Chambers Fine Art is pleased to present Pixy Liao: New Wife, Old House. Born and raised in Shanghai, China, Pixy Liao received her MFA in photography from the University of Memphis in 2008. It was within this completely new and foreign environment that she first began working as an artist, exploring everyday life in Memphis through a series of ‘American landscapes’. It was also in Memphis that she met her boyfriend-turned-muse Moro – inspiring the body of work that she has become best known for, called Experimental Relationship. The ongoing project is a staged documentation of their relationship, now spanning over 13 years, in which Liao creates various intimate, playful, and witty tableaux that often place her in a position of power over Moro, in a subtle reversal of gender roles.
New Wife, Old House presents a selection from the latest iteration of Experimental Relationship, focusing on a selection of photographs taken in 2019 while the couple were staying at Moro’s grandmother’s home in Japan. The new images are very different in mood from the majority of photographs in the longstanding series, less playful and more somber, which Liao attributes to the setting.
"There’s a feeling of melancholy in these photos. Time seems to be standing still in the house. Even though time passes by, people pass away, the house is still there as if everything were going to start the same every day. In that house, we found some tanka (poems) his grandma wrote, “My husband is getting used to the mowing machine, the morning sun on his sweaty back”. When I was in that house with Moro, I thought about all these years his grandpa & grandma had lived together in the same house, and we were there as if we were reliving their life.”
The titles of Liao’s photographs are often humorous, and at times poignant, adding another dimension to the visual feast. She only titles her photographs after they are produced, and forming these titles is an important part of her artistic process. According to Liao, “It’s how I understand my own photos. Many times, I don’t know exactly what the photos mean right after I take them. It takes me months or even years to figure out what they actually mean to me. So the photos will be untitled for a long time until I have found the right titles for them.” Among this group of photos there are several that feature a doorway with a clock overhead, simply titled for the time of day that they were taken.
In many of the photographs Liao wears a simple geometric patterned dress, quite different from the more flamboyant (or lack of) clothing that is common in her previous work. She says the dress evokes a ‘proper traditional wife role’; once again a reaction to the otherworldly house that seems frozen in time.
Continuing this role play, for the first time in the series, Moro is not shown in a submissive position in the photos – in Looking up to My Man, for example, he looks directly at the camera with a troubled expression while Liao’s hand touches his cheek.
“I had this needy, desiring, admiring look at him. It’s a different place for us, a new kind of relationship we were having in these photos, a more traditional one you might say. But for him, what does it mean? He doesn’t seem completely comfortable with it, but then again, he was carrying my weight hanging from his neck. It’s one of the rare photos I made where he is in the upper position.”
Pixy Liao is a recipient of NYFA Fellowship in photography, Santo Foundation Individual Artist Awards, Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival Madame Figaro Women Photographers Award, En Foco's New Works Fellowship and LensCulture Exposure Awards. She has been awarded artist residencies at Light Work, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Center for Photography at Woodstock, University of Arts London, School of Visual Arts, Pioneer Works, and Camera Club of New York. Liao has participated in exhibitions and performances internationally, including the Rencontres d’Arles in Arles (France); Asia Society (Houston); National Gallery of Australia (Sydney); the Museum of Sex (New York); and the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing).
As part of our online presentation, we are very excited that SCOPE Hannover has made available Liao’s online exhibition that kicked off their one-year program Biennale für Foto- grafie und Medienkunst this past summer. Entitled Choose Your Own Adventure, the exhibition is inspired by interactive detective novels, and is designed to be self-led by the audience. For this project, the artist reappraises her series Experimental Relationship (since 2007) and For Your Eyes Only (since 2012) and adapts them in a participatory online format that makes use of the logic of the Internet. It is a playful review of Liao’s own work as a conscious counter-design to a Google image search or a picture gallery.