The first major Western exhibition of the new-wave Chinese artist opens in Manhattan’s recently opened photography museum tomorrow
New and unseen work by the Chinese photographer Pixy Liao is about to go on show at Fotografiska, New York – the first museum solo exhibition of Liao’s work.
In 2006, Liao, a Shanghai native, met Moro, a Japanese student, while studying in Tennessee. Since then, the couple have taken hundreds of performative self-portraits – Pixy depicting herself in a dominant role, with Moro assuming positions of submission.
These images have been collected together for the first time, at the recently opened Fotografiska photography museum. Titled Your Gaze Belongs to Me, the collection of portraits provoke and explore the charged historical dynamics between Japanese and Chinese society, as well as inverting the patriarchal instincts of both cultures.
The images have established Liao as one of the leading voices in a new wave of millennial and Gen Z Chinese photographic artists – ones willing to confront questions of patriarchy, femininity, sexuality and gender dynamics and how they play out in her native China, Moro’s native Japan, the couple’s current home of America, and indeed across the world. Her work has subsequently been censored in her native Shanghai.
Liao says of Moro: “Moro made me realise that heterosexual relationships do not need to be standardised. Our relationship is an experiment – a way of breaking the inherent relationship model to reach a new equilibrium.”
Liao has recalled being at exhibition openings with Moro – in conversations, assumptions are often made that he, five years her junior, is the photographer, she a passive model.
“Finding out that it was my work has changed how they’ve understood it,” Liao has said. “If people in the west, particularly men, don’t like this image, they say it’s an Asian thing: an Asian couple doing their weird thing. But in labelling it that way, they’re saying it does not relate to me or my life or the world I live in.”
Curator Holly Roussell, who is based in China, has been responsible for bringing Liao’s work to a wider Western audience. “Pixy Liao’s photographs help us to step back and reflect on the things we often take for granted – such as the socio-cultural nature of gender constructions,” Roussell says. “These are conversations we should be having – they are an important reflection of our society.”
Tom Seymour is a Correspondent for The Art Newspaper and an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. His words have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper*, BBC, The Telegraph, CNN, Independent, Foam, New Statesman, Wired, Vice and The Royal Photographic Society Journal, for whom he won Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards 2020.