Fotografiska, the Stockholm-based photography museum, has recently opened its doors in a gigantic Renaissance Revival–style building. Located in Park Avenue South in Manhattan, it was immediately evident that the interior design firm CetraRuddy has designed this building to be something familiar and brand new at once. The cast-iron steel structure and terra-cotta construction were exposed, taking the visitors back when this historical landmark was still an active church. However, all the dynamic exhibits discussed current issues and were highly in-the-moment, creating a compelling contrast with the building itself. Staying away from the typical contemporary museum style with white walls and polished concrete floors and genuinely celebrating the museum's rich multicultural history through transforming an ancient landmark was the element that made the visitors' trip to this place unforgettable.
One of the exhibits that will be taking place in the museum until September 2021 is Your Gaze Belongs to Me by Pixy Liao, the evocative photographic experimentation that examines the gender roles in a modern domestic partnership. The interior design of this portion was fascinating with the use of saturated color-blocking and thought-provoking phrases written in a bold typeface, such as A Study of a House Husband, Red Wrestling, and Boobs Psychic. It was so refreshing to see an artist with such a clear and unapologetic point of view.
The exhibition focused on the artist's relationship with Maro, a Shanghai-based musician she met in college. In these vintage-inspired photographs, Liao usually plays a dominant role while her boyfriend is depicted in positions that would be universally considered submissive. The artist explains: "Moro made me realize that heterosexual relationships do not need to be standardized. The purpose of the experiment is to break the inherent relationship model and reach a new equilibrium". Following the layout of the museum and the statement from the artist, the audience realizes that the whole experience comes to a climactic point towards the end, where phallic imagery in bold pastel colors takes over an entire room, and we are faced with the gender roles within the society with witty yet provocative pieces such as Soft-Healed Shoes, Walking in my Shoes, and Ping Pong Balls.
Overall, Liao's aesthetic feels somewhat familiar, especially for a Millenial/Gen Z. However, when it comes down to her ideation, composition, and impenitent attitude towards challenging the conventional socio-cultural ideas of gender constructions, every photograph speaks volumes. It truly sticks with you long after the visitor views all the pieces in the museum, walks out the beautifully ornate double doors, and looks at the historical building one last time.