The Skin of a Human Being

Joy Li’s Solo Exhibition 


The Skin of a Human Being discusses how people fit themselves into a ready-made world—playing predetermined social characters, wearing garments designed by me for this project, and agreeing with social constructs, which brings a sense of security through certainty, but also creates restrictions. The title refers to the social skin developed by constant learning and imitating existing examples of behavior. We are living under those social skins as though living under others’ experiences.

My mother is the first ‘other’ I met. I used to be genderless, but became a woman by learning from her, mythological goddesses, and my reflection in the eyes of others. In one of the images I wear a table-dress where floral patterns painted on the table are collected from my mother's floral dresses—my mom's skin. The imagery of artificial flowers plays a strong role in this project. The flower symbolizes femininity, beauty, prosperity, and desirability. This is further evidenced as they will not fade, allowing the viewer to hold their desires more firmly and certainly.

Similarly, the golden apple represents perfection and desirability. The image in which I wear a golden frame with a golden apple hanging in front of my head references "The Judgement of Paris", a story from Greek mythology. Three goddesses within the myth compete for as being perfect in the eyes of the judge, Paris, to win a golden apple, with an inscription that reads: "ΤΗΙ ΚΑΛΛΙΣΤΗΙ” (“to the most beautiful”). To convince the judge, they aim to make themselves desirable in his eyes. This golden apple not only represents the impossible goal set up for females, but also reflects the desire of males.

Following those well-explored paths and playing recognizable roles protects us from uncertainty, but they also prevent us from creating our own part of the world. Those social skins are like protective coveralls offering safety but also bondage.

Therefore, "The Skin of a Human Being" is meant to reflect and address people, especially women, in a variety of circumstances as they maneuver through their lives.


I suddenly lost my skin of a human being.
How can a person lose his human skin?
When a dancer become a paralytic.
When you abandon your name.
When you stop collecting the eyes of others.
When you refused the measurement of time,
so you cannot find your coordinates on the timeline.
When you stop believing that“red”is red, and“green”is green.
When the metronome fails.
When Sisyphus’ stone does not roll down again anymore.

Well, you know the story right?
He was punished to roll an immense stone up a hill,
and then the stone will roll down when it nears the top,
repeating this action for eternity.
What if one day the stone suddenly stay still on the top of the mountain?
Without the stone falling forever, Sisyphus would not be Sisyphus anymore.
Sisyphus would not be the romantic and tragic character
people keep talking about anymore.
The heaviness of the stone gives Sisyphus a sense of certainty.
The pain from the scratches and bruises on his hands
caused by rolling the stone proves Sisyphus’ existence is real.
What if one day the stone suddenly stays still on the top of the mountain?
Would the lightness be unbearable?

Thinking about this a tad evilly,
Sisyphus would push the stone staying on the top of the hill down with his hands,
so he can roll it up again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, again, and again.
The familiar, the secure and a certain heaviness and eternity.


I used to be genderless, but, have gradually become a woman.
I’ve learned to be a woman from my mom, mytho- logical goddesses, and my reflection in the eyes of others.
Being a woman is a character I can play.
Being a woman is a garment I can wear.
I am always living beneath something, even when I am truly naked.

Frozen Firework


102 x 102 x 216 cm

Steel, Spray Paint, Paper

Images of artificial flowers that I’ve been collecting for a year from China, photos taken by my friends, the US, Taobao, the Netherlands, Google...


The King of Europe and Asi.
Relentless wisdom and skill in war.
Love from the world’s most beautiful woman.
Each of the three goddesses offered the judge Paris a gift as a bribe.
in return for the golden apple,
with an inscription that read:“ΤΗΙ ΚΑΛΛΙΣΤΗΙ”“( to the most beautiful”).


Before the system is digitalized, in order to get the annual pension from the government, my grandparents needed to take pictures of themselves and mail them to the local Social Security office every year. In those pictures, they had to hold a magazine showing the date of that year to prove to the office that they are still alive.