Pink Slime Caesar Shift: Electropore
In a room bathed with pink light, a pink-nailed figure presses an on switch. The camera zooms out to reveal she’s embedded in massive, pink, marshmallow-like blocks, from which one pink-stilettoed foot pokes out. She clacks the keys on a vintage Apple computer. In another shot, an Asian woman bats Millennial-pink ping-pong balls into a hole in the wall with Millennial-pink paddle. Yet another woman drops pink balls into a test tube of water. In Jen Liu’s new exhibition, an online viewing room at the Kitchen, the artist subverts the vernacular of content, contemporary feminine life: pink everything, satisfying slime, minimalist aesthetics, all shot against depthless matte backgrounds and placed in dialogue with work by her forebears.
Liu explores the online viewing room as a platform, form, medium and venue. For instance, her video Pink Slime Caesar Shift: Electropore (2021) is a work in progress, providing a peek into a process that viewers may be less accustomed to seeing than, say, preparatory sketches. The medium also allows Liu to explore overlapping digital-spatial temporalities; Electropore resuscitates and re-examines “Warrior Sisters: The New Adventures of African and Asian Womyn Warriors,” a sci-fi opera by musician Fred Ho and librettist Ann T. Greene that the Kitchen produced in 2000. That work—which is excerpted online—imagined the meeting of four female legends: Fa Mulan, Nana Yaa Asantewaa, Sieh King King and Assata Shakur, the last of whom escapes to safety when Mulan’s lightning bolts puncture space-time.
Liu’s work riffs on that premise, positing a kind of thought experiment that draws upon electroporation, a method of genetic engineering that introduces DNA by shocking living cells in a pink medium. In Electropore, four anonymous Black and Asian womxn form a closed system and use their biopower to generate electricity, fueling each other in the process. But something’s gone wrong. It’s not a totally closed system, or the system is so large that individual bits of energy circulation are impossible to track. And rather than seeing the products of your spark—helping or even saving others—you have no sense of your own worth. Moreover, you’re drained, resigned to power meaningless gadgets that do nothing and help no one. By co-opting an opera that serves as a paragon for collaboration, Liu takes the ennui that Marx located in the alienation of labor and makes it metaphorical—and Millennial pink. —Lisa Yin Zhang
Jen Liu, Pink Slime Caesar Shift: Electropore, 2021. HD, color, sound, 11:01 minutes. Video Still. Courtesy of the artist. Presented on The Kitchen OnScreen as part of the Video Viewing Room Jen Liu >< Fred Ho /// "Electropore>"<"Warrior Sisters."