Stolen moments and acts of surveillance collide in the sphere of Chinese sexuality, and are captured as such in Liu Dao’s "City Uniform". Behind a Chinese papercut of an oversized military jacket, an LED video loops across four panels to show a man and woman embracing, kissing, and loving with feeling in duplicate in each of four windows embedded into the fabric of the clothing.
There is a quiet tension in the piece, for here an intimate moment of human passion is set within an impersonal and rigid symbol of authority.
Can one watch with clear conscious? A woman brushes the cheek of her lover, soft belly and warm breath pressed against him. A man has his hand resting carelessly on the small curve of her lower back, pulling her so close that she almost falls through his hot skin. So tender, you can almost hear the whispers of ardor from a King to his Queen. She blushes. But all around them, in the cold buttons and staunch shoulders of the jacket and even in the curious, prying and combing eyes of the viewer, a threat of authority and danger of punishment looms over the windows. Their’s is a fragile pleasure.
Often, the more sensuous expressions of the Chinese have been hidden away as too decadent, too private. Stiff rules yield ambiguous boundaries. Just as in Michel Foucault’s panopticon theory of power, the suggestion of surveillance alone is enough to enforce compliance and self-policing. Made uneasy by the dual suggestion of power and punishment, one wonders how much time the LED lovers have and what they have jeopardized to be together.
The man flinches, his muscles tense. Looking abruptly to his left, he realizes that somebody has been watching from outside the window. The woman sighs; their stolen moment has been shattered. Caught in your own moment of voyeurism, you are stunned. And just as the situation was the subject of your scorn, you now find yourself complicit in a complex web of policing and control. "City Uniform" is a self-reflexive piece about the delicate and unmapped process of sexual awakening, the attempts to reclaim a personal and free sexuality. [Iris Fung 冯艾蕊]