Photographer Pixy Liao takes notions of relationships and the gender roles often tagged onto them and filters both through her camera lens in a humorous yet poignant exploration of Chinese society.
In 2015 she told us, “The ideas of traditional gender roles are still very strong in China. China is much more open than in the past, and it's common for women to work and have high social positions, but feudal thoughts that have been passed down from thousands of years ago still influence the way men and women are viewed in Chinese society. Growing up I was always told there is no need to work too hard, but more importantly to marry a man who can support me, have kids, be mother and a wife.”
Although born in Shanghai, she now resides in Brooklyn and has since taken these ideas with her into adulthood and began to use her camera to ask questions. The result is the series “Experimental Relationship”, which details her and her boyfriend Moro’s relationship as a heteronormative couple. Moro, Japanese and five years her junior, Liao says, also means that this series becomes a love-hate story due to their respective birth countries’ own strained relationships with one another.
Her new exhibition Lady & Gentleman continues this discussion – now on display in Malmö – and Liao’s show statement details more about how she has manifested her ideas of love, relationships and gender into her work.
“As a woman brought up in China, I used to think I could only love someone who is older and more mature than me, who can be my protector and mentor. Then I met my current boyfriend, Moro... I felt that whole concept of relationships changed, all the way around. I became the person who has more authority and power. I started to experiment with this relationship (and) I would set up all kinds of situations for Moro and I to perform in the photos. My photos explore the alternative possibilities of heterosexual relationships. They question what is the norm of heterosexual relationships? (And) what will happen if man and woman exchange their roles of sex and roles of power?”