Lena Chen

Third-Year MFA Candidate
Woman on a bed looking at the camera with her feed on the head of man laying facedown

Email: lenac@andrew.cmu.edu



Lena Chen (San Francisco, 1987) is a Chinese American writer and artist exploring feminist theories of labor and care. Experimenting with her own autobiography and identity, she works collaboratively across disciplines and has produced performance and social practice projects with various publics, including trauma survivors, sex workers, and abortion workers.

Named “Best Emerging Talent” at the B3 Biennial of the Moving Image (Frankfurt), she has exhibited and performed at Transmediale (Berlin), Färgfabriken (Stockholm), Tempting Failure (London), Baltimore Museum of Art, and Museum of Modern Art (Antwerp). She has been awarded grants and residencies from the Office of Public Art (Pittsburgh), INVERSE Performance Art Festival (Bentonville), Burning Man Global Arts Fund (San Francisco), Civic Media Lab (Dnipro, Ukraine), Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry (Pittsburgh), and Women’s Media Center (Washington, D.C.). As a member of Maternal Fantasies, she is a recipient of the Arthur Boskamp Foundation Advancement Award 2019/2020.

One of the earliest documented survivors of revenge porn and cyber-stalking, Chen lived under a fictional identity as a nude model (Elle Peril) for five years to reclaim agency over her narrative. Her artistic practice has been informed by these experiences, as well as her work as a fetish provider, stripper, and cam performer. She is fascinated by the fractured experience of womanhood: the state of being simultaneously revered and vilified, desired and rejected, empowered and objectified. From telling the future using bowls of menstrual blood to breastfeeding members of the public, her performances construct situations of intense yet fleeting intimacy within participatory rituals and one-to-one encounters.

In 2018, Chen co-founded Heal Her, which works with artists, activists, and survivors in seven countries to convene storytelling circles for collective healing from sexual violence. She has spoken at Oxford, Yale, Stanford, SXSW, and re:publica. She holds a B.A. in sociology from Harvard University.

Lena Chen work image