share of criticism. Some critics think he’s sexist, racist, or too controversial. An extremely open-minded person, Fulbeck has just learned how to pick a subject he believes most strongly in, and focus on it for a piece.

Fulbeck is realistic about creating work that pleases all parties. “Yeah, I support this, this, and this, but if I try to do this shotgun thing, there’s no power to the work, you know? If I try to talk in a real, careful, nonsexist, totally non-confrontational, politically correct way, who’s gonna listen?

“Yeah, [my work’s] really sexist. Yeah, it’s really racist, but if you get past all of that … I still am naive enough to think that I can do something to make this world a better place. There’s some of us artists that still believe that’s what we do it for, trying to make things better. And that’s what I’m trying to do.”

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