Fen-Ma Liuming’s Lunch II was presented in Beijing East Village on 12 June 1994, one day after Zhang Huan’s action 65 Kilograms. At around 12:30pm, Ma went out to the yard of his home in the East Village, where people were gathered, already waiting for him. He was completely naked. His long thin hair was falling softly on his back. He had earrings in his ears and strong makeup on his face, lips covered with lipstick.
The artist turned on a cooking unit and put a pan with water on it, into which he threw a few potatoes. He turned around, picked a few leaves from a tree, wrote something on them and put them in the pan too. When the water started boiling, Ma took off his earrings and his watch and threw them into the pan as well. A bit later, he removed the lid, took out the boiled potatoes and buried them under a tree that grew in the yard, after which he returned to his home. He then reappeared, this time fully clothed. The audience gave him a round of applause.
That was the last performance in the East Village. Police entered the yard ten minutes after the action and arrested everybody who remained, including Ma and Zhu Ming, who were accused of spreading pornography. The artists spent two (Ma) and three (Zhu) months in prison.
Fen-Ma Liuming is an artistic alter ego of Ma Liuming. Fen（芬) is a popular name for girls in China. The same word fen (分), without the grass-flower strokes on top, also pronounced “fen,” means separation, division. In his performances, Ma played on the androgynous duality of his appearance – his male body and delicate face with female makeup – thus revealing the dualism of human nature.
Ma was born in 1969 in Huangshi, Hubei province; he currently lives and works in Beijing. In 1991, the artist received a diploma in oil painting from the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts. Ma derived inspiration from participating in the performance Suicide Project (1988) by his teacher Wei Guangqing. The artist only came across Western art and international artistic tendencies during a short stay in Beijing’s East Village in June 1993. He gradually developed the direction of his activities and his signature style, becoming part of the history of performance art in contemporary China. In 1990, Ma presented his painting and performances at the Venice Biennale. Apart from performance, the key component of his practice is painting, although the artist also explores other media, including photography.
(Magda Lipska / Theresa Liu)