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Yarli Allison


Yarli Allison graduated in 2017 with a first-class honours MFA in Sculpture from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, having received the entry award of the year’s Yitzhak Danziger scholarship. Recent (2021 – 22) solo and group exhibitions include V&A Museum (London), Tai Kwun Contemporary (Hong Kong), Barbican Centre (London), LINZ FMR (Austria), FACT (Liverpool) and Institute of Contemporary Arts: ICA (London). Recent grants include Hong Kong Arts Development Council Project Grant (2019) and Arts Council England Project Grant (2022). She is a member of London’s Asia-Art-Activism network.

Artist statement

I am a mixed media artist born in Canada with British Hong Kong heritage, currently exploring subjects on digital humanity, belonging and coping mechanisms with a queering fictitious approach. Based on my displacement experiences, I embody ‘emotional geography’ studies to compose both sculptural and virtual fictitious scenarios that are seemingly hopeful and functional, yet on the verge of falling apart. Often interacting with personas or creatures, these imagined worlds consist of my invented survival tactics and coping mechanisms. I utilise the process of cognitive restructuring and belonging remapping to play with the sense of futility and the uncertain future of ‘what if’. Themes including border systems, datafication, and function creep are explored, along with skinship, queerness, and sexual objectification.

Trailer (01:30 mins) 

Yarlin Allison, In 1875 We Met At the Docks of Liverpool, 2021
《1875 於梨花埠遇上, 2021》
English and Traditional Chinese subtitle
Length: 01:30

The first Britain-Asia Line was established in 1865. Hong Kong as a British colony – was used as a major trading port since 1841. 

After the abolition of the slave trade, over 50,000 ethnic-Chinese (華人) seamen/contract labourers/coolies (豬仔契約勞工) were recruited or ‘sold’ worldwide from the late 19th century to around 1947. 


Many settled in Liverpool and London. Without the presence of women of the same ethnicity, the Chinese men settled with the local residents and having family/around the heart of ‘Chinatown’ named Pitt Street. 


Despite their service in Britain's Royal and/or Merchant Navy fleet during the First and Second World Wars, the British authorities decided that repatriating these Chinese seamen was the right thing to move forward. 


The local resident women who married these seafarers also too, became “aliens” in their own country, under the Alien Exclusion Act


According to the descendants of these seamen, their father vanished over the night without explanation throughout their lifetime. 


Work by Yarli Allison 

Thank you, Merseyside Anglo-Chinese Community

Curator and mentor: Annie Jael Kwan

Research consultant: Dr. Lucienne Loh, English Department, University of Liverpool Anthropology Consultant: Dr. Mariví Haro Matas

Music: Quantum Foam

Music 11:43 – 15:43 : The Dawn by Chloé, Lumière Noire Records

Sound design: Quantum Foam

Video and audio editing: Yarli Allison

Virtual reality scenes: Yarli Allison

Animating: Yarli Allison

3D modelling: Yarli Allison

CGI team: Yarli Allison, Theo Ellison, Oliver Wing Pui Lam

Camera: Yarli Allison

Performers: River Cao, Joy Chao, Wen Chen, Bettina Fung, Cyrus Hung, April Lin, Yin Lo  

Audio contributors: Yarli Allison, Winky Cheung, Chris, Ching Yi and friends, Oliver Wing Pui Lam, Lucy, Ash Sands, Spitaldust, Prudence Wang, Oi Man Yeung

Photography advisor: Joy Chao

Set assistants: Joy Chao, Yin Lo

Gaffer and grip: Joy Chao

Costume: Yarli Allison

Calligraphy: Yarli Allison, Winky Cheung, Oliver Wing Pui Lam, Uuendy Lau, Niki Ng, Helen Ng, Hinz Pak, Sin Mei So, Man Chi Sun

Translation: Yarli Allison, Emilie Hsu, Oliver Wing Pui Lam, Yin Lo  

Data map graphics: Wen Chen

Editors: Yarli Allison, Virginia Markson, Yin Lo

Writing: Yarli Allison

Direction: Yarli Allison


Special thanks to people who generously shared their resources, oral history, knowledge, advice, and support: Hongwei Bao, Mukti Jain Campion, JJ Chan, Anna Chen, Yvonne Foley, Edy Fung, Charlotte Horn, Kayt Hughes, Denise Kwan, National Museums Liverpool: Maritime Archives and Library, Clare Chun-yu Liu, Maitreyi Maheshwari, Dr. Rachel Marsden, Mark Murphy, Greater Manchester Police Museum, Donald Shek, Kai Syng, Lesley Taker, China Residencies Mediated Film/VR Fellowship team, Nicola Triscott, Brian Wake. 


Supported By: 

Yarli Allison, In 1875 We Met At the Docks of Liverpool (2021) was commissioned by FACT, Liverpool with the support of public funds from Arts Council England, Liverpool City Council, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme project Artsformation. With additional research support from CFCCA with the support of public funds from GMCA. Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. 

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