Pixy Liao uses the camera to mediate the connection she shares with her current partner, Moro, who is five years her junior. Interweaving a fictional narrative through a revealing series of autobiographical portraits, Liao uses her body to hold and to shield her boyfriend’s figure, as she explores the shifting dynamics in their relationship.
LOVERS AND RIVALS
The cultural differences between China, Japan and the US play a crucial role in many of my photographs, but it’s these collisions that provide the unique context for Experimental Relationship. Japan and China have a long and complicated history of significant tension and hostility. Simultaneously, the two countries have had great influence on one another; our histories are intertwined. On the surface, we look similar and lead similar lifestyles – but at times, we have radically different outlooks on the same thing. It’s like a relationship built by two lovers and also two rivals.
Both Moro and I currently live in the United States, which serves as a catalyst to this formula. Living here has given us the freedom to do what we want without the pressure or strains of our own countries. In the US, we are always seen as Asians – as ‘others’. It liberates us; it’s always OK to be ourselves, to be different.
Experimental Relationship started in 2007, a year after we got together. I’ll continue taking images of us as long as we’re still a couple. After more than a decade, an ongoing project like this becomes part of life, and a part of the dynamic in our relationship. As I think about ways to keep our relationship healthy and lively, I’m thinking of photographic ideas. In my opinion, a good relationship should be happy and light-hearted. That’s why I always aim to have fun while photographing, and when I look back at them, they make me feel content.
The photographs also make me realise hidden truths within our relationship. When we’re going through a ‘cold war’ period, or when Moro is unhappy, I don’t tend to create new images. But occasionally, it might serve to clear things up. In an image called ‘I can tell that your heart is fogged’, I made Moro wear a pair of fogged up glasses in our kitchen. The photograph was my message to him, to describe how I felt about him at the time.
STARTING A DIALOGUE
It's always easier to be taking the photographs, but the dynamic changes when I pose alongside Moro. I don’t mind performing parts of our relationship in front of the camera, but I do get frustrated when I’m unable to see the frame in which the photo is taken. It’s a constant guessing game that often results in errors, and in some lucky instances, happy accidents.
Because this project isn’t meant to be viewed as a documentary series, I don’t want my images to look natural or as if the camera caught us in the moment. I disrupt this idea by staring straight into the lens; starting a direct dialogue with the viewer.