Glance: P is for Pain

P Project” by Pei Li

Yan Club Art Center (No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Dashanzi 798 Arts District) Jul 6–Aug 7, 2013

Female artists always seem to reveal at least a hint of their infatuation with pain; that is to say, they often tend to be very straightforward in their revelation of such. Pei Li’s current exhibition entitled “P Project” unveils a complete set of tattoo equipment in the experimental space of Yan Club Arts Center. If you are interested and manage to get a reservation, you can have the “pleasure” of being on the receiving end of a free tattoo. Of course, before you are awarded your prize, you have to be willing to “trade” a personal story. The concept behind this interactive project is to invite participation by advertising the tattoo event online. However, the resultant participants were scattered in number, and the only person to date who has actually received a tattoo is the curator of the small exhibition space — a fellow artist, Yang Dongxue.

Pei Li, P Project, installation view, 2013

As it turns out, after the applicants tell Pei Li their personal stories, Pei Li does her best to change their minds about getting a tattoo. Then, she prints key words from their stories onto the walls of the space, and exhibits them along with videos of white text on black background absent of images. In other words, the exhibit has a far more intertwined relationship with internal complexes than it does with visual representation, but Pei Li’s desire to hold a discourse on physical and mental pain through the symbolism of tattoo art is difficult to implement.

Artist Pei Li at the opening, 2013

True pain, no matter what form it takes, is always an individual experience; meanwhile, the relationship between tattoos and personal experience is not necessarily a given. The choice to get a tattoo or to undergo similar body modification can be due to many different factors. Currently, tattoos are more often being used as a medium of expression by certain elements of youth culture; they do not necessarily have to evoke the “story” of a painful experience. Pei Li says: “I often try to experience new things, experience life, but I’m not searching for inspiration, I’m trying to discover the elements within which can turn a person into an artist.” Upon hearing this we immediately thought of Maxim Gorky’s quote: “Most writers have had a painful childhood, but very few people are willing experience such a childhood for the sake of becoming a writer.”

Pei Li, P Project, installation view, 2013

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