Mei Xian Qiu works in the medium of photography–but her broader subject is the construction of identity. Across international boundaries, waves of cultural propaganda, generational, linguistics and political divides, and histories both official and personal, she diligently reconstructs subversive versions of state-sponsored social frameworks. Increasingly, she also works with historical archive materials in more gestural, emotional and materially visceral collage modes that reveal the forces of hybridity at work in these matters. In all cases, her composed visual fictions express profound truths about the events and upheavals that shape who she is–and who we all are.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
MEI XIAN QIU: I did not know what an artist was as a small child, but as long as I can remember I was always drawing and reading obsessively. My grandmother forced me to go out and play.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My work examines notions of belief and identification of the Self and of the Other, and the enormous power of the narratives that propagate and nurture those beliefs, whether such narratives are based on historical truth or not.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
A civil rights attorney, or a vagabond.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
After growing up in Indonesia, and living on the East Coast, when I came to L.A. I felt a burden lifted from my back. This city, despite all its problems, is a city that survives on stories. It tolerates people following their own paths and storylines wherever that might lead them.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
I am intensely working on an investigation with YAXS Research Foundation from Guatemala, using as source material propaganda films in their archives. In this work, I look hard at the impossibility of disengagement, and the acknowledgement of that.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
Artemisia Gentileschi. I am fascinated by the succession of events in her life that gave way to her artistic practice.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
No. I need complete quiet.
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