• Jenny Xu

Exclusive Q&A with Lithium Salts

Lithium was educated at the Malaysian Institute of Art from 2015 to 2017, and her artwork has been displayed at various exhibitions. Her website states: "Lithium observes and creates art based on her experiences and what she has seen happen to women around her. She aspires to make art that provokes and inspires people. She experiments with different mediums, and is constantly looking for something that can express her thoughts and emotions the best."

Q: What does your piece mean to you? What is your general message?

A: I have a strong personal attachment to the artwork, but I also believe that the message I’m trying to convey through is something a lot of women understand and relate to. It started off as a small personal project about my own experiences growing up in a tight Chinese community and its effect on my sexuality growing up. I realized that it’s an issue that needs to be talked about by more people, and I decided to bring this project to my social media to let other women talk about their experiences.

Q: What issue does your art portray?

A: It discusses how sex in general is still taboo in our country and how women are shamed more when they talk about their sexualities.

Q: How did you try to communicate that message through your piece?

A: I know everyone’s experiences are different due to religion and family backgrounds so I can’t speak for everyone. Thus, I brought the project onto social media to give other women a “safe place” to talk about their experiences, both good and bad. I created a Tumblr and let people submit their stories anonymously, and i printed them out and put them in my resin sculptures.

Q: How long did this project take you?

A: I started the project around May 2018 and showcased them last July in a show “In Defence of Poetry.” I also exhibited that installation last November and in Suma Orientalis this January. It is an ongoing project for which I will create another sculpture for each submission.

Q: What was the event that sparked you into making the sculpture? Was it a spur of the moment decision or from inspiration from other people’s stories?

A: I started experimenting with resin when I was still in college (2016, 2017). That was also when I discovered “feminism” through online articles and videos of the movement. I was always very “conservative” when it came to my own sexuality until I went to college. I grew up in a tight Chinese community. Until college, I thought that sex before marriage is completely forbidden, and masturbation is something to be ashamed of, even though I do it myself. I’ve been really ashamed of my sexuality for a very long time because i was surrounded by people who would shame girls for talking about sex or making dirty jokes. After high school, I met different girls in college who were very proud of their sexualities. I finally came to terms with my own sexuality and realized that a lot  of girls probably face similar struggles. I wanted to empower girls and convey to them that their sexualities are not something to be ashamed of.

Q: Did you ever receive submissions regarding sexual harassment?

A: I have received submission from women who were harassed when they were minors and too afraid to speak in fear of being judged or shamed. I like to think that my artwork highlights the fact that sexual education is very important to adolescents. Sex should never be a taboo subject; it creates more harm than good.

Q: Have there been any women who opened up about their experiences and struggles with sexuality after being inspired by your piece? If so, are there any unforgettable ones?

A; Yes, during my Defence of Poetry opening many girls came up to me and said that they relate to some of the stories. It gave them a peace of mind knowing that they were not in it alone. On that night, I displayed a mannequin and placed Post-Its by the side for people to share their stories. On on of the Post-Its, it said “I was offered 50 cents to provide sexual pleasure when I was eight,” and that really broke my heart.

Q: Are you surprised by the outcome of your whole project?

A: Yes and no. To be frank, I did not get many submissions even though the project went on for around eight months. I was somewhat surprised at the lack of people willing to speak up. I kind of expected that the majority of people in our society were conservatives, and not many people would want to speak despite anonymous submissions. But, of course, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received from my friends and family. I even managed to sell the whole installation set, which truly surprised me.

Q: What are you planning on doing next with your art?

A: I’m working on tackling something new at the moment: feminity and insecurities.  I may have a solo exhibition, but it is uncertain for now. My artwork has always been about feminism. It’s a very broad subject and I’d like to meet and talk to more people before I dive into a more serious region in the future. It’s also tricky for a cis woman, like myself, to make art about feminism because a lot of feminist art focuses on subjects like menstruation, wombs, and motherhood, and it comes off as how that’s the only thing that defines women. It often leaves out transwomen and non-binary individuals. As a cis person, I don’t want to make art that I can’t relate to unless I am creating a safe space for individuals to talk about their experiences. I strongly believe that trans/non-binary people should be given their own voices to make art and talk about their identities.

Her work:

In Defense of Pleasure

potong stim / miscellaneous

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