During the 66th Berlinale, Jen Liu will premiere her new video work 'The Pink Detachment'.
The Pink Detachment is a partial update of The Red Detachment of Women (1964), a Model Opera from China’s Cultural Revolution. In the original, a beleaguered peasant girl joins an army of women to produce Revolution for the masses: their “product” is all-Red. What is the place for such a document in the contemporary world: is it possible to re-motivate it? In order to do so, both protagonists as well as end-product are revised. The protagonists have become an accident-prone worker and a ballerina-manager who has the tools to alleviate the worker’s foibles. The “product” is now the hot dog, which embodies the ideal of perfectly measured equivalence in directly consumable form. Within this revised framework, portions of the original music and choreography have been preserved.
At the center of this piece is the color equation, Red + White = Pink, from which multiple parallel meanings emerge. The first is the old term “pinko” – a watered-down Communism, or a liberal with uncommitted Red sympathies. The second is a proposal to solve future crises in meat supply by re-valuating hot dog/sausage production as a solution, by integrating “undesirable” portions of pig with the “desirable” portions. And the third is pink as femininity – not as a “natural” fleshy softness, but rather a synthetic, engineered (and potentially violent) hybridity.
But underlying it all is this question: is it, in fact, possible to re-motivate the archival artifact? Is continuity between the unfulfilled fantasy of the past and the economic ideologies of the present realizable – particularly when the interstice has been ruptured by large-scale social trauma, such as the Cultural Revolution? When the music and choreography of old propaganda are put to work again, how much of the past ideals attend, or must it always be hijacked by the requirements of the present?