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Installation view of MA QIUSHA’s Gift, 2018–19, installation, engine, steel plate, explosion-proof glass, iron, leather, rubber, plastic, 3,564 × 1,620 × 1,527 cm, at “Tales of White Nights,” Beijing Commune, 2019. Courtesy the artist and Beijing Commune.

Ma Qiusha

Also available in:  Chinese

The Chinese generation born in the 1980s had educational opportunities that their parents weren’t afforded due to decades of sociopolitical turmoil. The trade-off was that they were often pressured to fulfill their parents’ dreams. Such dynamics are reflected in Ma Qiusha’s video performance From No. 4 Pingyuanli to No. 4 Tianqiaobeili (2007), included in the group exhibition “Performing Society: The Violence of Gender” at Tai Kwun, Hong Kong (2/16–4/28). As Ma tells viewers about her family’s wish for her to have been a son, and her painful childhood piano lessons, her speech becomes increasingly strained. She eventually reveals a blade that had been hidden in her mouth, metaphorically conveying the pain she suppressed throughout her youth. A blade also appears in the video All My Sharpness Comes From Your Hardness (2011), shown at “Sound on the 4th Floor” (7/7–2/2/20) at Daimler Contemporary Berlin. Wearing a pair of ice skates that she appears to drag backward down a concrete road, Ma comments on how social forces shape individuals. 

Her interest in homes and familial relationships are likewise manifest in some of her earlier two-dimensional works, such as the photo assemblages of her grandmother’s room, from the series Story of Space (2007–08), and the abstract canvas Fog No. 9 (2012), seen at “Forget Sorrow Grass: An Archaeology of Feminine Time” (9/14–11/17) at the Guangdong Times Museum. At Art Wuzhen 2019 (3/31–6/30) and her solo show at Beijing Commune (9/24–11/9), Ma delved into how new-found wealth impacted domestic life in China. Her installation Gift (2018–19) comprises a modified, secondhand Chery QQ car that her husband had bought. The affordable car model was once a phenomenon on the national highways, before BMWs and Audis replaced it. Ma invited visitors to test the roar of the engine—a reminder of the simple joy that families felt when purchasing their first vehicles, before embarking on the search for ever-more ostentatious displays of wealth. At the same Beijing Commune show, the artist’s five-channel video White Night (2019), featuring melting polar ice caps, highlighted the climate crisis and her disillusionment with capitalist systems. In February 2020, Ma’s sculptural installation incorporating leggings worn by different generations of women will show at Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art in “The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China.”

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