A Feminine Lexicon: ChongYan Liu In Her Own Words

The new digital project “A Feminine Lexicon” by Arts Curating students Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli opened in May at museo.ferragamo.com. Their project took inspiration from Museo Salvatore Ferragamo’s “Women in Balance” an exhibition curated by Stefania Ricci and Elvira Valleri that celebrates the history of Italian women during the economic boom and the rapid changes in their identities. “A Feminine Lexicon” continues this conversation into what is considered feminine today through the works of eleven international contemporary artists and their testimonies. In the digital exhibition, through audio recordings, all the artists describe their works and how they relate to a larger feminine lexicon in their own words. An excerpt of these reflections is gathered here for I’M Firenze Digest readers as a way to help them dive deeper into the exhibition.


By Pia Diamandis & Elena Tortelli. Cover image: ChongYan Liu, still from Talking, 2022. Photo: Yadi Liu. Courtesy of the artist

 “A Feminine Lexicon” artists include Paris-based visual artist and filmmaker ChongYan Liu (b. 1995, Guizhou, China). Her work tackles socio-economic inequality and intersectionality.

In “A Feminine Lexicon”, ChongYan Liu showcases the video Talking (2022) , representing the point of view of a young deaf woman as part of an intimate conversation between a young couple. The framing follows the woman’s eyes as she observes the monologue of the husband, who, in sign language, shares his desire to resolve a dialogue crisis with his partner. 

ChongYan Liu’s Talking is featured in the Struggles section of the exhibition “A Feminine Lexicon”, underlining the challenges that feminine identities continue to face today in their public and private life, alone or together.

The section Struggles features works by Alfiah Rahdini, Johanna Toruño, Haruka Sakaguchi, and ChongYan Liu.

PD, ET: How would you best describe your work, Talking? What has inspired you to create the video?

CL: One day I was walking down a street in Paris with a friend and we saw two disabled people. They were talking in sign language, probably talking in French sign language. In that moment I was wondering how they could really understand each other or if I was able to sign the French sign language, how we could communicate together.

ChongYan Liu, still from Talking, 2022. Photo: Yadi Liu. Courtesy of the artist

So, how can we really cross all the borders existing in all the languages and can we really understand each other?
Here comes the idea and I wanted to build this situation where the husband is both talking and using French sign language to communicate to his wife. The audience can imagine to be the wife that the husband is talking to. I say maybe, and this is what makes this project even more interesting, because we can never know what’s the real experience of the deaf person.

PD, ET: In your opinion, what are the current struggles that feminine identities face today in their private and public life?

CL: For me the struggles that the feminine identities are facing today are mostly invisible, but they are everywhere, in every detail, in every term we use. I hardly view myself as a feminist. Probably because every individual I see, I just see as an individual. Perhaps I do sound precise, but I do feel concretely this struggle starts existing in every detail and it can hide smartly in this small detail.

ChongYan Liu, still from Talking, 2022. Photo: Yadi Liu. Courtesy of the artist

I cannot give a precise example, but it exists in public and private life. The struggles can be hidden in language and maybe it existed already in the creation of my video, and it exists in my artistic process. To describe this with words is very difficult, but from my point of view, I believe that these struggles exist everywhere and any time.


A Feminine Lexicon is an online exhibition curated by Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli, students in Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze for Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, available at museo.ferragamo.com.

ChongYan Liu (b. 1995, Guizhou, China) is a visual artist e filmmaker. She lives and works in Paris, France.
Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli are undergraduate students in Arts Curating at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

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