During Amsterdam Artweek 2022, Upstream Gallery proudly presents the opening of two exhibitions on the 12th of May. One of these exhibitions is Jen Liu’s solo exhibition ELECTROPORE.
The exhibition begins with the idea of electroporation – a method of genetic engineering that Liu has used to add secret messages to living beef cells in her long term body of work, Pink Slime Caesar Shift. The cells, suspended in pink fluid, are electroshocked: if they survive, temporary holes in their bodies open up, allowing new DNA to enter. This DNA is designed by Liu, containing encrypted messages about methods of political protest, proofs of concept for the possibility of alternative networks of communication for labor activists working under oppressive government regimes.
However, if electricity is a way to insert new meanings, it could also be considered a means of forgetting old meanings – losing one’s memory. In Electropore (2021-22, video) electricity is generated by the labor of Asian and Black femmes, each trapped inside confined objects and shrunken worlds. They have no biography: they are pure productivity for the sake of cheap consumer goods, driven by an acid house beat. They’re fed synthetic pink bubble jelly and junk food. They form a perfect synthetic loop of meaningless labor in a world given to calamity and isolation. Various texts – including but not limited to Fred Ho’s Warrior Sisters (2000) and firsthand accounts of electroshock therapy and political imprisonment – are edited together to speak to productivity in the ruins: the reality of today’s migrant labor, industrial and data labor outsourced to the global south in the 21st century.
Paintings on paper share the theme of being trapped inside closed structures. Here, the closed structures are the paintings themselves, bodies and objects emerging from cartoon holes embedded in surfaces of shimmering gold and pink. This imagery also shows up in a series of smaller paintings, graphic design for severed fingers, lighthearted cartoons for a terrible reality.
12 May – 2 Jul ’22