Born and raised in Shanghai, Yijun Liao (a.k.a. Bloody Pixy) is a fine art photographer residing in Brooklyn, NYC. Experimental Relationship is one Pixy’s projects that I love most. Provocative, ironic, and honest, the photographs illustrate a desire to disrupt the rules of what most people would define as a “typical” relationship. Pixy spends time with us and shares more about her project.
What is your background and how did you become passionate about photography?
I used to be a graphic designer after graduating from university. I started from working in companies to freelance and finally lost my interest in graphic design. I was fed up with my clients’ torments. I wanted a career that had more freedom. After watching film “Blow-Up”, I made my decision to become a photographer. (The photographer in the movie simply walked out his studio in the middle of the shoot, because he’s bored with the models.) I applied for a photo grad school in the United States, & they accepted me. I saw it as a chance to change myself. After graduating, I moved to New York to pursue my career.
I am very fascinated by your project “Experimental Relationship”, how did you develop this idea?
It started with photographing my boyfriend for my other projects. Sometimes I put him in a suitcase or make him lie in the bathtub like a crime scene. My classmates were like “How could you treat him like this?” I was like, that’s totally ok for him. Also when I was telling my best male friend about my lovely younger boyfriend, he said “How could you choose your boyfriend the way we choose girlfriends?” In his mind, Moro’s merits were exactly the same as his requirements for a girlfriend. & that hit me. “Why not?” I asked him. When I feel everything is totally normal between me & my boyfriend but somehow it seems abnormal to other people. So I began to think about the meaning of this relationship and experiment with it in photos.
I have all the answers you need Your heartbeat is my favorite tune
What is the meaning and the underlying message of the Experimental Relationship series?
I believe each relationship is different depending on how the two people match each other. Some people are perfectly fine in their “original” roles. Some people are not. For those that don’t fit in their original roles, changing roles could be a solution. There shouldn’t be a stereotype for roles in relationships.
Who and what inspires you the most artistically?
I draw inspiration from everything I experience in daily life and I mix them up in my dreams and daydreams. My partner Moro is a big influence on me. I would say he is a collaborator, inspiration, and a subject in my work.
Each photo of the “Experimental Relationship” series is accompanied by an ironic but truthful blurb that describe its meaning, could you comment further on the message of the following photographs?
About the titles of the photos, sometimes the idea of the title comes first, sometimes the idea of the image comes first, there is not a rule.
Mind control is a woman’s essential skill
Even though it sounds evil, I do believe manipulation is truly the key of a sucessful relationship. My friend jokes with me about being the master of control. Mind control is not a bad word in my dictionary. It does not mean to really control everything, but to have an overall control of the situation is important.
Relationships work best when each partner knows their proper place
The proper place is defined as having a specific role in the relationship. I don’t believe in stereotypical roles. There is naturally a proper role for each person, rather than a destined one.
Intimacy will improve your relationship
If you look closely, I was actually biting his lips instead of kissing him. And my hands were choking his neck. But our bodies were so close, skin to skin. In this picture, the intimacy we were having made my violent act seem durable to him.
How to build a relationship with layered meanings
When I was taking this photo, I was actually thinking about how funny it is that our naked bodies look so similar on the layers of matresses. & for him, I became just another layer of cusion. I imagined myself being the pea and him being the princess, which in away it described our relationship.
The king under me
This one is an idea-first image. It was inspired by a Chinese saying ” He has only one over him and millions under him “, it means there is no one above him but the Emperor. & also another Chinese saying ” If I were the king, you’d be my queen.” I like these words alot. It’s about the absoluteness of love between two people.
What are some typical relationship misconceptions/stereotypes that you want to disrupt with your photography?
As a woman, I used to think I can only fall in love with someone that I adore, who is maturer than me, older than me, a protector, a mentor. Then I met my boyfriend, Moro, who is 5 years younger than me. I felt the whole relationship is changed all the way around. I become the person who has more authority & power. I have always doubted the stereotype of a man-woman relationship. Why should a couple be a man and a woman? Why does man have to be a certain way? Why should woman be a certain way? I feel relationships are far more complicated and always changing, and it has lots of possibilities. So I began to think about the meaning of this relationship and experiment with it.
In this project I throw out questions and ideas about relationship. What will happen if man & woman exchange their roles of sex & roles of power. What this relationship does to man & woman? I also express my frustrations in a relationship, like the impossibility to find a soul-mate, the feeling of isolation & disconnection. Because my boyfriend is Japanese, & I am Chinese. The project sometimes also describes a love & hate relationship.
This project is an experiment to me, not a real document of our real relationship.
Create an enclosed world for your lover How our conversation evolves into convection
Most of your work is autobiographical, yet this project is defined as an experiment. Why is that? Does it not document your relationship?
To some extent, it does document our relationship or the process of it. I view each photo as an idea or thought in this experiment. You wouldn’t believe that I actually would put my red nails on his head as our daily routine. It’s more about performance in front of the camera.
What has been the outcome of your experiment so far?
The “Experimental Relationship” project has been going on for six years, throughout the growth of our relationship. It has become a very big part of our life. And we are still together, so it’s safe so far. Besides the photos, I also made a dictionary called Pimo Dictionary. It is an extension of Experimental Relationship. The vocabulary of this dictionary is derived from our daily conversation. This dictionary will demonstrate the vocabulary you need in a superb relationship.
Where can we see your work at the moment?
I’m a current resident at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. We will have an open studio between May 31st to June 2nd in our downtown office/studio. I’ll be in a group show at Longwood Arts Project in Bronx for En Foco New Work Awards between June 5th to August 31st.
What are your plans for the future?