Courtesy Marsella Gallery, Beijing
lives in Beijing
It’s difficult to say if Cui Xiuwen is representative of young Chinese artists today. It is clear that in her use of video and in her themes, she is testing her artistic boundaries without bumping up against the Chinese government. After a traditional education at an academy in North-East China, she has been working as a painter and a teacher. Because her style of painting – a kind of Post-Expressionism with sexually tinted metaphors – was considered too explicit in that environment, she tried her luck in Beijing. She looked for a place where she could be herself and perhaps start an international career.
Lady’s is her first video and at the same time a brave attempt to open up a new path. Simple, but revealing, in more than one aspect. With a hidden camera she registers the activities in a ladies room in one of the capital’s largest discotheques and at the same time she shows us how money finds its way into modern China. The toilets are a public as well as a private space, full of movement but yet intimate. There, hookers retire to catch their breath, exchange gossip, count their money and tuck it away into their shoes, panty’s or bra’s, call their next client, adjust their make-up and admire themselves in the mirror. The girls have paid big money to be able to work there. Including the costs for clothing, hairdo and make-up. It’s an investment from which they can only profit if they find enough customers. The competition is hard as hell and nerve-racking. The looks and the outfit are crucial and need to enforce a quick seduction. That’s why the mirror is an important working instrument. The mirror has the last word. Breasts aptly visible? Enough lipstick? A dash of perfume? Ten women prepare for battle. The dancefloor is their daily battlefield. And then there’s also the cleaning lady who tires herself out and indifferently makes her way through all this coquettishness. Another way of survival in the perpetually growing outskirts of Chinese society.