This programme celebrates the female gaze through a selection of films by historical and contemporary artists that examine women’s everyday lives, their expected roles in domestic environments, and their representations in society. Through experimental modes of filmmaking, performance, recitation, and role play, these personal, and often provocative works challenge dominant and stereotypical narratives and playfully encourage their redefinition.
Jud Yalkut | 1967 | Digital video | B/W | Colour | Silent | 5 min. 10 sec.
M+, Hong Kong
Opera Sextronique restages the mythic, eponymous 1967 performance of cellist Charlotte Moorman at The Film-Makers’ Cinematheque in New York City. Her topless performance was interrupted, and Moorman was arrested for indecent exposure. Yalkut’s film was intended as documentation for Moorman’s trial, but ultimately was not allowed to be shown in court. Conceived with Nam June Paik, Moorman’s performance is not only a critique of the music world’s self-proclaimed seriousness and its lack of engagement with sex and sexuality, but also an empowering validation of the power of playful female subversion.
Semiotics of the Kitchen
Martha Rosler | 1975 | Single-channel digital video | B/W | Colour | Chinese subtitles | 6 min. 33 sec.
M+, Hong Kong
Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen offers a feminist critique of gender stereotypes and the domestic sphere. Conceived as a parody of a television cooking show, the artist draws from an inventory of tools and gestures to describe and perform the alphabet of a housewife’s daily routine. She employs rage and sarcasm to render the angst behind the image of a traditional housewife and to resist a socially imposed female domesticity.
Joyce Ho | 2015 | Single-channel digital video | Colour | Sound | 5 min.
M+, Hong Kong. M+ Council for New Art Fund, 2020
Filmed against a bright-yellow background, Overexposed Memory begins with a portrait of a woman holding an apple. The camera lingers on her hands and documents her intensely squeezing the apple and various other fruits until they disintegrate into a pulpy mush; in the final scene, she bites into a cherry tomato, letting the juice slowly drip down her chin. The repeated destructive gesture and erotic allusion is a metaphor for women’s fragility under any form of violence inflicted by men or women.
HIDEO, It's Me Mama
Mako Idemitsu | 1983 | Single-channel digital video| Colour | Sound | Chinese & English subtitles | 26 min. 49 sec.
M+, Hong Kong
HIDEO, It’s Me Mama portrays the relationship of a mother and her son, Hideo, who lives abroad and exclusively appears on a television monitor. The mother’s care and domestic activities are performed in relation to the screen: she wakes up her son, speaks to him, and serves him food by putting a plate in front of his image. Taking place in both real and mediated spaces, communication is dysfunctional, yet the mother maintains her traditional role even from a distance and in face of the son’s apparent ignorance. The tension is heightened by the presence of a father who, despite being seated at the table with the mother, reads the newspaper, eats his meal, and only worries about himself.
Cao Yu | 2017 | Single-channel digital video | Colour| Sound | Chinese & English subtitles | 4 min. 22 sec.
M+, Hong Kong. M+ Council for New Art Fund, 2019
In I Have, Cao Yu speaks to the camera, enumerating a long list of personal achievements. Expressionless, she begins each sentence with ‘I have…’ to share biographical details of varying importance and nature with the audience. Through the factual descriptions of her various qualifications including childhood memories, comments on her body shape and her children, she dresses a self-portrait which sarcastically addresses the pressure on women in contemporary Chinese society. The artist’s confident claim of her accomplishments further challenges the societal expectation of modesty when it comes to women’s success.
The Gooey Gentleman
Zhou Xiaohu | 2002 | Digital video | Colour | Sound | 4 min. 42 sec.
M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong. By donation
The Gooey Gentleman blends experimental computer manipulation with stop-frame animation and performance art. Zhou Xiaohu’s body is a canvas for an animated love story between himself and a bikini-clad doodle he paints on his naked chest. The ongoing battle of the sexes takes metaphysical twists and turns as the woman doodle hangs onto his body. Roles suddenly reverse when a female body appears onscreen and a painted man crawls out of her belly button. Zhou’s characteristic humour is embodied in the interplay between the painted characters and their human canvases, and by an awkward rendition of a famous Shanghainese love song by Zuoxiao Zuzhou.
Tribute to Inside Looking Out—For the male artists along my way
Wong Wai Yin | 2008 | Single-channel digital video | B/W | Sound | Chinese subtitles | 2 min. 24 sec.
M+, Hong Kong
Tribute to the Inside Looking Out—For the male artists along my way is rooted in artist Wong Wai Yin’s personal experience of gender discrimination at a gallery opening. In response to the incident, she requested that her male former classmates take part in a video in which she launched a stool at their heads. Accompanied by an all-male version of Faye Wong’s famous Cantonese pop song ‘Fragile Woman’, the video playfully comments on gender inequality and art-world phenomena.
Peggy Ahwesh | 2001 | Single-channel digital video | Colour | Sound | Chinese subtitles | 15 min.
M+, Hong Kong
In She Puppet, Peggy Ahwesh appropriated footage from the video game Tomb Raider and reassembled it as a tool for artistic storytelling. Rejecting the task-driven logic of the original game in favour of an evocative, experimental form of play, her narrative is bolstered by the three-dimensional animated environment and sophisticated visuals of her source material. Throughout the work, a narration drawn from philosophical and poetic texts meditates on ideas of kinship, foreignness, and death. The work suggests a new kind of subjectivity for the game’s protagonist Lara Croft. It also prompts questions about the politics of control and violence against women in video games, and in digital culture more broadly.
Image at top: Directed by Joyce Ho. Overexposed Memor, 2015. Photo: Courtsey of Joyce Ho