Pixy Liao is a Chinese artist who has been using her voice, talent, and creations to dethrone all the male-centered heteronormative ideas that, for ages, have been reining in our societies.
Due to her strong message and the impressive ways of her art, currently at Fotografiska, New York, there is a solo exhibition of her work that has been named: Your Gaze Belongs to Me, this curated show started on April the 1st, and it will be held until September the 5th, 2021; thus, it is a great opportunity for those who would like to get immersed in this superlative artistic experience.
I had the opportunity to talk with the artist about her work, current affairs, and her message for the youth; so, keep reading this article to delight yourself by a conversation that, hopefully, will get you inspired to raise your voice, be stronger, and search for vindications.
Pixy Liao | Exclusive Interview
VT: An important part of your work is portraying people in roles that somehow defy the way genders have been portrayed for years. Therefore, what is your opinion about the male-heteronormative image that our societies have been experiencing for ages?
PL: That is a toxic idea. People exist in all different forms. To think of people who are not heterosexual as abnormal is just an inhumane thought. Who is there to say who is normal and who is not? Especially in a world today where everyone can voice for themselves through social media. I really don’t think that idea can be popular for much longer.
VT: Looking backward, how would you describe the importance of Experimental Relationship Vol.1 for your career?
PL: I would say this book is super important. It was the first time I had a chance to present the full body of work of “Experimental Relationship” (2007-2017). Before that, I had only shown the works in exhibitions or on media platforms, and only up to 12 images at a time. Presenting such a small selection of work leads to a one-sided understanding of the project.
VT: Talking about some other social issues, do you consider multicultural media representation matters today?
PL: That is so important, especially right now. I believe a lot of the conflicts in the world today, like racial, gender, and geographical political conflicts are a result of not understanding each other; or the unwillingness to get to know other people.
Without multicultural media representation, people will always view those who are different from them, whether by culture, country, gender, etc., as “others”. One of the main reasons I created this project is to show the possibilities of alternatives, which can also exist alongside mainstream images.
VT: Considering your previous answer, what is your opinion about the growing Stop Asian Hate campaign that has been recently displayed on social media?
PL: I’m in support of the Stop Asian Hate campaign. As an Asian person living in the United States, I have never worried so much about the safety of myself, my partner, and my fellow Asians simply because of our race.
The Asian community is used to trying to avoid conflicts. Even if sometimes we run into racist attacks, we try to avoid them and remain silent.
But now, we all realize that this issue will not go away, even if we keep avoiding it or keep silent about it. It’s time to make our voices heard, try to make allies, and confront it. It is also important to create more visibility around Asian people in society, instead of always being the others in the U.S. We live here just like everyone else.
Your Gaze Belongs to Me
VT: Let us focus on your newest work. You have a solo exhibition named Your Gaze Belongs to Me at Fotografiska New York. What can you tell us about this project?
PL: This exhibition is curated by Holly Roussell. We had originally planned to open in Stockholm last summer, but the exhibition will now open first in New York. It includes more than 50 works from two series, Experimental Relationship, and the outgrowth series For Your Eyes Only, as well as individual video and sculptural works that will be shown together for the first time.
VT: What do you appreciate the most about this new exhibition? What can we do if we want to be part of that experience at Fotografiska New York?
PL: Inside this exhibition, I designed a room that belongs to a follower of the Evil Women Cult (which is a new conceptual project I have been working on for a while, focused on female experiences and female leadership). I created a custom wallpaper and included various sculptural objects including plants, lights, bags, and shoes.
Everything in the room is very specific. This is also the first time I have displayed my photo, video, sculpture, and design work in one place. Viewers can experience the exhibition by visiting Fotografiska New York in person. I will also do Instagram takeovers on both the Fotografiska New York account (@fotografiska.ny) and the main Fotografiska account (@fotografiska).
The Fotografiska team even helped me design some IG filters based on the works in the show so people can interact with the artwork on their phones. The museum will also host public talks and other programming in the coming months as more people get vaccinated.
VT: Have you cogitated about the ways the current pandemic might have affected your art and the way people used to interact with it?
PL: During the pandemic, many of the shows I was participating in moved online. In fact, the exhibition at Fotografiska is the first physical show that I have been able to visit since last March. While there are still challenges with online exhibitions, I do see some benefits. One thing I like in particular is how we, as artists, can interact with the audience through online talks and reach a much larger audience than we could with in-person events.
I have done many Zoom meetings and online talks. Some had hundreds of participants joining from different countries all over the world, all at the same time, which would have been impossible with physical talks. Another thing I’ve noticed is online talks actually bring people closer together. People are streaming from their living environments, so it just makes you feel that you are getting to know the speaker on a much more personal level.
Art is freedom
VT: One of my favorite photographs of your work is Open Kimono. So, having in mind some of the traditional elements you display in your work and the way you use them to make your artistic statements, have you received peevish comments for some of your photography? How do you deal with the detractors of your work?
PL: One thing I have learned as an artist is you only have control until the moment you finish creating your work. Once the work is made and out there, it is completely up to the audience. There will always be people who like, don’t like, or sometimes even hate your work.
Like Holly [Roussell], the curator of my exhibition at Fotografiska New York, has said before, how one responds to an artwork actually says more about the viewer than the artist. An artist can never make their work if they worry too much about other people’s opinions. I’m just glad that my work starts the conversation.
VT: Which advice or recommendation would you give to those teenagers who might be thinking about pursuing a career in photography or visual arts?
PL: There is no one proven way that leads to a successful career in art. The most important thing is to listen to your heart. What interests you is much, much more important than what anyone else says.
VT: Anything else you would like to share with Vanity Teen?
PL: Wishing you to always be a fearless teen at heart.
Before we go
It looks like art cannot be caged or tamed, just like the impetus of youth; so, current times are a good moment to turn to art as a way to express ourselves, experience freedom, and make our voices be heard.
If you are able, go to Fotografiska New York and experience the power of Your Gaze Belongs to Me; but, most importantly, whether you visit the exhibition or not, let us always remember what Pixy Liao has advised us: there is no time to be stuck on toxic ideas of the world, express yourself, there are plenty of ways to do so, and never forget to listen to your heart, do not let others get you down.