Inaugurated in December 2011 in conjunction with the International Conference on Chinese Women and Visual Representation in Shanghai, WOMEN我們 (a Mandarin homophone meaning both “women” and “we”) curated by Abby Chen was the first exhibition to address feminism and queerness in China at the time. Since then, WOMEN我們 has traveled to San Francisco and Miami and is now an ongoing platform at the Chinese Culture Center (CCC) which explores feminism, gender diversity, and sexual equality.
At the heart of the WOMEN我們 series is the sense of “WE”—an expression of belonging and solidarity with queer and feminist power, communities, and imaginations. In December 2021, marking the series’ 10th year, I was invited to bring the WOMEN我們 series’ latest iteration, From Her to Here to the WMA Space. WOMEN我們 at WMA Space will be presented as a two-phase dialogue—Phase One will be an adaptation of the 2021 exhibition from CCC, and Phase Two will be a local response by a guest curator. As the exhibition travels, From Her to Here’s locality to San Francisco remains while extending as an invitation for my hometown, Hong Kong, to examine its queer capacities.
From Her to Here was conceptualised in San Francisco’s Chinatown as a site-responsive exhibition that coalesced hyperlocal LGBTQ+ stories with diasporic feelings. It presented “queerness” as an awareness, a liminal space, and a counterposition to dominant structures. It brought together works by 13 multidisciplinary artists and groups that embody feelings and experiences rooted in nonbinary spaces and times; six of whom are selected for the Hong Kong iteration. Through each of their work, we can begin to understand how our worlds are essentially queer.
Madeleine Lim’s dreamy and melodic documentary film Sambal Belacan in San Francisco (1997) orients us to a queer diaspora, as a group of first-generation Singaporean lesbians grapples with feeling a sense of home between the realities of migration and refuge; Huang Meng Wen’s Suits & Corsages (2015 – ) constructs a 1960s’ Taiwan through the love, liberation, and legacy of a rebellious and dapper sisterhood; Nicole Pun’s photography series In & Out (2014-2018) portrays the hands of lesbians as an extension of their intimacy and agency; TT Takemoto‘s experimental film Ever Wanting (for Margaret Chung) (2021) is a laborious, handmade speculation into the queer Asian desires of 1930s-40s San Francisco, embodying the aura and psyches of Dr. Magaraet Chung (1889-1959); Chen Han Sheng’s mixed-media installation When I was a Child (2020) is a contemplation on time and transformation in a tender tribute to Yeh Yung-Chih and his mother; and lastly, Heesoo Kwon’s Miyoung Leymusoom Kim (2021) opens a portal into a queer metaverse.
This exhibition sought out embody a “queer state of mind”—it’s hard to pinpoint where it starts or where it ends because it’s hard for me not to be queer. The presence of LGBTQ+ artists in the exhibition suggests less about who they are, but rather, how a nonbinary approach towards navigating the world lends to new questions about the seemingly straight and rigid dicotomies that surround us. While being LGBTQ+ is nothing trivial and have real implications on feelings of belonging, personal safety, and collective freedom, I want From Her to Here to be an energy of queer powers—to be fluid, to exist in liminality, and to bend but not break.