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VCS Forum: Jen Liu, THE LAND AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA | Artist Talk + Screening

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apr 15

Mon, Apr 15 2024, 5PM - 6:30PM

Timken Lecture Hall | 1111 Eighth St., San Francisco, CA, 94107 View map


Organized by

Graduate Visual & Critical Studies program

Event description

Jen Liu is a New York-based visual artist working in video, painting, performance, and sculpture, on diasporic Asian identities, postcolonial economies, techno-biopolitics, and the re-motivating of archival artifacts. In her most recent work, she’s used genetic engineering and dark encryption to reframe firsthand accounts of electronics workers, and created semi-speculative scripts combining corporate brochures and industrial manuals with firsthand accounts of industrial workers and incarcerated labor activists in Asia.  

This event will begin with a screening of The Land at the Bottom of the Sea, 2023, a short film commissioned by the Taipei Biennial, with its recent US premiere at The Sculpture Center, New York.  

This piece begins with the question: what happens if you are liquidated – financially, socially, politically, environmentally?  Under what conditions is it possible to survive?  The conditions for labor activism in China have greatly changed since 2016, symptomatic of larger changes in the global economic and political landscape.  This film considers these changes as a series of deaths: the death of Chinese labor NGO’s, unable to survive in the face of overwhelming governmental force; the death of techno-optimism, unable to provide any solutions to concrete environmental and social problems, and the impending death of a body of artwork, which has been unable to assess future possibilities with any truth.  Firsthand accounts of industrial workers and worker poetry are embedded within other nonfiction sources, woven into a melancholic elegy alongside a visual narrative depicting failed social encounters (with mermaids).  The elegiac nature of this film is just a candy shell, however: packed within its digital body is an assembled archive of disappeared women activists, tens of thousands of digital proofs of the existence of fighting women, preserved against the dissolution of memory.

After the screening, Liu will give a short synopsis of the research, methods (AI natural language processing, steganography) and textual sources behind this work, and then will be joined by Việt Lê and the VCS cohort for a conversation. 


Jen Liu has presented work at MoMA, The Whitney Museum, The New Museum, Sculpture Center, Kunsthaus Zurich, Kunsthalle Wien, MUSAC Leon, KW Berlin, multiple Berlinale exhibitions at AdK, Royal Academy and ICA in London, and was included in the 2015 Shanghai Biennial, 2019 Singapore Biennial, 2023 Future of Today Biennial (Beijing), and the 2023 Taipei Biennial. She has also received multiple grants and residencies, including Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart; Para Site, Hong Kong; Pioneer Works and LMCC in New York; and de ateliers, Amsterdam, NL.  Liu is a recipient of the Creative Capital Grant, the LACMA Art + Technology Lab grant, the Guggenheim Fellowship in Film/Video, the \Art Award from Cornel Tech, the NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship in Digital/Electronic Art, the Pollock-Krasner Award, and is a 2022 recipient of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commission.  As part of the Hewlett Commission she will premiere GHOST__WORLD, a solo exhibition at /, curated by Tanya Zimbardo, as well as a dance for 4 performers at The Lab, on April 28, 2024.  


Top: Jen Liu photographed by Adam Murphy. Courtesy of the artist.

Center and bottom: Stills from Jen Liu, The Land at the Bottom of the Sea, 2023, color digital video. Courtesy of the artist.

Entry details

Free and open to the public.