Beijing-based artist Cao Yu interrogates art historical values through the lens of gender, and from the perspective of a female artist living in China. Drawing on personal experience, I Have features the artist speaking directly to the camera—and by extension, the viewer—in Chinese. Filmed in her studio with minimal lighting, the video captures the artist performing a soliloquy against a black backdrop and at a fixed camera angle. Beginning each sentence with the phrase ‘I have’, she lists her credentials and the details of her curriculum vitae in a deadpan, almost humorous intonation. She combines these facts with intimate biographical details, for example descriptions of her childhood memories, her “envy-inducing” hourglass figure, and her two sons. Cao narrates these facts in no particular order to emphasise how they all contribute to her identity—each detail, no matter how seemingly consequential or insignificant, is of equal importance. Cao’s unabashed assertion of her achievements prompts a complex question of why society imposes certain standards of modesty on young girls and women, and why we might feel uncomfortable when these standards are breached.
Cao Yu (b.1988, Liaoning) conducts investigations into expressions of the body. Sometimes, her body becomes the medium for experiments investigating social relations, life accomplishments, and the way one’s existence is a product of individual encounters with society. Cao was nominated for the Yishu 8 Young Artist Award in Beijing.