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Film

huiyin zhou/徽音 ’24: Reimagining Chinese Queer Feminist Intimacies through Community

Project Date:
Project Date: Summer 2023

I received funding for a multi-modal project in collaboration with the Chinese Artists and Organizers (CAO) Collective离离草, an art and organizing collective that seeks to empower relational community healing and narrativizing experiences from the margins.

About the Project

I received funding for a multi-modal project in collaboration with the Chinese Artists and Organizers (CAO) Collective离离草, an art and organizing collective that seeks to empower relational community healing and narrativizing experiences from the margins. In August 2022, I co-founded CAO Collective with several other Chinese queer feminists based in various cities in the US, and the financial support from the Benenson Award helped me and my co-organizers organize a Chinese queer feminist Ciba Punch performance in Irvine, California; shoot a short film with two Chinese (im)migrant workers from Red Canary Song; host a series of collective poetry-writing workshops across the US and China; and sustain my documentary fieldwork on Chinese queer feminist communities. All of these also contribute to my (auto)ethnographical thesis project for Cultural Anthropology, focusing on the strategies, aesthetics, and politics of art organizing community spaces in transnational Chinese queer feminist organizing. I used the Benenson Award funding to offset my travel and living expenses in New York, LA/Irvine, and China, purchase materials for workshops and performances, compensate the Chinese massage workers/organizers from Red Canary Song for their time, and offset post-production expenses for the short film.

Collective Poetry Workshops:

On May 6, 2023, I co-hosted a collective poetry workshop, “Language of Care”, at Pratt Institute’s Cannoneer Textile Garden, exploring the intimacy of accents, dialects, and languages during migration with eleven community members. On May 19, I co-facilitated a 16mm film painting workshop, “Be-twined 逢|缝”, with Laura Li at UC Irvine, where five Asian diasporic participants painted together and over each other’s film segments into an abstract visual poem about disjuncture and connection. Throughout June and August, I co-hosted a series of four workshops on the concepts of home, distance, and in-betweenness, engaging over 80 participants both online and in-person in Beijing.

Short Film:

I worked on a short film, Strings of Touch 花 with Laura Li and fran yu, in collaboration with Asian massage and sex worker mutual aid organization Red Canary Song红莺歌 in Flushing Chinatown. We conducted oral history interviews with two workers, Lisa and Lynn, who also serve on the Chinese outreach team for RCS. We played “string figures 花绳” together, a traditional children’s game which creates various string figures between the fingers by passing a loop of string back and forth between two or more players. We focused a lot on the hands’ movement and the play, knowledge sharing, and friendship between Lisa and Lynn — hands embodying the care, labor, and fluid boundaries in both massage work and mutual aid efforts. As we played, laughed, and shared food together, we shared many intimate stories on the concepts of safety and home. This short film is still in post-production and we hope to release it in winter 2023.

Ciba Punch Performance 女拳手打糍粑:

On May 20, 2023, I co-organized a Ciba Punch performance with Laura Li as an opening performance for the “Expanded Ecologies” exhibition at UC Irvine’s Beall Center for Art + Technology. Rooted in a feminist ethics of care, the Ciba Punch invites community members to engage in a collective effort of punching sticky rice into rice cakes, and reveals the often-hidden domestic labor performed by womxn. Over 50 Chinese queer feminists, as well as other community members in the local area, joined the performance. Sound artist Julia Santoli performed as a queer/feminine spiritual figure who guided our punches with her breaths and humming. This performance is a playful subversion of “女拳”/”female fists”, which has the same pronunciation of “女权”/ “women’s rights” and is often used to demonize Chinese feminists as ignorant and violent. Through this collective punching and food-making performance, we reimagine what it means to use our power to create and heal our community through food.

This multi-modal community-based art project also received support from Janet B. Chiang Grant, John Hope Franklin Documentary Award, Asian American Arts Alliance’s “What Can We Do?” Micro Grant.

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