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Meet Zihui Song

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zihui Song.

Zihui, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve developed an interest in photography during my teenage years. Fortunately, I got accepted into an art school in China and subsequently earned a bachelor’s degree in Photography. There is no doubt that photography was the first medium I adopted to render my understanding of contemporary socio-economic issues.

After I graduated in 2013, I immediately pursued graduate studies in Photographic & Electronic Media program at the Maryland Institute College of Art. This distinctive experience of art education has drastically challenged my perception of mediums, art theories, and artistic creation. That’s when I started shaping my core concepts and transforming my ideas into form.

On my second year of graduate school, I began to develop my main research topic and started to focus on women’s issues in China. I’m interested in the complexities of Chinese women’s identity and the public’s perverse ideas of gender roles that deep-rooted in the Chinese patriarchal society. Instead of critiquing the patriarchy power structure straightforwardly, I divert more attention to women’s internal conflicts and discuss the moralization of women under the patriarchal culture.

Until today, these statements have been the essential elements of my research. I also expanded my utilization of different media by adopting video, installation, performance, etc. to better convey the content of certain topics.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I believe being an artist is hard, but being an Asian female artist is even harder. I don’t intend to reiterate the challenges of being a woman in our society, but I do want to mention the issues of cultural underrepresentation and the neglects of cross-cultural narratives in the U.S.

Apart from most artists’ financial stresses and the struggles for recognition, foreign artists need to face the bureaucracy of obtaining legal status as well. I’ve also found it extremely difficult to interpret Asian-related narratives without reinforcing stereotypes and spectacles of our culture.

I constantly remind myself that it’s a privilege to live here and I’m responsible for the culture that raised me. For me, how to introduce my narrative to the western audience without fulfilling some of their perverse curiosity and exotification regarding eastern cultures is one of the biggest challenges in my practice.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I am a multimedia artist and freelance photographer. Initiated in 2013, I have been creating works that explore the complexities of women’s bewilderment and challenges in the context of Chinese patriarchal society. By investigating millennials, social biases, Internet culture, and feminist theories, I address women’s rights and identities with photography, video, performance, and installation.

My art practice questions the construction of femininity in contemporary society, I am particularly concerned that women in China unconsciously follow the stereotypical gender expectations through the socio-political culture. I am also concerned with the power of social class differences and how it has divided women into different groups. In addition, women seem to have prejudices against each other and often objectify themselves to accommodate the patriarchy society.

My work has been exhibited internationally in a variety of venues including Center Forward 2018, U.S.A; Song Zihui: Women’s Power | The Ruin of Representation, China; VAFA 2016 Film Festival, Macau; Project 1612 Film Festival, U.S.A; Qifang Cinephile Collective 2016 Overseas Chinese Screenings, Traveling Screenings in China.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
In addition to my fine art projects, I’m also planning to create commercial works such as fashion and editorial photographs. I am looking forward to exploring the possibilities of commercial photography as well as the boundaries of fine art and commercial.

Doing commercial photography can greatly support my living as an artist, I think it is important for emerging artists to use their skills to fund their practice sustainably.

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