A new photography show, opening this week at Brisbane’s Metro Arts, confronts the tired cultural stereotypes surrounding east Asian womanhood.

A new photography show, opening this week at Brisbane’s Metro Arts, confronts the tired cultural stereotypes surrounding east Asian womanhood.

Challenging the expectations at the intersection of race, gender and sexuality, Disobedient Daughters is an all-female group exhibition opening this week at Metro Arts, in Brisbane. The show, which runs until April 21, aims to defy the stereotypes still dominating the (mis)representation of Asian women in mainstream media.

Chinese-born Australian curator Sophia Cai has put together the works of nine artists and collectives, in an attempt to break the cultural mould that typically fetishises and exoticises Asian women as overly submissive or sexualised visual tropes.

“The show was partly inspired by my own experience growing up as a migrant in Australia, as well as what I saw around me in popular media,” she tells Huck. “In a selfish way, I curate exhibitions I wish I could see. In the case of Disobedient Daughters, there is certainly a personal motivation in putting together a show that addresses systemic racism and sexism.”

Mihyun Kang

Mihyun Kang

There is no singular cultural or gender identity, as Cai puts it, and the range of works – mostly portraits and self-portraits, across video and photography – and perspectives she is bringing together is a powerful reflection of that. Artists like Pixy Liao, Zoe Wong and Ma Qiusha push the boundaries of the Asian female experience and blur the line between private and public narratives, personal and collective experiences.

Miyun Kang’s series You are not speaking, but I am listening touches on the themes of identity and isolation, featuring photographs of immigrant Asian women in New York City, as they kneel down in a traditional position of reverence and respect, in different locations across the city. In her Para-Selves self-portraits, artist Gwan Tung Dorothy Lau literally doubles up into multiple passive and aggressive versions of herself, manifesting the struggle to reconcile one’s heritage and independent self.

Must be Beauty by Ma Quisha

Must be Beauty by Ma Quisha

“I think art plays a really important role in provoking dialogue around topical issues. While I don’t believe art can change the world on its own, I do believe that art has the power to instigate and empower critique,” says Cai. But she admits: “Like any other industry, the art world is fallible to its own biases and hierarchy, particularly around topics of representation and visibility.”

Cai argues that major arts institutions in Australia often fail to champion the diverse social fabric of the country, which has a large migrant population as well as a long continuous history of Indigenous culture. “I hope that exhibitions such as this can go some way in addressing these imbalances,” she adds.

Janelle Low

Janelle Low

Dorothy Lau

Dorothy Lau

Sad Asian Girls

Sad Asian Girls

Sancintya Mohini Simpson

Sancintya Mohini Simpson

Disobedient Daughters opens at Metro Arts in Brisbane, Australia, on April 4 and will be running until April 21.

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