Zhiyuan Yang / Only Mama Knows (Beijing)


Only MAMA Knows  (2021) by artist Zhiyuan Yang

I am an interdisciplinary artist from Beijing, China who makes work explores the ambivalent relationship between alienation and belonging. I challenge and construct alternatives to normative definitions of gender, ethnicity, and social character through fiction, performance, and intimate conversation. I use strategies that encompass masquerade, interview, and humor. The locations in which I work include the studio, art gallery, domestic and the public sphere. These locations are frequently transformed to reflect shifts and changes that subjects at the center of my investigation undergo.

Only MaMa Knows (2017) is the third series of the project that I collaborate on with my parents who live in Beijing. 

In this work, I asked my mother to dress up like a butch lesbian, whom I used to identify with, and invited my father to perform as the partner of this invented character. 

While observing my parents’ creation of the fictional partnership, I constantly question if a happy family fantasy is always imprisoned in heteronormative ideology.

However, as the title of this artwork implies, my homosexuality is only revealed by my mother. Which is a common narrative shared by many Chinese queers, constructed by cultural forbidden and imbalanced intimacy in the nuclear family.

Only MAMA Knows#3, 2017
Only MAMA Knows#4, 2017

BIO: Zhiyuan Yang (Beijing) has participated in various group exhibitions, recently including: A Family of Three, Shirley Fiterman Art Center, NY, 2019; The Other Is You: Brooklyn Queer Portraiture, BRIC, Brooklyn, NY, 2019; Aka the Backroom, SPRING/BREAK Art Show, New York, 2018; UPROOT, Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY, 2017; Biennial 29 (Juror’s Award), South Bend Museum of Art, South Bend, IN, 2017; and extended her first solo show in New York to a two-person exhibition: The Way It Is, A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, 2019. Yang’s photography works are in the institutional collection’s of The Art Institute of Chicago; and published in Fandom as Methodology, Goldsmiths Press, 2019; AINT-BAD Magazine Issue No.12: Curator’s Choice, 2017. She has been a participant of LMCC Workspace Program, NY, 2018-2019; The Studios at MASS MoCA, 2018; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, 2017.

Yang completed an M.F.A. and additionally holds a background in journalism and communications. After art school graduation, she extended her stay in the United States with an O1-B visa. Drawing from this experience as an alien, she creates projects that explore plural identities confined by politics, economics, and culture; scrutinizing social norms, as well as notions of failure in capitalism. Yang employs a research strategy that combines masquerade, collaboration, and participant observation.

Post a comment