Hong Kong

Sin Wai Kin, Preface/Looking Without Touching, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 1 minute 2 seconds.

Sin Wai Kin, Preface/Looking Without Touching, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 1 minute 2 seconds.

Sin Wai Kin

In “It’s Always You,” Sin Wai Kin (formerly known as Victoria Sin) cast a dazzling cross-cultural dragnet to celebrate the plurality of possible identities in a world where binaries still dominate our collective imagination. The multimedia exhibition, with works made between 2016 and 2021, was an ode to disassembling preconceived notions of being in favor of the open-ended journey of becoming.

The itinerary began with Preface/Looking Without Touching, 2017, a single-channel video installation showing the artist in a diamanté choker, red lingerie, and matching thigh-high boots stretched out on a red-satin surface. As in many of Sin’s works, the accompanying narration guides us through a process of looking closely at this body and reflecting on our own (mediated) assumptions and desires: “Picture an image, this image has been floating in your mind, you know the one. . . . What is she saying to you? . . . She loves you, you know, it’s just that she’s trapped in your picture plane.” The libidinal investment is mutual, because “she” is as equally entranced with us as we are with her.

Sin, a child of a globalized world, expands on the poststructural critique of representation to unsettle the fantasy of wholeness. Their magisterial film A Dream of Wholeness in Parts, 2021, scrambles gender constructs by combining archetypes from Cantonese opera and the Taoist writings of Chuang Tzu with contemporary drag culture, references to Hong Kong cinema, and icons of Western painting. The establishing shot presents two virtually identical characters, both playing the opera’s female lead, sitting across from each other and separated by a chessboard. The face of one is painted blue and pink, which in traditional Cantonese opera signifies innocence and loyalty; the other, painted in yellow and green, is a paragon of treachery. In Cantonese opera, male and female performers can play both gender roles; this provides an opening for Sin to consider how Western drag, which they characterize as “an embodied speculative fiction,” can be a space of queer and trans freedom. At once reality and performance, drag offers a way to contest socially imposed identities.

To explore how prepackaged personas become sites of reinvention through drag, the two-channel video It’s Always You, 2021, has Sin starring as four different members of a boy band. Each icon has a different role to play in the shared effort to woo a mass public: The Universe (the pretty boy), The Storyteller (the serious one), The One (the childish one), and Wai King (the heartthrob). Performing identical dance moves, each character takes center stage to deliver the same saccharine lyrics, which are simultaneously projected on the screen karaoke style: IT’S ALWAYS YOU, YOU’RE THE ONE IN ME, YOU TELL MY DIFFERENT SIDES, MY MULTIPLICITY. . . . ONE PLUS ONE’S NOT TWO, WHEN BABY YOU’RE WITH ME, IT’S ALWAYS YOU, YOU’RE LIKE INFINITY. In this parody of hegemonic masculinity and its commercialization, “you” are invited to add your singular voice to a boundless, ever-changing aggregate.

Sin’s practice combines drag as a performative resistance to gender stereotypes with storytelling as a dissemination of never-ending fictions. Their unruly mash-up of images, narratives, cultures, and contexts is an appeal to us to envision communities freed from the strictures of binary thinking.