A woman sits alone beneath hundreds of dangling scissors; they teeter above her, metallic mouths open and sharp edges facing downwards. Calmly, she sews. As part of 2011’s The Mending Project, the performance artist Beili Liu put herself in this position, asking audience members to cut away portions of a large piece of fabric and patiently threading it back together.
In juxtaposing the feelings brutality and danger evoked by the scissors with the softness and careful mending of fabric, the performance symbolizes the cyclical process of violence and healing. The scissors are ominous, and yet Liu performs patiently. The work relies upon a symbiotic relationship between destruction and creation; without the audience’s cutting of the sheet-like fabric, the artistic process would not take place. The work is uncomfortable and dangerous, but at the same time, Liu’s re-threaded tapestry, which begins to cover the floor, is strangely comforting. Ultimately, the solace of the artist’s concentrated mending rivals the aggression of the scissors.
The Mending Project also centers around ideas of women in art. Upon until Judy Chicago and still to this very day, women’s craft work has been scoffed at and rejected by museums and galleries. Liu’s work helps to change all that; here, she embraces sewing as “a woman’s work […] a traditional woman’s craft,” and she lends the art form an unexpected hardness and edge. In this picture of femininity, the woman and her work aren’t weak but powerful; through her careful process, she works with the notion of danger and transforms it into something unexpected and, in many ways, not frightful. In her own words, she, the woman, “is the one who […] creates,” finding resilience and fertile power within an unsettling context. (via This is Colossal)
Photo by Art Night Austin