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Jes Fan : 15 Young LGBTQ Artists Driving Contemporary Art Forward


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Jes Fan
B. 1990, Scarborough, Canada. Lives and works in New York City and Hong Kong.

Can you tell us about the work you’ve been showing recently?

I contributed two pieces to this current group show, “In My Room,” organized by Alvin Li at Antenna Space, Shanghai. One piece, from my “Diagrams” series (2018), is composed of casts of my body—in this case, my left chest and my shoulder blade—abstracted by the act of laborious sanding. These ambiguous surfaces are connected by vein-like lines, and allude to scientific diagrams that describe the body. The other work, I think about Lam Qua everyday III (2019), references the branch holders for scholar rocks and Chinese antique precious stones. I’m interested in how these fitted bases cue to the audience that this object is meant for holding, a holding that demonstrates an act of care. In this case, the ceramic branch holds a bubble that contains melanin. I’m fascinated by the idea of holding a significant bodily identifier outside of your skin, and examining it like an object.

You extract bodily materials—such as estrogen, melanin, testosterone, fat—and redeposit them into your artworks. Does this process change your relationship to these substances?

It’s still as abstract as it has always been, but through this process, it allowed me to see them as pharmaceutical readymades. They contribute to a larger idea that the distinction between “natural” and “artificial” is rarely as binary as we’d like to think it is.

Do you find empowerment in absurdity?

I think absurdity does something more powerful than empowerment. To me, it seems more generative to think of ways of decentering ourselves from being in power, or of power. Perhaps that’s actually more akin to disempowerment than empowerment.
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