Magazine article Artforum International

"For Our Own Pleasure." (YYZ Gallery, Toronto, Ontario)

Magazine article Artforum International

"For Our Own Pleasure." (YYZ Gallery, Toronto, Ontario)

Article excerpt

YYZ

The Orientalism that has framed Asian women's sexuality was addressed by some o the Asian diaspora artists in "For Our Own Pleasure" in the alternately witty and fatigued tones of deconstruction. Their works provided the support for the more perilous explorations of desire engaged in by other artists. Brenda Joy Lem's and Helen Lee's playful, sensual celebrations might have been the stuff o softcore porn without the acerbic analyses of stereotypes provided by other works in the show. Kyo Maclear, for example, pinned 24 butterflies to a cork-covered wall and attached ostensibly descriptive labels that together formed a mocking taxonomy. The Latin or quasi-Latin names--Nupta Papyrus (Paper bride), Encantia Alabania (Mimic white), Ukiyo-e Imago (Ukiyo-e Imago)--cleverl reflect images for export to the West: the easily collectible, decorative, and mute Asian woman.

Lem's The Temple of My Familiar, 1994, was the centerpiece of the exhibition. Visitors entered the small, wooden temple and knelt to look at a video tracing Lem's sexuality to her ancestral village and a childhood spent among women. As with Lem's film work, the beauty of this installation risked being reabsorbed b an Orientalist paradigm. That the images were slightly "off" barely averted suc a reading. The intimate gesture of combing an elegant woman's marcelled gray hair was surprisingly erotic when juxtaposed with snapshots of groups of girls and footage of Chinese farmers shrouded in mist. …

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