Arts and Culture

Splashes of Queerness: Memories and Resistance in an Artist Screening

Jara Lopez Sastre Painting
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Splashes of Queerness: Memories and Resistance in an Artist Screening

On May 27 of 2023, If Splash As Your Whistle held a screening event at the Goldsmiths CCA residency space, in collaboration with Gourd Canteen, an initiative exploring and engaging the Sinophone art community in the UK and beyond. The night embraced all its colors, with the help of eleven nonconformist, queer, and diasporic artists with Sinophone backgrounds. The works placed performance and sound in moving images, creating a vessel of tools of resistance in the public sphere and realized memories. 

Upon heading over to Gourd Canteen’s page, I found something very interesting to be said about containers. “The first cultural device was probably a recipient… A container to hold gathered products and some kind of sling or net carrier”, Elizabeth Fisher states in Women’s Creation. In the same way that rubs can be useful to track deer, you can judge the freshness of a rub by its smell and feel, the same way we can explore the absence of a feeling or the potential of losing something we love – to hound meaning, inspiration, love, and life. From the Greek mythological figure Penelope to the Paris syndrome, bubbles, tentacle eyes, and skepticism towards Google Maps, it was an explosion of dogmas each with its own story.

The event was a pinnacle of artists coming together to dismantle the gifts, the heirlooms of past years, and the sap of grief that is inherently a personal journey. 

Curated by Xinyu Xuxx & Yuqing Lin, and with contributions from researcher and curatorial practitioner Hang Li, the featured showpieces explored loss, grief, and mourning. All of the incorporated works expressively transmit that the ability of creation is, almost in a sense, a second look at life. The observation of this mourning, swollen and red with weeping, discloses playfulness, vibrations, and rhythms that come to the surface like a floating barnacle revealing itself from a deep sea. All human emotions that, while solid passion abates, can become a small relief of pain. 

"Hands of the Sun" by Aec3.

I’ve always believed that learning about others is a delicate tunnel that unveils the sheer covers that allow us to learn about ourselves. It was in this way that I was eager to learn about the psyches and creations of these artists. I started my journey with Aec3. One can see the gentleness of their soul by merely looking at their art. Their creation “Hands of the Sun”, is a video of the artist singing along with Cheer Chen, a Taiwanese singer-songwriter, as a tender hand reaches out in the snow, turning snowflakes into stars with the light of the sun. The song is from Miao Miao - a movie that focuses on a romance between people of different gender identities in the rigorous education of East Asia, and the ensuing loss and helplessness that comes with it. Aec3’s can be described as a demonstration of life. The enchanting air and the sounds. Sounds hovering over city lights as the neon lights become stars, leaving behind a soft trace, that in secret we know it’s love. The artist, Aec3 in this instance, speaks to a softer part inside all of us. A side that we often neglect: A side that teaches us to forgive ourselves. 

"Miyako's Channel (You Will Never Know)" by Jiawei Zheng, 2023.

Touched by AEC3’s vulnerability, I looked at Jiawei Zheng’s art next. Zheng’s work “Miyako’s Channel (You Will Never Know)” is a short film based on a virtual YouTube channel. The video presents the artist with a long, eerie sustained tone in the background. She is seen introducing concepts some of us may be familiar with: Lolita Virus, Paris syndrome, the inability to control one's fantasies about specific environments, and feeling lost. A feeling that we all may know too well. When I first moved to America, I struggled with finding a place that made me feel like I belonged. A struggle indeed, that ultimately led me to face my fears and come to an agreement with reality. This moving image and its exploration of the conflict of origin and fantasy under de-centralism is an important commentary on the human condition when we grapple to find resonance and peace in a place that is much too overwhelming and confusing at times. 

“Do you feel that your body is more inclined to an aesthetic commitment than an organic existence?” -Miyako's Channel (You Will Never Know) by Jiawei Zheng, 2023
"Retracing Cycle Time" by Wenqi Zou, 2022.

Zheng introduced ideas in creative and unorthodox ways; Ideas that are relevant to our contemporary spaces. The question “Have you volunteered to represent another visualized character? Or have you created a special form of another persona?” hit a pulse that is relevant in modern culture. With thoughts lingering on my mind as I looked for answers, I felt gravitated to Wenqi Zou’s art. I instantly felt welcomed and at peace upon looking at her video, a work titled “Retracing Cycle Time”. It felt like I was watching something intimate, something made out of soul and flesh. One can sense how, with her art, she places a tender light on issues that translate to larger things than body image and mental struggle. The recording patterns, sensory language, and representations of the perception of the body: things that we tend to overlook, but form a huge part of female chronic patients. Her work is a powerful investigation of her own experience with a chronic disease. The spilled pills, the shroud woven, the pill dispenser. All metaphors reference the pain that comes with being a woman and suffering from an illness, be it a bodily disease or a mental affliction. 

"Was ist Romantik?" by Liming Lin, 2023.

It was at this moment of my journey that I was starting to feel the most sensitive. For this reason, I decided to watch Liming Lin’s work titled “Was ist Romantik?”, a sincere and innocent look at identity and love. The video showcased a girl wearing a school uniform, looking away from the camera, accompanied by a trance-like synth that evoked static. I was lost in thought, until the girl finally glanced back at the camera, just to ask the lucid yet incredibly multifaceted question: Was ist Romantik? “I like German, I find that asking something with “Was” is very interesting”, Liming said when I asked why the language. They also told me they liked Kuafu, a Chinese God, who wishes to chase and catch the Sun, from East to West. I like the story, it reminded me of Patheon, the son of the sun God Helios. He wished to drive the sun across the sky all by himself, from dawn till night. 

"But I Never Saw Her Pray" by Qingqing Liu.

With wishful thinking, I decided to look at Qingqing Liu’s work. Liu’s creation was titled “But I Never Saw Her Pray”, where a ritual-like scenario was presented to me. In the center, an object covered with a red translucent veil, and around it, a character with a mask and a few rags dyed in red covering its body, complemented with fierce blood-like heels. The surreal magnificence and the theatrical aspects of the dynamics transported me to a dimension in which I could see how women are seen under certain structures. Different forms of ritualistic dynamics acted in accordance with the performance. Finally, a text written in Chinese told the tale of a grandmother, who lived in a small village in China. The tale followed the struggle of the eldest daughter, who barely managed to go to school on the idea that she wouldn't be able to read and write to her family if she was abducted and sold to other places. The daughter said God changed her destiny. She had a bible, but she was never seen praying. The tale ended with the woman who was once a young girl using stones to weigh favoring Mao Zedong who, according to her, was the one who filled her belly and saved her from hunger. 

Upon understanding the ritual that took place, there were three different stages in the performance: the bride's procession, the wedding ceremony, and the wedding banquet; in reference to recent events involving chained women in Xuzhou, the lamb ritual, the shearing of the tongue in hell, and the baby tower. Scenarios mapped against the artist's own episodic family stories. A grand story that tells the tale of an artist that discloses the position of women as objects. Devices in the reincarnation of historical structures and social adjustments. 

"Miao Shan" by Zijing Zhao & Rui Shi, 2020.

It’s important to acknowledge our past in order to understand our present and future. One must look to the ancients to make good art that can look into the future. And the artists Zijing Zhao and Rui Shi are fleshy examples of this idea. Zijing Zhao’s interest in mythology and folklore, horror narratives, and the emerging media of these domains come out when one looks at her works. She explores how these horror narratives reinforce gender bias and misogyny. Rui Shi, much like Zhao, chooses to express themselves in the presentation of the queer space in emerging technologies. Both artists come together to create a more diverse narrative: to challenge the viewer to criticize and question the hegemonic space of violence in existing mainstream media. 

“A story is always telling itself over and over again because the story is supreme. The story is permanently relocating and reaffirming itself in its destruction and rebirth. In this story, our protagonist wakes up.” - Miao Shan by Zijing Zhao & Rui Shi

I can’t remember the last time I went to the beach; it must’ve been around November or December. But one thing I do remember is seeing a lost baby turtle trying to find its way back to the ocean. “As tempting as it may be to help a struggling baby turtle, you have to allow them to move on their own”, my mom told me. To this day, I still think about it from time to time, wondering if it ever made it back to the ocean safely. I'm thinking of it now, thanks to Xiaoyu1002. Xiaoyu1002 uses sound, moving images, installation, and painting to critically engage the issues around gender, identity, alienation, and contemporary culture. Their inclination to expose life with all its fondness and sentimentality comes across the screen like an animated gif with sparkles and adorned fonts. 

"We are Jellyfish and People Who Saved the Jellyfish" by Xiaoyu1002, 2020.

Their work titled “We are Jellyfish and People Who Saved the Jellyfish” features a quaint and dreamy audio-visual component that makes it safe for the viewer to reach those personal and even traumatic territories. It envelops us in a humane and maternal space, in which we realize the overwhelming daily absurdity and all its shades and hues that shape our understanding of love and compassion. It presents a light-hearted Lo-fi edit of a recording of a group of friends at the beach. “I feel we are very similar to them, thrown to the beach,” someone says as shiny jellyfish lay on the shore. The places where land meets water. Presented in a patchwork, fragmented form, I could see the creatures floating close to my feet. And they reminded me of me. Just like they symbolize beauty, regeneration, immortality, being in flow, and intuition, there’s so much we can learn from living in our surroundings, not only to understand ourselves but also the issues of our days. “I want to cry, for it works so hard to shine”, someone finally said before the video ended with the camera drifting off into the late night filled with car lights and motorcycle beeps. 

"Love is Eating Me, Because I'm More Delicious Than You" by XINYU XuXX, 2023.

Life encapsulates infinite modes of expression. A butterfly, for instance, would fly away if they sense danger or stay around if the female senses a male. It's all circumstantial, they say. But artists, like XINYU XuXX, believe that there’s an intrinsic-becoming life experience in the essence of certain archetypes. XuXX’s practices focus on feminist eroticism; she uses images as a medium to create visionary experiences, de-stereotyping the image that contemporary society holds in relation to women. Her work thrives in its capacity to transmit energy, and empathy across time/territory. She strives to create a moment of intimacy, in which vulnerability is not only welcomed, but embodied. Her work titled “Love is Eating Me, Because I’m More Delicious Than You” features a morphed series of clips, enveloped like a dream with water, red hues, eyelashes, and wisps of smoke and breaths. Something is always happening. 

Audre Lorde’s essay “Uses of the Erotic” is a work that has inspired XINYU in a way that transcends ideas and execution. “I’m interested in how erotic embodied memories are shown through image,” XuXX said when I inquired about her inspirations. “In this video, I wanted to use image as a language to make a poetry-like narrative, a visionary erotic experience. Hoping it will build the erotic energy that connects to audiences, making spiritual exchanges. Just like Lorde’s words influenced me”, the artist continued. 

"Bubbles" by XINYU XuXX & Xiaoyu1002, 2023.

It was in this investigation of subtle differences, between love and death, kisses and contracts, that Xinyu Xuxx & Xiaoyu1002 came together to create the project “Bubbles”. When I saw the video, I couldn’t help but think about the multiple devices closed minds have created to further oppress those that are outside the norm. “In this film, we weaponize the bubbles from bubble tea as our way of reacting to a particular homophobic myth in East Asian culture. The myth states that drinking bubble tea is causing more children to be born gay”, the artists said. As satirical and almost comedic as the myth of “drinking bubble tea will make you gay” is, there’s a bitter concealed resentment that comes with creating such a story that carries defamation and unconscious unnecessary shame. The video offered them a fun and endearing perspective, and the actors embodying the energy of a bubble was wonderful. When society closes the doors for expression and freedom to choose and love, one learns to build roads on today, because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans, and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight. These artists show us how when you reject sexuality, it rejects you back. 

"Tentacle Eyes" by Yuqing Lin, 2023.

The dissipation of something or someone is a feeling that leaves us gray and austere, blinded by fog like a hidden waterfall in a misty forest. Upon watching Yuqing Lin’s short film, I could sense their gentle understanding of the nature of ghostly trajectories. Their fictional film “Tentacle Eyes,” tells the story of a princess that loses her sight in an underground world. The movie then offers a fierce exploration of two worlds, the spiritual past and the mundane present. “In the water, eye sockets are filled with mud. This is my form”, the archaic ghost says. One can get a feel for the princess, and identify those sentiments of feeling incorporeal, being dismissed, and existing in a vessel. Feeling that can come to us without needing to be a ghost. An enchanted forest, two ambiguous lovers, out-of-this-world shots, iPhone screens: these elements convey that idea of living in between the metaphysical and the corporeal. “[This work] is about the internal experiences of queer bodies, and how ghosts are interrelated with the experience of migration of different bodies. As the world and each other transform, the narrative and plot are erased by images, creating a displacement” the artist declared. 

"Servitude: Do Not Believe That Google Map" by Yasmine Anlan Huang, 2021.

There’s the collective feeling, too, of fearing death. But there’s also the collective anima of transforming the fear so that we need fear with what little else this life brings. Though we need to weep a loss, something will always dwell in that safe place in our hearts where no storm or night or pain can reach us. It’s in this manner that artist Yasmine Anlan Huang reimagines togetherness by exploring the fragility of personal and collective trauma. Her work titled “Servitude: Do Not Believe That Google Map”, is a video inspired by a real-life incident where an 18-year-old Siberian teenager froze to death after Google Maps set the wrong navigation. Using the details from news reports, the artist imagined a failed love story of a Siberian woman, questioning the legitimacy of complete digitalization and the unjust deployment of transnational corporations. The unique treatment of our enjoyment of digital technology and how it deals with the parallel deadlocks of sexual relationships and romantic relationships are exposed and interpreted with a tender and curious approach by Yasmine. For Yasmine, the experience of being multi-sited is akin to endless exile, and yet she still calls London, New York, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou her home.

The spirit of loss is palpable and sharp like a dagger. And one learns to accept it with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child. Time, nature, art, people, relationships, and life will be the eternal teachers of a promised vision that we all have felt deep in our hearts, and keep looking for every day. The oppression, loss, and hate that exists in this world will somehow find a way to balance out with a heavy and profound affection for the human spirit; a wholehearted disposition for love, the warmth of our charming bodies, and all that surrounds these vessels of flesh and fragile skin. To forgive the fact that we sometimes forget, and sometimes want to forget. We learn to plant our own garden and decorate our own souls, instead of waiting for someone to bring us flowers.

Connect with If Splash As Your Whistle on: Instagram

Connect with the artists here:


Yuqing Lin


Yasmine Anlan Huang 

Zijing Zhao 

Rui Shi


Qingqing Liu

Wenqi Zou

Jiawei Zheng 

Liming Lin