About Up Front


M: Can you talk about how your work was made and how you came to make it?

F:These works came forth from a talk with a friend, who told me one day if I would hear the news that she would get married, I should not feel surprised and sad. I realized that I must do something, even it will be useless, I still have to do it. There is an unavoidable reality, which is a violence of identity, it is like stripping off your clothes and put you into the crowd. The beginning of these works is purely an intuitive impulse.



M: Can you speak to your relationship with your subjects? Fan Xi starts with building intimacy and trust with her subjects that becomes the basis for making the work. Are these general strategies for making your work or just

particular strategies used for these specific projects? Are there any ethical issues for you in how you find and address your subjects when making work?

F:It grew like a child, and gradually broke away from me and even went beyond me, it became an entire independent existence. Doing art work is a way of expression for me. In the process of experiencing the life, one will encounter all sorts of problems, doing art work can let me dissolve the problems through expression, and let myself grow. To solve a problem is impossible, one can only realize the problem, and find a balance and a compromise. To complete a work is only one part of creating a work, the more important is to stir the contact with the reality. Photography has this effect, that each individual contains the penetration of the reality. When you get in contact with the photographed object, you also get in contact with various surfaces of the reality. I use photography as a means to enrich the observation of various surfaces of the reality, so as to reach my expression.


M: Your work involves the public display of intimacy – In Fan Xi’s case, I see the intimacy structuring the images – I read them as collaborations between the subjects and the artist. Do you agree that your work is shaped by intimacy and can you speak to what that might mean for your practice as an artist?

F:Yes, this is a way I put particular weight unto. Especially with this series Up Front, these works are bilateral, which belong to both the subjects and the artist. Intimacy means a mutual-trust, a relationship between one human being and the other human being. It is a development of kindness. You must respect your subjects and what you are doing. This can only be done on the basis of honesty. I believe that the honesty is a premise of being an artist.


M:Your works explicitly address the performance of gender and open up questions about the relationship between masculine and feminine gender performance.Fan Xi selects her subject based on their public performance of masculine affect yet asks them to disrobe – removing many of the props that they might use to establish or perform their gendered selves. Can you speak to the way your work plays with binary gender identities and how the work takes up gender as performative?

F:Of course in these works there are performed gender identities. But what I have expressed does not emphasize gender performance. When they de-robed themselves, the performing is ended. I want to discuss this topic in two ways. First, when I started to do this work, I was concerned with the response a self gives when it is being looked at, being gazed at, and this gaze is projected at a gendered group-lesbians. Secondly, I want to talk about dignity, the importance of dignity. The dignity is borne from the dialogue between the audience and the photographed subjects. When the audience stands before these subjects, the result of dialogue is no longer important, what important is that one will feel a power, the power that comes from the dignity of the subjects, and within this dignity there are no opposite bodies. The dignity is independent and active, which disintegrates and collapses the universal gaze towards women, and nullifies the consumed experience of being gazed at. Therefore these works do not present as gendered phenomena, but as the dignity that is the basis of being a human. Or you can say that these works give me this kind of deepened experience and understanding.

M: Both of your works use very specific aesthetic strategies – Fan Xi uses the black space in her works to isolate her subjects, I see these strategies as contributing to the emotional impact of the works. Can you speak to your use of aesthetic strategies and how you see them contributing to the work's emotional affect?


F:Colors are realistic perspective experience, when you face a real naked body, you cannot avoid this experience. But what I want to express is an attitude the body itself is not that important, therefore I get rid of the chance to pose the body as a gazed-at-thing. In doing so, I create an abstract dialogue, which is a dialogue between human and human, not a relationship between the naked and the being-gazed-at.