Vasli Souza are delighted to present you with the first solo exhibition of Chinese artist Yushi Li.
Yushi Li (b.1991, China) graduated with a MA in Photography from Royal College of Art, London in 2018, and has since then been selected by Bloomberg New Contemporaries, finalist at the Human Rights Photography Prize, Geneva and participated in the 209 Women exhibition at the House of Parliament, London. Her work mainly engages with the question of the gaze in relation to gender, sexuality and desire in light of digital social networks. She is currently living in London, where she is completing her PhD in Arts & Humanities.
In her project My Tinder Boys, she photographed different men she met through the online dating application Tinder. ‘I look at them, I ‘like’ them, I make them become images of mine.’ The repetition of the process and similar settings in this series of photographs turns these men into undifferentiated and replaceable objects of Yushi’s desire. Meanwhile, during these unusual dates, she is both the violator who tries to invade their private space and also the desiring object who participates in their vulnerability.
In order to expand her investigation of the question of the gaze, Yushi started her latest project Your Reservation is Confirmed, using photography as a method to explore the commodification of our desire in the current age of images. She rents her ‘ideal’ home through Airbnb, and book her ‘ideal’ men through a life modeling website to construct her ‘ideal’ images. By putting herself inside the photograph, she tries to create a more dynamic relationship between the looked-at object, the viewer and the third party that is looking at the viewer.
It can be seen that there is a certain precariousness to the way these men stage themselves for Yushi’s photographs, which reveals men’s uncertainty in knowing how to be erotic for the camera. Apart from projecting her fantasies onto the male figure, she also experiments with displacing certain objects to explore different ways of staging eroticism.
Through framing these men in different domestic spaces, her work tries to present them in a non-masculine, but not feminine, erotic, but not sexual way. There is definitely a power relationship between the man in the photograph and the photographer and the viewer. But instead of a dualistic active-passive relationship, it becomes a series of loops between the subject and object.
By creating these intimate encounters with different male strangers and bringing these instant illusions of the desired life out of the digital screen, Yushi Li’s work tries to play with the power relationship inherent in the gaze, and to question the binary view of gender and the idea of domesticity in an era of rapid social change.
The exhibition is kindly supported by Malmö Stad and Mediaverkstaden.