Liu Yefu in “Performing Society: The Violence of Gender” at Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong

Performing Society: The Violence of Gender

Exhibition Dates: 2019.02.16 – 04.28

Exhibition Venue: Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong

Curator: Susanne Pfeffer (Director, MUSEUM MMK FÜR MODERNE KUNST, Frankfurt am Main)


“Violence of a structural nature is no less brutal than its physical counterpart. The everyday presence of structural violence causes a mute paralysis. The definitions of gender based on symbolic, cultural, and physical boundaries are as hard and clear as they are painful to experience. Upbringing, cultural attribution, existing power structures, social codes, religious traditions, and biological manifestations unite to form a violent normative framework that governs body, sexuality, identity and behaviour. In view of the national-conservative and rightist discourses currently on the rise all over the world, gender is a domain all the more fiercely contested, a terrain on which freedom, plurality, and self-determination are at stake.

The artists featured in the exhibition “The Violence of Gender” contest the symbolic castration of women and reclaim the abilities fundamentally denied them. They dissolve the framing of adolescents and overturn the rules controlling gesture, voice, deportment, and desire. In the process, they develop a counter-narrative to the institution of the family as the foundation of the heteronormative society. They show how mother’s milk serves to delineate a territory in a realm between sexuality and reproduction, and they reveal the extent to which reproduction, technology, and exploitability are intertwined. The artworks uncover the violence that lies concealed in normative constructions of gender. With self-assurance, confidence, fantasy, humour, and pain, the artists transcend boundaries with their works and allow different images to emerge.”

Beginning with a censored warning clip from YouTube followed subsequently by a flash of disparate images, York News is a video that critiques normativity, hierarchical sexual structures, late capitalism, and an ultimate excess of violence and sex. The overarching omniscience that binds the entire video together is a female character intimately speaking in a montage, bringing together various images of New York social classes and society. The narrator’s poetic speech, peppered with slang, slyly voiced insults, American colloquial mannerisms are simultaneously spliced with disparate images that make up the continuous, customized flow of information and images broadcast to society and shaping a nation. Horrifying images of excess violence, numbing sexual imagery, and materialism—indicative of late capitalism—are conflated as an abnormal and yet normalized view of the world. Inspired by Slavoj Žižek’s Welcome to the Desert of the Real and played against the background of a disparate soundtrack made up of a Mozart symphony, techno dance music, somber organ chorales and the theme from the film Titanic, the concept of news and information is filtered and represented by a figure in female drag (the artist himself), huddled on a park bench and noticeably set apart as a marginalized, impoverished figure in contrast to the purposeful, prosperous jogging figures who pass him by in Central Park.

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