Jes Fan has a way of getting your attention. Last time I talked to the Brooklyn-based artist, for example, they said: ‘There’s nothing more surreal than holding your mom’s excretions in your hand while they’re still warm.’ They were just back from mounting the exhibition 'Mother is a Woman' at the Empty Gallery in Hong Kong (27 March – 2 June 2018). As part of the show, Fan had isolated oestrogen from their mother’s urine, and then used it to make a beauty cream. Any visitor who wished to do so could apply it to their skin, and absorb a very small amount of Mrs Fan’s hormones – figuratively allowing the milk of womanhood into their pores.
We hear a lot these days about gender fluidity. It remains unusual, though, to encounter work that is truly free of male/female binaries. It’s even more unusual in the craft domain, which is often freighted with stereotypical gender coding. Advertisements promoting artisanal product lines tend to feature ‘horny-handed men in leather aprons’ – as Grayson Perry memorably put it – or carefully coiffed women in chic attire, unsuited to a real workshop. Even in the progressive pages of Crafts magazine, you will rarely encounter departure from gender norms. None of this seems to bother Fan in the least. As they put it, with subversive good humour: ‘I think everyone is queer, in their own way.’