How we identify power? Possibility: power-made-visible can only be as cartoonish as an assemblage of disembodied fingers pushing things around – complex networks of control have become extra-visual. These paintings are acts of wish fulfillment. I wish that the invisibility and ubiquity of forms of global control could be reversed, made finite and material, capable of being combatted by our finite material bodies. Instead, locating definable loci of privilege and access seems to be an increasingly absurd proposition, and satire becomes increasingly off-point, misleading to the point of demagoguery.
Emerged under such conditions, petroleum possesses tendencies for mass intoxication on pandemic scales (different from but corresponding to capitalism's voodoo economy and other types of global possession systems). Petroleum is able to gather the necessary geo-political undercurrents (subterranean or blobjective narrations of politics, economy, religion, etc.) required for the process of Erathication or the moving of the Earth's body toward the Tellurian Omega - the utter degradation of the Earth as a Whole.
Swatch - Swatch! Always different, always new. Swatch! Fashionable. Swatch! Water resistant! Shock Resistant! Swiss-made! Swatch! Swatch! The new wave in Swiss watches! Swatch!
Born in Smithtown, NY, currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
2003 – 2005 De Ateliers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
1999 – 2001 MFA Fine Arts and Integrated Media, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California.
1994 – 1998 BA Creative Writing, BA Studio Art High Honors, Oberlin College, Oberlin Ohio.
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2017
2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 100 Artists See God, Institute of Contemporary Art, London. Traveling exhibition through Independent Curators International. Jewish Museum, San Francisco; Laguna Beach Art Museum, California; and Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY; tours through 2006. 2003
Digital Billboard Platform: Jen Liu’s The Pink Detachment, LAXART, Los Angeles, CA.
The Pink Detachment, SomoS Kunsthaus, Berlin, DE.
The Red Detachment of Women: Online, commissioned by Triple Canopy as part of the Standards issue.
The Red Detachment of Women: Performance for 6 Dancers, co-commissioned by Triple Canopy and The Whitney Museum, Whitney Museum, New York, NY.
The Managers, Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam, NL.
SAFETY FIRST, Mallorca Landings, Palma de Mallorca, ES.
Come One Come All (permanent commission), Citizen M Times Square, New York, NY.
Melon Mysticism for Everyone. Commissioned by ISCP in collaboration with NYC DOT and ISCP, Manhattan Bridge, NY.
Initial Public Offering, Space of Drawings, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Six Colorful Stories: John Baldessari, Jen Liu. Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool, UK.
Brody Condon, Jen Liu, On Stellar Rays, New York.
Volta NY Art Fair, solo booth (Ceri Hand Gallery).
The Last Alphabet / Pasta Belt Health, Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam, NL.
Insurrection for a Million or One, Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam, NL.
Drastic Measures, Unknown Pleasures, Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool, UK.
An Innocent Revolution, DePauw University, Greencastle, IN.
New Dawn Fades, Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Los Angeles.
DM.0086: A Local Map of Broken Glass, Division Museum of Ceramics and Glassware, New York, in collaboration with Barb Choit.
Rotterdam Art Fair, solo booth (Upstream Gallery).
The Last Four Seasons, Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Ready To Die!, Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Los Angeles.
Friends Electric!: Jen Liu, Andrea Thal, Binz39 Foundation, Zurich.
Videos van Jen Liu, Melkweg Media, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Jen Liu, Folkert de Jong, Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam.
Selected Group Exhibitions and Performances
The Visible Hand: Simon Denny, Jen Liu, and Maureen Conner, CUE Art Foundation, New York, NY.
Collective Dance and Individual Gymnastics, curated by Leo Chen, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong.
Soft Skills, curated by Kaegan Sparks, James Art Gallery of the CUNY Graduate Center, New York, NY.
WE ARE NOT THINGS, curated by Hannah Whitaker, Invisible Exports, New York, NY.
Traversing the Phantasm, Berlinale Forum Expanded exhibition, Akademie der Kunst, Berlin, DE.
Public Spirits, CCA Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland.
Color Visions, Videoforma Festival IV (exhibition section), Kuryokhin Center for Modern Art, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Hybrid Visions, curated by Jens Geiger as part of China Time 2016, Metropolis Kino, Hamburg, DE.
Art Dubai Film, Dubai, UAE.
Jen Liu (solo screening), Fundacja Nosna at Henryk, Krakow, Poland.
Utopia Is No Place, Utopia is Process, curated by Jacqueline Mabey, USDAN Gallery, Bennington College, VT.
Jen Liu, Attaque(e)r le visible at La Mutinerie, Paris, FR.
Berlinale, Forum Expanded, Academy of Arts Berlin, DE.
Film Montage, Coreana Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea.
Screening the Speculative: Melika Bass, Jen Liu, and Peter Hopkins Miller, New Museum, New York, NY.
The Ism That Dares Speak Its Name, PARMER at Abrons Art Center, New York, NY.
Socialism, Really? Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY.
The Cost of Wealth, a project of Jubilee and Goethe-Institut in collaboration with CINEMATEK, Argos and deBuren, Brussels, BE.
Transformer, Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam, NL.
Poet Transmit (performance), curated by Victoria Keddie and Cat Tyc, St Marks Church, New York.
Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai, China.
Unto Void Fulfills This Place, das weisse haus, Vienna, Austria.
Monsanto Shadow Symposium (performance), Radical Archives CFP, NYU A/P/A Institute, NY.
Ready-To-Hand, Sunview Luncheonette, Brooklyn, NY.
Salon der Angst, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria.
Only Dead Fish, Upstream Gallery / Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam, NL
Hold This Object Up Until There is Nothing Left of You, Modern Edinburgh Film School, Scotland.
Implausible Imposters, Ceri Hand Gallery, London.
I Like the Way You Move, Edinburgh Art Festival, White Space, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Pleasure Paradox, Gallery MK, Milton Keynes, UK.
#catcamp, Helper Projects, Brooklyn, NY.
Nite Flights, Old Hairdressers, Glasgow, Scotland.
Present and Accounted: ENACT, Performance Art Festival, Cleveland, OH.
The Scenery Changes Three Times: Brian Belott, Matthew Craven, Sara Cwynar, and Jen Liu, Schema Projects, Brooklyn, NY.
Cacotopia, Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester, UK.
We Are 2-Up, Bowery Poetry Club, curated by Sue Scott Gallery, New York, NY.
Folio (group exhibition and performance), Soloway Gallery, Brooklyn, NY.
Harvest (performance), Antechamber, Copenhagen, DK.
Reverse Engineering, Paraflows, Vienna, AT.
Bottoms (performance), On Stellar Rays, New York, NY.
Fuel for the Fire, Dawn Kasper + Human Resources LA/NY, New York, NY.
Blink: art, Gwangju, Korea.
Space. About a Dream. curated by Catherine Hug, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria.
Monodramas / Act 4, curated by NADA for New York City Opera, New York.
Art Rotterdam Video Hall, curated by Zapp Magazine, Rotterdam, NL.
Utopian Structures – New Existentialism Part 3, Gebert Stiftung für Kultur, *ALTEFABRIK, Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland.
Localhost, AZKM Kunsthalle Muenster, Muenster, DE.
Memory of A Hope, Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool, UK.
Eslov Wide Shut, curated by Stefan Lundgren, Blomsterberg’s Warehouse, Eslöv, Sweden.
You Can Heal Your Life! curated by Emma Gray, Circus Gallery, Los Angeles.
Never Can Say Goodbye: The Way Out, curated by Lauren Rosati for No Longer Empty @ Former Tower Records, New York.
Scope Foundation: "d.i.y. sci-fi", curated by Zach Layton, Scope Art Show, New York.
Exploitation on Demand, curated by Karin Laansoo, Sparwasser HQ, Berlin, DE.
Jen Liu, Mie Olison, Gurdjieff Players, Issue Project Room, Brooklyn, NY.
36 Dramatic Situations, Louis V E.S.P., Brooklyn, NY.
Malleable Memory, Aicon Gallery, New York.
Upstream Cinema: David Haines, Jeroen Jongeleen, Cristobal Leon and Jen Liu, Upstream Gallery, Amsterdam, NL.
All Things Being Equal, Raritan Valley Community College, Raritan, NJ.
NADA Gala (Performance Program), New York.
Black Hole Hums in B Flat, Ceri Hand Popup, London.
Fugue State (performance), Dorsche Gallery, Miami, FL.
APT at Pulse Miami, Pulse Fair, Miami, FL.
Filmsalon: Claudia Kugler, Kunstverein Nurnberg, DE.
Building Paradise, 7+Fig, Los Angeles.
Vision Division: Olaf Brzeski, Theresa Froelich, and Jen Liu, Czama Gallery, Warsaw, Poland.
NEWAGERIOT, Country Club/Los Angeles.
MONITAUR, Aspen Museum of Art, Aspen, CO.
The Last Session, Flemish Cultural Center, Amsterdam, NL.
University of Trash, The Sculpture Center, Queens, New York.
EXHIBITION, Exhibition 211, New York.
Agrifashionistas, Royal Academy, London.
NADA Emerging Artists Gala (performance), New York.
Without Sun: Brody Condon, Jen Liu, Avelino Sala, and Adriaan can der Ploeg, Virgil de Voldere Gallery, New York.
New Collections III, Centre PasquART, Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.
Shifting Identities, (Swiss) Art Now, Kunsthaus Zurich.
The Violet Hour: Matthew Day Jackson, Jen Liu, and David Maljkovic, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle.
The Golden Record, Collective Gallery/Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh.
Dream of Today, curated by Amy Smith-Stewart, Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles.
An Aside, special exhibition of Zoo Art Fair 2007, London.
NADA Art Fair (Upstream Gallery & Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery), Miami, FL.
The Present Order is the Disorder of the Future, De Hallen Museum, curated by Xander Karstens, Haarlem, The Netherlands.
Mind Hacking II, organized by Theresa Frölich and Antonia Lotz, Wewerka Pavilion, Münster, Germany, traveling.
Paper Bombs, curated by Bart Exposito, Jack Hanley Gallery, Los Angeles.
M*A*S*H, curated by Amy Smith-Stewart and Omar Lopez-Chahoud, The Helena, New York.
The Fit/Turtle, Nueans in collaboration with Michael Shamberg, Dusseldorf, DE.
The Return of the Seven Samurai, Galerie Lucy Mackintosh, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Romer II, Akademie Schloss Solitude Romerstrasse Gallery, Stuttgart, DE.
Flood Lit Wendy House, New York Rio Tokyo Gallery, Berlin.
NADA Artfair (Upstream Gallery and Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery), Miami, FL.
View (Eleven):Upstate, curated by Amy Smith-Stewart, Mary Boone Gallery, New York.
Liverpool Biennial:Virtual Grizedale, A Foundation, Liverpool, UK.
Big City Lab, Art Forum Berlin.
Experiments in Pop, curated by Laura Hoptman, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland.
Liste Artfair Basel (Upstream Gallery), Basel, Switzerland.
Peekskill Project 2006, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, NY.
Trial Balloons, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla y Leon, Leon, Spain.
Jen Liu + Bjorn Melhus + Claire Rojas, Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Los Angeles.
Things We Saw in Holland, Kravets/Wehby Gallery, New York, NY.
Carlos Aires / Jen Liu / Melvin Moti / Elodie Pong, Galleria Laurin, Zurich, Switzerland,
Explosive Compulsive: Reed Anderson, Adrianne Colburn & Jen Liu, Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco.
NADA Artfair Miami (Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery and Upstream Gallery), Miami, FL.
Liste Artfair Basel (Upstream Gallery), Basel, Switzerland.
Futurism, Melkweg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Fast Forward: A Passion for the New, curated by Scenic in affiliation with MOCA LA, House of Campari, Venice, CA.
Videonale 10, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany.
Open Video Call, Artists Space, New York.
LA Freewaves: Karaoke Boat, Los Angeles.
Biennale Bonn: New York State of Mind, Bonn, Germany.
Through the Gates: Brown vs. Board of Education, California African American Museum, Los Angeles.
Futureways: The Middelburg Triennial 2304, curated by Rita McBride, Glen Rubsamen, and Rutger Wolfson, de Vleeshal, Middelburg, The Netherlands.
Homies, DianePruess Gallery, Los Angeles.
Nueva 2003 Tokyo, Laforet Museum Harajuku, Tokyo
Filmstock, Luton, England. Traveling to Oulu International Film Festival, Finland
An Interest in Life, curated by John Baldessari and Meg Cranston, Apex Art, New York.
Hong, Cathy Park. “Artists and Identity,“ ArtForum, Summer 2016.
Weinstein, Matthew. “Machine Dreams and Painting’s Extremes: Matthew Weinstein on Jonathan Lasker and Jen Liu,“ ARTNEWS, March 10, 2016.
Kang Kang, “Really, Socialism?!“ Yishu Magazine, March/April 2016.
Steinbruegge, Bettina. “Rueckblick: Berlinale 2016 – Von Phantasmen, Haltungen und Erfahrungen,“ Spike Art Magazine, February 21, 2016. “Dansende Arbeiders in kartonnen dozen,” NRC Handelsblad, October 23, 2014.
“Letter to Marisa Merz,” PERSONA, Sternberg Press, Berlin, DE, 2013.
“Jen Liu, Initial Public Offering 0000: SOD,” New Danish Art, Copenhagen, DK, 2013.
Dawson, Kelly Chung, “Chinese Art Goes Public in NYC,” China Daily USA, August 2, 2013.
[Chinese language interview], World Journal, July 11, 2013.
Skye Sherwin and Robert Clark, “Exhibitionist: This Week’s Art Shows in Pictures,” The Guardian, September 16. 2011.
Davis, Laura, “New York Based Artist Jen Liu….” Liverpool Daily Post, September 13, 2011.
Gerhard H. Kock, “Weltweit daheim und unterwegs,” Borkener Zeitung, June 1, 2011.
Sabine Müller, “Kölsche Südsee-Träume,” Rurh Nachrichten.de, June 6, 2011.
Hallett, Nick, “BOMBLOG: A Night At the Opera,” Bomb Magazine Online, April 5, 2011.
"Weltraum. Die Kunst und ein Traum," ZDF, broadcast April 9, 2011.
"Weltraum. Die Kunst und ein Traum," Dradio, broadcast April 4, 2011.
Davis, Kim, “High Brow on the Lower East Side,” The Big Apple Magazine, January 2011.
Carlin, T.J., “Brody Condon & Jen Liu,” Art Review, January and February 2011.
Patrick Gantert, “Brody Condon and Jen Liu…” wowhuh.com, February 7, 2011.
Chayka, Kyle, “Two Kinds of Abstraction At On Stellar Rays,” Hyperallergic, December 6, 2010.
Fee, Brian, “3x300: Jen Liu, Christiana Soulou, and Paul Lee.” NY Art Beat, November 19, 2010. http://www.nyartbeat.com/nyablog/2010/11/3x300-jen-liu-christiana-soulou-and-paul-lee/
“Klaus Part 2 Volta and Armory New York March 2010.” http://www.fadwebsite.com/2010/03/08/klaus-part-2-volta-new-york-march-2010/
“Five Questions for….Jen Liu”, MetroLife UK, October 29, 2008.
“Artwork of the Week – Jen Liu”, Liverpool Art and Culture, November, 2008.
“we”, Catherine Wagley, Artslant, July 21, 2008
“ArtCal Pick: Without Sun”, artcal.net, July 2, 2008.
“Jen Liu and a Group of Rising Artists Move Out of the Art World’s Daze”, Regina Hackett, Seattle P-I, June 28, 2008.
Graves, Jen. “The Lunatic is on the Grass.” The Stranger, August 28, 2008.
Graves, Jen. “Artists of the Apocalypse Speak.” In/Visible, The Stranger Podcasts, June 25, 2008.
Gray, Emma. “Jen Liu at Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, LA.” Saatchi Online, November 10, 2007.
“Top 10 Shows in Los Angeles This Month”, Saatchi Online, November 3, 2007.
“L.A. Confidential,” Emma Baker. Artnet, May 19, 2006. http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/reviews/gray/gray5-19- 06.asp
“Review: Globos Sondas” Max Andrews. Frieze Online. 2006.
“Explosive Compulsive at the Luggage Store.” “Colin Berry. Artweek, February 2006. p13-14, illus.
“Focus Los Angeles: Jen Liu.” Flash Art, January-February 2006, p.72, illus.
“Who Are These People Showing So Much, And Why Do They Feel The Need To Be Seen?” Kenneth Baker. San Francisco Chronicle, January 7, 2006.
“Explosive ‘Compulsive’.” Hiya Swanhuyser, San Francisco Weekly, December 8, 2005, illus.
“20 Bright Young Things: Jen Liu.” ArtReview, December 2005, illus.
"Jen Liu at Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery," Christopher Miles, Artforum, September 2005, p. 312.
“Jen Liu at Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery,” Shana Nys Dambrot, Artweek, June 2005, Volume 36, Issue 5, pg. 17,(cover image: detail of “Light as Air, Light As Love: Diamonds of the Earth”).
Knight, Christopher. “A Harsh Yet Enchanting World,” Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2005.
“A Powerful Atmosphere for New Ideas,” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, February 9, 2004.
“Toekomst werpt licht op heden,” Provinciale Zeewuse Courant, The Netherlands, January 30, 2004.
“Highlight: 100 Artists See God,” Contemporary Magazine, Issue 57, December 2003, p 24-25, illus.
Reindl, Uta Maria. “Cyberfem Spirit – Spirit of Data,” Kunstforum International, December 2001, p 326-327.
Dogramaci, Burcu. “Frauen, bits und bytes,” Suddeautsche Zeitung, Nr. 295, December 22/23, 2001.
Gardill, Von Ingrid. “Frauen und die Kunst im Netz,” Nordwest-Zeitung, December 12, 2001.
2004 100 Artists See God, Institute of Contemporary Art, London. Traveling exhibition through Independent Curators International. Jewish Museum, San Francisco; Laguna Beach Art Museum, California; and Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY; tours through 2006.
Public Spirits, CCA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland, 2016.
10th Shanghai Biennale: Social Factory, Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China, 2014.
Reverse Engineering, Paraflows, Vienna, Austria, 2012.
Eslov Wide Shut, Eslöv, Sweden, 2011.
Space. About a Dream. Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria, 2011.
VOLTA NY 2010 Artists’ Book, VOLTA, New York, 2010.
The Last Session, Flemish Cultural Center, Amsterdam, NL, 2009.
The Violet Hour: Matthew Day Jackson / Jen Liu / David Maljkovic, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA, 2008.
An Innocent Revolution, Depauw University, Indiana, 2007.
“PROP” Proud to be a V.I.P., Nueans, Duesseldorf, Germany, 2007.
Sommerakademie 2006 im Zentrum Paul Klee: Experiments in Pop, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland, 2006.
Globos Sondas, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla y Leon, Leon, Spain, 2006.
Art Forum Berlin: Big City Lab, 2006.
Videonale 10. Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn Germany, 2005.
Friends Electric! Binz39 Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland, 2005.
100 Artists See God. Independent Curators International (ICI), New York, 2004, p 14, illus.
Futureways. Printed Matter, Inc., and Whitney Museum of American Art, 2003, p 64, illus.
Cyberfem Spirit: Spirit of Data. Helen von Oldenburg and Rosanne Altstatt (eds.), Edith-Russ-Haus fur Medienkunst, Oldenburg, pp 30-33, illus.
2008 We, Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, Los Angeles.
2007 I Could Be You, co-curated with Alexandra Blattler, in collaboration with Akademie Schloss Solitude, Fluctuating Images Galerie, and The Stuttgarter Filmwinter Film Festival.
2017 Tulsa Artist Fellowship, Tulsa, OK.
Swatch Art Hotel AIR, Shanghai, China.
2016 Para Site AIR, Hong Kong.
LMCC Process Space Governor’s Island, New York.
2012 Quartier 21, Vienna, Austria.
2011 Krems AIR, Krems, Austria.
2008 Pollock-Krasner Grant
2008 / 2009 ISCP, New York
2006 Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany.
Sommerakademie im Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland.
2005 Grizedale Arts, Cumbria, England.
2003 – 2005 De Ateliers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
My work starts with research-based fictions. From existing socioeconomic and political conditions, I build fictional characters and narratives of wish fulfillment.
This approach originates in a dual desire: to critique the limitations of existing proposals for solutions to pressing social problems, while also expanding the imaginary around such solutions. I desire to deflate the abstractions built around traditionally leftist approaches, embracing materialism in exaggeratedly tangible images, gestures, and objects – in order to find ways to more directly see and feel complex issues without oversimplification.
I am attracted to mediums that embody impermanence – video, paintings on paper, and performance. This is related to my long-held interest in the “thin materiality” of propaganda images, power sloganeering, and sci-fi speculation – objects whose truthiness is intrinsically destabilized but whose semblances depend on strong claims to authority. Aesthetics supplant the everyday with unattainable fantasy – while obfuscating the drastic measures (legal, military, economic) required to activate these fantasies.
In forcing these tropes against my lines of research, I try to track the originating fantasies – about national, gender, and economic identities – that drive our political impulses and everyday actions. What I hope to find is not instances of self-fulfilling prophecies, but rather hybrids, points of unexpected convergence, and minor stories that reveal the nuances hidden by major stories.
Can such a fraught archival document be re-motivated, beyond kitsch?
This piece proposes that re-motivation is possible, but only through major revision. First, the peasant girl is replaced with an accident-prone, inefficient meat worker. Second, the wise martial leader is replaced with a ballerina-manager that provides the solutions to the worker’s problems. She provides new tools – for meat and bone grinding – while resolving the inequities of wealth and resource distribution through the factory-produced hot dog. Military overthrow (Red) has been replaced by manufactured equivalence (Pink).
Within this revised framework, portions of the original music and choreography have been preserved. It has been re-engineered to fabricate continuity between the brutal fantasy of the past and the resource problems of the present. Parallel positions emerge from the color equation, Red + White = Pink. The first position is the old term “pinko” – a Communist (Red) who has assimilated Capitalist bourgeois models (White), to create a “watered-down” compromise (Pink). The second position is a speculative solution to China’s crises in meat supply, by valorizing the integration of “undesirable” pig parts with the “desirable” portions in the hot dog. And the third position proposes the pink of femininity not as a “natural” fleshy softness, but rather as a synthetic, potentially violent, hybridity.
Direction, Props, and Sound
Director of Photography
Isabelle Zufferey Boulton
VOICEOVER TEXTS (IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE)
Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem, 2014.
David John Farmer, “In the Pink!” Administrative Theory and Praxis, Vol. 25, No. 3 (September 2003).
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service, Code of Federal Regulations: Title 9, Volume 2, Part 319 – Definitions and Standards of Identity of Composition, 2012.
Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine, Volume II: The Pentagon of Power, 1970.
Isabelle Zufferey Boulton Imagines A World Full of Pink: edited narrative improvisation, 2015
The Pink Detachment paintings depict a series of large feminine fingers pushing and prodding, wielding their pressure power upon a multitude of semi-abstract objects and bobbed head-bots.
The imagery draws from various forms of contemporary “empowerment” that depend on complex structures of manipulation and economic control: from the psychic functions of Drunk Tank Pink, to the “Charm Offensive” Soft Power tactics of Asia’s international relations, to the Multi-Touch power fingers of Mac’s tutorials, to the supposed triumph of Affective Labor in the last decade. Heteronormative gender constructions and its extension into racial, national, and economic perceptions are evident, and yet, often go under-acknowledged, even when each of these aspects are admitted to function differently for different social groups.
Through exaggeration of these concepts and visual absurdity, these paintings ask about what we define as power today. Further, they posit that power-made-visible can only be as cartoonish as a bunch of disembodied fingers pushing things around. The wielding of power itself may be so intentionally invisible and ubiquitous, such that nearly every structure and gesture unavoidably supports models of privilege and access, that its locatability as an image is itself an absurd proposition.
On the other hand, these might be paintings about a proposal for the future of power. If media accounts are to be believed, the inevitable push towards soft power and affective labor – ie the push East and towards female-dominated service labor – make it such that perhaps these are portraits of the world to come. Each painting is a window out to a world of pushy female fingers, the horizon itself washed in emotionally controlling hues.
////// Final dress rehearsal on July 11, 2015 ///////
The Red Detachment of Women is a celebration of two worlds that almost exist. The first is a tropical paradise inhabited by female soldiers, as imagined in Madame Mao’s The Red Detachment of Women (ballet film: 1970). In her Red Detachment, a peasant girl undergoes a political awakening: the homicidal rage directed at her landlord is tamed, and she becomes a regulated, productive military agent. The second is an all-women state-of-the-art industrial pork processing plant, accommodating both Chinese factories’ preference for female workers with the latest in scientific management techniques.
This is a choreographed piece for six dancers, functioning simultaneously as a performance for a theatrical audience as well as a training manual for workers-soldiers that have almost arrived. Props, costumes, soundtrack and 3D-animated backgrounds blur the line between past and future, bridging China’s revolutionary imaginary and its projected economic future. An emphasis on perfect coordination and staggered synchronization implies a social machine so well designed it needs no leader. At the core of this piece is the systematization of violence for the purpose of greater productivity: whether in the production of revolution or in the production of edible goods. Exaggerated geometry and saturated reds and pinks literalize the act of systematization.
This piece poses a series of questions, such as: what is the relationship of social memory to social forgetting? How does selective memory, shaped by trauma manifesting in effects such as linguistic slips, generate new meanings - “Red Detachment” as military corps as well as the bloody disassembly of a carcass? What are the comparative optics of a revolutionary model versus a Fordist model, and is there any possibility of continuity between the two?
This piece was made with the generous support of Triple Canopy and The Whitney Museum of Art, and premiered on July 12, 2015 in a 3-person program called "Pattern Masters" which included new commissions by David Horvitz with Susie Ibarra, and Lucy Raven.
(Excerpt): This illustrates a key concept of the period: Military triumph produces prosperity, social order, international prominence, and gender equity by totally obliterating the old order. The ballet is remarkable for its synchronization of large numbers of female dancers, which makes visible the country’s efforts toward extraordinary cultural coherence. The ballet also features groups of factory workers moving in unison, the symbolism of which seems more difficult to parse given the social conditions that now characterize China, and the role of American consumers in the country’s industrialization.
In one of the ballet’s key sequences, peasants are so grateful for their emancipation that they offer soldiers heaving baskets of food, kneeling in adulation. However, military victories did not actually grant the masses regular access to food; top-down policies stymied agricultural output, and martial regimentation stalled efficiency. The resulting famine was one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century.
China’s political and economic landscape has changed, but scarcity of resources remains a problem. Since 2005, there has been a near-continual pork shortage in China, which is particularly painful because pork is the traditional meat of China. (The visual root of the pictogram of jia, meaning “home” or “family,” is a pig protected by a roof.) Demand rises as the population swells and living standards increase, and because of a peculiar trend: Newly minted members of the middle and upper classes cover their dinner tables with plate after plate of meat; a small fraction is eaten, and the rest is ostentatiously discarded—an aesthetics of affluence composed of heaps of fleshy trash....
Running Time: 17 min, 47 seconds
Factories will bring back money.
Factories will bring back jobs.
Factories will make everything fit again.
In factories, everyone has their place.
Western industrial production is a site of magical thinking: an old history that will never return, an idealized construction that never really was. It's impossible to know what the true costs would be if it were to return - societal, environmental, and psychological – and yet, entire political campaigns are built around this.
This piece speculates on re-industrialization, and is a sequel to my 2013 video, Safety First (Bad, Don’t Touch, Mercy!). Like its prequel, it posits a non-specific future populated by female factory workers. The geometric aesthetics of power and the romance of industrial-era alienation, are paired with theoretical and fictional texts about alternate social economies.
Video footage was shot in Ohio, animation and soundtrack by the artist. Voiceover text sources include Industrial supply catalogs, OSHA safety manuals, Monique Wittig’s Les Guerilleres, and Adorno’s Minima Moralia.
Running Time: 15 minutes, 20 seconds
In split-screen. a factory laborer is at work, one representing good, the other, bad. Safety conditions are violated by the bad worker - and then dream sequences bring to life Romanian factory safety posters from the 1970s.
Shot in various locations in Northeast Ohio, including the Frank Lloyd Wright Penfield House. This is a major Rust Belt region, whose history is defined by Fordist production, and whose future is framed by its hoped-for return.
If the future campaign to bring industry back to the “first world” is successful, media must address forgotten safety concerns - SAFETY FIRST is a piece of speculative fiction. But how far in the future will this be, who are the agents of this change: what is their culture, language, and perspective? Just in case, geometry, video image, and sound have displaced verbal commands. And at the end, a nature-fugue provides a respite from the drudgery: a worker's vacation.
DIRECTOR, ANIMATION, SCORE, COSTUMES, PROPS
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
LEAD DANCER / CHOREOGRAPHY CONSULTANT
What is the face of power? In the contemporary global moment, it has many faces, and the higher one ascends, the less visible the face becomes – it is everywhere and nowhere.
When we call for industrial production to come back to the West, it’s a nostalgia-dream for a simpler world, one in which everyone would have a place in the economic machinery, and power relationships would be paternalistic, visible, and negotiable through organization.
Here are a series of masks, designed for some future in which industrial production has been successfully brought back to the West. They are meant to ease the discomfort of transition from one power model to the other: from faceless outsourced management to localized industrial management. Inspired by the sentries in Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS (via the avant garde’s embrace of the African mask), they exist to dispel any confusion about who is in charge, soothing the frayed nerves of the post-Fordist citizen falling back into the Fordist fray.
Initial Public Offering OOOO (IPOOOOO) is composed of black ink drawings, video, sculpture and performance that present a fictional-futuristic agrarian-urban society. It is a new society split off from our own, initiated by the desire to overcome the cultural polarization that paralyzes our own. Through the study of Pierre Leroux’s ”Circulus”, in which equality and human manure were the two key elements of utopia, a new system of value is created. In the future, when all other forms of value have proved to be arbitrary and divisive, shit is the only thing left of provable productive force, uniting all.
Initial Public Offering is the moment at which a company goes public, split into numerous shareholders. By this Liu proposes a transitional moment of the new society, in which an initial utopian consensus model was successful, so much that consensus alone is no longer sufficient to organize the rapidly growing society. Intimations of political force and monetization start to emerge, as they struggle to maintain productivity and order.
Thus Liu presents her series Master O-Note, that draws from Ootje Oxenaar’s currency designs to create a ”zero-value” note, which citizens convert their shit for, and thereby set the stage for the re-enactment of capitalism. Several other large scale ink drawings in the exhibition imagine the thinking, priorities and aesthetics of this society. They are as visually transitional as the society itself – a multitude of sources and styles work with and against each other, unified only by material.
Two videos explore the possibilities and drawbacks of this world. In Bottoms (OnO), a series of butts with faces painted on them march in place. A tribute to Yoko Ono’s Bottoms, it imagines a society in which equals walk towards a future of their own making. BBBitches! is constructed of stop-motion, 3D animation, and found footage set to a soundtrack of ”estranged” audio, as a transmission from a world that has evolved beyond our understanding.
SIX COLORFUL TALES: FROM THE EMOTIONAL SPECTRUM (WOMEN) is a video reinterpreting a 1977 John Baldessari video of the same title. In his original, 6 women are each introduced by a color-based title (eg: ”Green Horn (Ilene)”), and tell an autobiographical story, head cropped small at the bottom of the frame, surrounded by a luminous backdrop of color determined by the title (eg: “Green Horn” = green).
Jen Liu develops cinematic pulp thrillers from each woman’s story, using their original voice narratives as the soundtrack. Each vignette makes dramatic use of their “color” to amplify the violence intrinsic to each tale – stylized, excessive, and often absurd. Fears that are imagined or merely implied in Baldessari’s original are realized and exaggerated. One woman depicts all the roles in this film, emphasizing the autoeroticism of violence – we see her flee from, destroy and consume herself, over and over again. This, paired with moments of narrative and visual disruption, makes it clear that this is a meta-fantasy.
SIX COLORFUL TALES was filmed in various locations in the vicinity of Vienna. Low-grade video cameras, homemade props, and a skeleton crew were used as a nod to B-movie film production, while stylistically the piece draws from giallo film in particular, gory Italian thrillers that peaked in the mid-70s.
Running time: 16:51