The international art fair’s spotlight series on world-renowned artists
Drag performance artist Sin Wai Kin wants you to forget everything you know about gender and desire
In the first episode of a new series shining a spotlight on the most exciting artists of 2021, Art Basel introduces us to the work of interdisciplinary artist Sin Wai Kin. Born in Canada and now based in the UK, the internationally renowned drag performer expands on the dissolutions of gender binaries to include binaries of fantasy and reality, dreaming and waking, and self and other in their new work A Dream of Wholeness and Parts.
Marking this radical shift in perspectives they have revealed a return to their Cantonese birth name, Sin Wai Kin. “Victoria Sin” will soon be retired as part of the legacy of their journey to find bold new models of gender and identity that are free of patriarchal and colonial narratives. As a heavyweight influence in London’s fluid drag scene, Sin combines their stagecraft with moving images, soundscape, and science fiction storytelling to encourage audiences to question everything they have ever been told about gender.
Narrative Reflections on Looking (2016) is Sin’s film series on the dynamics of power and desire. Their aggrandizing wigs and exaggerated makeup bear the hallmarks of Cantonese opera, while fake eyelashes and silicone balloon breasts parody fantasy narratives about the desirability of women.
Live performances such as If I had the words to tell you we wouldn’t be here now (2019) illuminate how identity and experience are not only represented but also created and reinforced through language. This ideology is inspired by the science fiction writing of Ursula le Guin, Samuel Delany, and Octavia Butler; all of whom have imagined new ways of communication that eschew language’s inherent discrimination.
This episode is a comprehensive overview of an artist who innovatively uses speculative fiction within their work to interrupt normative processes of desire, identification, and objectification. The success of Sin’s performance art is a case in point for the importance of gender anarchy. Not only does drag pick apart what constitutes gender, but it provides a literal mask on which to project the complexities of human experience.
Since its debut in 1970, Art Basel has become the Modern and contemporary art world’s premier platform for bringing together artists and their patrons in a way that is both engaging and personal. With annual art shows sited on three continents—Europe, North America, and Asia—Art Basel is the only art show with such global reach.March 29, 2021