Pixy Liao is a Chinese artist delving on gender roles and women’s position in today’s society. Her series Experimental Relationship chronicles her relation with her boyfriend Moro and, in her photos she offers alternatives for heteronormativity by placing herself in the man’s position. She imagines and enacts another role where women are not dominated but dominate.
Her show at the Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art is postponed until further notice, but you can still visit it online: https://centrea.org/exhibitions/current/
Pixy Liao, A Study of a House Husband, 2018
Courtesy of the Artist
Could you tell us how you started your collaboration with your partner and how it has evolved over the years?
I met my partner while in grad school in the US. In the beginning, he was just a boyfriend who is always willing to help with my photo assignments. Sometimes I would ask him to pose in my photos as a “prop”. I never thought it was weird until my teachers and classmates asked me how I could treat my boyfriend like that. Then I realized what’s natural in our relationship is considered out of norms by other people. The finding is interesting, and problematic to me at the same time. That inspired me to make this series. That’s how I started doing Experimental Relationship. It’s been going on for more than 13 years now. Throughout the years, we both grew up so much and our relationship is changing. In the beginning, I was definitely more dominant. because our life experience differed so much in the beginning. In my earlier photos, you would see me very dominant in many photos, like the one I’m pinching his nipple. Then we grew up together in the 13 years we are together. In some areas he is even more experienced than me, which also changed our relationship. We reached a new balance. My photos began to show more equal composition. And in recent years, I’m more focused on myself. I start to photograph just myself more. Besides photographs, he would also help me in my other artworks, like helping me making sculptures and videos, etc. On the other hand, I joined his band (which is just us) PIMO. In our band, he became the one who leads the way.
Is your work trying to challenge womanhood in any way?
My work is about how I want to make sense of all the things I didn’t understand in this world. I grew up as a female (obviously) and there are many things in this world that don’t make me feel right. So my work is about that, how I would respond to the reality that I live in. In a way, I want to redefine womanhood that would make sense to me.
Pixy Liao, Hush, Baby, 2010
Courtesy of the artist
How are your photographs redefining Asian masculinity?
I think rather than redefining Asian masculinity, I’m more interested in how my way of appreciating men is different than what men are usually expected to be. I’m always attracted to those men who are sensitive and gentle, non-aggressive, and sometimes people would describe them as womanly or not manly enough. I want to show the beauty side of that.
You moved from Shanghai to the United States to study photography, how did this experience change your personal views and later influenced your work?
I grew up in Shanghai and finished university there. Then after working for some years, I decided I want to change my life path and go to the US to study photography. I’m glad I did. The time I went to the US to study was my first time abroad and studying art. And I was all by myself with no friends and families there. Suddenly I realized that I could redesign myself to be the ones I wanted to be and not worrying about having any social pressure. My study time in the US was a perfect gift for me to remodel myself.
Pixy Liao, The Hug by the Pond, 2010
Courtesy of the Artist
Photography is a deception to me as it is synonymous with framing, it’s more about choosing than reality. So in a way it deceives. Do you think this deception translates in your work?
For me, the reality is like art material, and I’m trying to bend the reality in my photos.
Do you think social media has changed your work and why?
I probably started social media way before social media, which was more than 20 years ago when I made my first website. I used it as a creative diary to communicate with people that I have never met in real life. It encouraged me to express my inner feelings when you can reach like-minded people over the internet. What I learned from this is that only make work that is true to your heart. And eventually, it will be appreciated by people who get it. You are not constrained by the place you live in.
In the specific context of the lockdown, what are you doing to cope with the crisis and how is it influencing your artistic practice?
It’s hard to focus on working on my own projects at this time. So I use this time to grow my abilities like working on building a healthier body and learning some new skills online. Maybe one day I will feel ready enough to make work relating to this period of time. Right now I’m just getting adjusted to it.
Pixy Liao, Golden Mouse, 2014
Courtesy of the Artist
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