Soft Persuasion: A Conversation with Beili Liu

The Mending Project / 补缮工程, 2011. Iron scissors, fabric, thread, needle, table, and chair, dimensions variable. Detail of performance. Photo: Rino Pizzi

The work of Beili Liu,an installation artist based in Austin, Texas, consists of hundreds of not-quite-identical units that construct an architecture of thought with correlatives in lived experience. Although the repetition of objects is a representation of single-mindedness, Liu’s installations leap from obsession and repetition to something profound and expansive, merging the personal with the political. They embody, through their process, Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of “rhizomatic thinking,” a way of describing ideas, actions, and images that are self-generating, multiple, and interconnected. The performances that accompany Liu’s installations are not only rhizomatic outgrowths, they are also acts of profound generosity, granting viewers access to her thought processes and experiences.

In Liu’s work, the desire to repeat takes many forms: a suspended cloud of downward-pointing scissors, tarred feathers, stacked children’s clothing encased in cement, a swarm of thread disks. Clustered together, these markedly ordinary materials emphasize the disjunctive pairing of subtle beauty and cultural narrative.

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