XU Zhen is a talented artist often providing a new and unique outlook on simple and common states of human kind. His short film "We Are Right Back" does just that as it mocks and questions gender roles in modern society. As is common of XU Zhen the film is both subtle in humor and symbolism, though one might argue that the symbolism in this particular piece is more obvious. The film is set on a boat and the camera follows the swaying of the unsteady waters; we are made to see as if we are with them, XU does not allow us to separate ourselves from the societal rules he plans to demonstrate. One is aware of a couple but not of their faces, instead the audience is only provided with a view of the waist down. XU's humor is obvious as he utilizes the groins as subjects, replacing the faces one would generally recognize with only genital regions. Though one enjoys the subtly sexual humor, they are left to assume gender only with the aid of clothing and body type stereotypes. One becomes unavoidably anxious as the man begins to reach into the zipper of his pants. The man proceeds to pull out a cigarette, as if from a gender specific pocket. The cigarette is correspondingly lit by the woman as she removes a lighter from her groin pocket as well. The symbolism has become obvious. The woman is presented as providing the man with flame, inspiration, assistance, and even physical pleasure. The two continue to remove gender specific items from their respective groin pockets. The man an ash tray and cell phone, the woman makeup, and so on. Though XU presents common and easily understood stereotypes, he does so not so that we may simply observe but instead so that we may question the oversimplification of gender roles. These two humans have no identity, but only gender.
Richelle Simon in June 2013
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