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Shen Xin, Strongholds

Artist: Shen Xin
Programme: Performing the Image
Year: 2016
Format: Digital File / Category IIA
Type: Screening
Length: 71 min.
Language: Multiple (with Chinese and English subtitles)
Audience: Everyone
Location: House 1, House 2

Shen Xin, Strongholds

Shen Xin’s essay film Strongholds builds on the tradition of intimate feminist discourse in an avant-garde film while radically bringing it up to date. In the contemporary world, gender roles and their associated assumptions are shaped by the physical and virtual realms. The positioning of the self no longer takes place exclusively in the eye of the human beholder, but also in a highly networked, globalised, and automated sociocultural and communicative apparatus. As the film suggests, gender and sexual preference are but two of the many defining expressions of our role in society, with aspects overlaid with factors such as our upbringing, culture, and virtual community.

Whether fully self-aware, willfully oblivious, or skeptically emancipated, performing one’s image has now become a constant and essential exercise, demanding incessant attention and agility in the face of an ever-changing, representation-oriented environment.


Shen Xin | 2016 | Single-channel digital video | Colour | Sound | 71 min.

M+, Hong Kong. Gift of Wang Bing, 2019

Strongholds depicts the journey of a young Dutch couple who travels to Scotland to perform at Samye Ling, Europe’s largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Spiritual conversations, negotiations of the self and the other, intimate moments, and disagreements are juxtaposed with manifestations of digital culture in the form of onscreen texts from online discussion boards and chat rooms. In this fictional documentary hybrid, a roving drone and the camera become characters as their mechanical eyes observe and participate in the storytelling. As the work’s title suggests, relationships are structures upon which one seeks fortification, but also a state of mind for which strenuous effort is needed to uphold it in the first place.

About the Artist

Shen Xin (b. 1990, Sichuan) is a moving image artist. Their installations and performances deconstruct dominant power structures and empower alternative histories, relations, and potentials between individuals and nation states. The artist seeks to create affirmative spaces of belonging as well as polyphonic narratives and identities. Shen was a finalist of the 2019 Sigg Prize. Their recent work Brine Lake (A New Body) premiered at the 2021 Gwangju Biennale and the Walker Art Center.

Image at top: Shen Xin. Strongholds, 2016. Single-channel digital video (colour, sound), duration: 71 min.. M+, Hong Kong. Gift of Wang Bing, 2019. © Shen Xin