Parsons Faculty Jen Liu and Alisa Shvarts Contribute to “SOFT SKILLS”


Soft Skills artist and Parsons faculty, Jen Liu, will screen and discuss her video work The Pink Detachment (2015-2016), as well as portions of her work in progress, Pink Slime Caesar Shift. Following her presentation Liu will be joined by artist and performance theorist and Parsons faculty, Aliza Shvarts, for a conversation on resistant reproductive temporalities and opacity as an intersectional strategy.

A counterpart to the paintings on view in Soft Skills, Liu’s The Pink Detachment reinterprets The Red Detachment of Women (1970), a Model Opera ballet from China’s Cultural Revolution, replacing its peasant girl protagonist with an accident-prone, inefficient meat worker. Valorizing “pink slime,” a processed paste of low-grade meat scraps, Liu’s work proposes a speculative solution to China’s current crises in meat supply. The work shifts the register of the color pink, as a symbol of femininity, from “natural” fleshy softness to a synthetic, potentially violent, hybridity.

Liu’s new multi-part work Pink Slime Caesar Shift comprises another generative fiction about meat production in China, centering on the inability of Chinese factory workers to organize due to state-controlled social media. If synthetic meat based on stem cell technologies is grown on an industrial scale, the work suggests, workers may have a new vessel for distributing secret messages through ciphers programmed into the meat’s genome.

Liu’s talk will elaborate on these projects and their many sources of inspiration, from Drunk Tank Pink, a bubblegum shade known for its palliative psychological effects, to the “charm offensive” soft power tactics of Asia’s international relations. The artist will also discuss her ongoing field research with labor organizers and NGOs in China.

The exhibition comprises works by Eleanor Antin, Endia Beal, Tasha Bjelić, Danielle Dean, Heather Keung, Barbara Kruger, Suzy Lake, Jen Liu, Martha Rosler, Emily Shanahan, Frances Stark, and Martha Wilson, and is curated by Kaegan Sparks, 2016–17 Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow and doctoral student in Art History, The Graduate Center, CUNY.

This exhibition is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Thursday, May 18, 6:30-8:30pm
CUNY Graduate Center James Gallery
365 Fifth Avenue, at 34th Street