Shifting Definitions: Artist Statements

November 6th, 2010 - December 18th, 2010

Bovey Lee: Peony Mystery,Paper cuts, xuan paper, 15 x 25 cm, 2006

The public obsession with the investigative, mystery crime shows on American television inspired me to create “Peony Mystery.” In these television programs, young, vibrant, and beautiful women are categorically featured as victims of chilling, gruesome murders. Their unclothed bodies are typically discovered in the woods, lying there as if just sleeping or resting in otherwise serene settings.

In “Peony Mystery,” the female nude reclines under a large peony flower, a symbol of beauty. Surrounding the figure are several origami cranes, representing longevity in Chinese culture. In the cutouts, they are used as offerings, tribute, and for well wishes. The faceless figure strips away individuality but simultaneously allows the viewer to relate to her.

Paper cuts, xuan paper, 17 x 34 cm, 2006
I created “Clams” to depict an oppressive environment in which freedom of speech is compromised. Employing a mirroring composition and scalloped borders, typically seen in traditional Chinese paper cutting, “Clams” illustrates two identical female heads hiding inside the open clams. Their mouths are wide open. But there is a mountain stuck in each of their throats. In the center, a woman tries to push the heads back into the clams. The reflective, double image with centrifugal lines adds urgency and importance to the message.

Private: Heidi Voet: Myself, I Long for Love and Light, installation, magazines, wire, cinder blocks, dimensions variable, 2010我, 渴望爱与光明 装置, 杂志, 铁丝, 石灰渣, 尺寸依据现场而定, 2010

Myself, I Long for Love and Light
installation, magazines, wire, cinder blocks, dimensions variable, 2010

Q: What is the title of the work?
A: “Myself, I Long for Love and Light,” as all the works in this series, this vase has a title taken from the lyrics of a pop-song. I chose this title because it reinforces the content of the Chinese erotic magazines I used to make the paper flowers with. The naked girls are hidden in the creases of the folded paper, as if they shun the light. And of course, for paper flowers there is no vital need for light, on the contrary it might bleach the images over time.

Q: For the first time in the series of vases, colored paint is applied on the cinder blocks.
A: I painted the cinderblocks before sculpting the vase. The paint was in my studio as a leftover of my partner’s paintings. Painting the blocks first was a way to emphasize their architectural qualities. The blocks become more clearly marked in space and the idea that works could somehow color match made me smile. The colors were not chosen by me, they happened to be in my studio, in a similar way as most things in our environment are beyond an individual’s control. By sculpting the blocks, most of the paint disappeared again.

Q: The first time the vases where shown was in a similar context, in a group show in a gallery in Brussels, Belgium. Back then, in October 2007, the works were conceived as site-related works. What about this work in this gallery context?
A: When I first showed the vases I was thinking a lot about the relation of my work to the existing space. The gallery in Brussels was an old Bourgeois house transformed into a white cube. I placed my works on the original marble chimneys and on the gallerist’s table or desk; those places in the gallery that pointed to its former use.
It is not clear yet how exactly I will show the vase in OV Gallery but it is certain that the images of the Chinese ladies on the origami flowers are more exotic for the Western visitor and more immediate identifiable for the Asian visitor.

Q: The vase with the flowers refers to construction and decoration at the same time -­ a house in a state of ‘becoming’ and ‘being’ simultaneously.
A: It could be seen as a combination of the masculine and the feminine. The cinderblocks are modern, repetitive, manufactured to construct interior walls with but are now shaped as a decorative object. The origami flowers are made of magazines to please the masculine senses but folded in a way that reminds us today of handy craft and thus a female pass time.

Q: What is the source of the magazines of which the flowers are made?
A: I bought the magazines in newspaper stands in Shanghai and on Chinese websites. The content is erotic. I was told that they are officially sold as material to study the naked body for artists, which is a direct reference to a western tradition in Art.

Ji Wenyu Zhu Weibing: Make Beautifu,Sculptures - linen, fabric, latex, insulative packing materials, chair (bought from a furniture store ) , 108 x 88 x 106 cm, 2005

In general, a man’s beauty is characterized by strength, power, balance and integrity; one who loves makeup and dressing up would be considered a sissy. However, because a woman’s beauty is delicate, much like a flower that must be watered daily, she constantly covers her face with a variety of skin care products and cosmetics. Women are afraid of getting old, so they dress up to look beautiful and try to cover their actual age. If they feel they are not beautiful enough, some will even submit to having double-eyelid operations, breast augmentations, butt-lift, liposuction and so on, to make real things fake. Why do men and women have such different feelings about beauty?

Aesthetics aside, we can see that these women are usually considered to be both deceptive and seductive, but they do not chose to torment everyone, just those who are weak-willed. Women sometimes compete with each other over beauty and glamour, never giving up and enviously fabricating vivid stories, one after another. As the saying goes, three women always make drama! Meanwhile, you cannot deny that they seek approval and love, and when they are appreciated by others they feel exalted. The need to be appreciated and admired puts women in a passive role, which is notable because of the stress on gender and power equality in today’s society. Recently, we have been told that “sissy” men are starting a trend of men caring about makeup and dress. What we don’t understand is whether this is a rebellion against traditional superficiality or a way to obtain equality between men and women. Some people say that Obama is only president of the United States because he looks handsome and is articulate.

My wife and I asked our 9-year-old daughter why women care so much about dress and make-up. Her response stupefied us: “If you want to know why women love makeup and clothing, just think about how peacocks display their feathers for one another!”

Monika Lin: Shadow Count, installation, ceramics, plexiglass, mixed media, dimensions variable, 2010

Gender inequities in China are vast and informed not only by a history of an entrenched patriarchal, Confucian ideology but also by more contemporary issues. The growing ratio gap of women to men is one such issue: today there are only 85 women to every 100 men of marriageable age. One aspect of this gender population disparity is the proliferation of abuse against women including, of course, rape (although, of course, rape is nothing new nor specific to China). China’s official rape statistic in 2007 was 31,833 – or about 87.2 per day.

“Only one out of ten cases is likely to be reported,” said Luo Tsun-yin, a social psychologist at Shih Hsin University in Taiwan, and some estimate that the ratio is even greater. (from “Rape in China” by Paxely Marquez) This brings the number of rapes per day closer to 872.

Using the lily as a motif, “Shadow Count” represents both the official number of women and the hidden numbers. The 87 recognized lilies, set in a series of plexiglass lakes, are lit by multiple light sources creating 783 shadow lilies representing the unofficial numbers. The hidden numbers are murky and shifting, shaded by governmental needs to present “harmonious living” as a truism, and in need of a more tangible representation.

Phoebe Man: They Walk the Streets and I Live a Life Sentence, writing, paper cutting and animation, 50 x 50 x 4.5 cm, 2010

Many women have experienced indecent assault. The number of reported indecent assaulted cases has increased rapidly in Hong Kong. “Sharing indecent assault experiences” is a hot topic on a popular Hong Kong forum on the Internet.

Since merely sharing experiences might not be enough, one needs to face the issue in an active way. “Rewriting History” is a series of art works which aims to rewrite the artist’s and other victims’ personal experiences. It provides a way to face these negative experiences. Through cutting and sculpting paper, destructing and constructing, these negative feelings and one’s imagination can be released.

Each story in the art work has its uniqueness and tries to confront social misconceptions. For example, some people think it is no big deal to touch women or to have sex with women without their consent because women fantasize about these things. In fact, no woman likes having sex under threat and being humiliated. The crime can bring lasting trauma to the victims.

“Rewriting History” has three versions: writing, paper cutting and animation. It is also a work which helps bring self-empowerment and encourages mutual respect society.

Private: Sally Smart: Femmage Frieze, Mixed media installation, dimensions variable, 1998-2010

My work has for a number of years engaged with issues of identity and gender.

This has been a sustained feminist discourse and central to developing the work conceptually and technically. Since the mid-1990s I have used painted cut-outs to create large scale installation works primarily made of painted fabric with the collage and photomontage elements pinned directly to the gallery wall. The use of materials is integral to the conceptual unfolding of this work, the process of cutting, pining, staining and stitching – and their association with women’s practices.

The relationship between the body, thought and culture are recurring themes in my work, along with neglected women’s histories, as subjects for contemporary art. In the work for OV Gallery, I am constructing an assemblage piece titled “Femmage Frieze,” this series was initiated in 1998 and has been variously configured since then. The work can respond in a site-specific way, traversing the walls of the gallery space with the pinned elements. Since the first time “Femmage Frieze” was exhibited new elements have been added, both in imagery and in the methodologies used (photographic and silkscreened elements).

The word femmage was used by the American feminist and theorist Miriam Schapiro in 1976 to describe work made by women historically and the multitude of techniques, including collage, photomontage and embroidery, that women have used. Femmage for me then is a conceptual term used to describe the idea of women’s relationship (historical and contemporary), to the process of collage and connections to feminist politics.

Virginie Lerouge Knight: Reality Lipstic, sponge installation, 45 x 25 x 20 cm, 2010

The Every Day Reality of the Perfect Woman is a truth which is not mentioned in the glossy, trendy magazines. Social changes and the strong influence of fashion, especially in Shanghai, are encouraging women to watch their physical appearance, to please the other gender and attract the “perfect” match. As it was 2,000 years ago, the beauty of a woman’s body is still relevant; lipstick and fancy jewelry add to the trend: affordable, trendy, and feminine, they give every woman a sense of being attractive. At every social level, women use the power of their physical attractiveness for their own purposes. But the reality doesn’t stop there; not only are women under pressure to enhance their physical appearance, they are also expected to be educated, interesting and fulfill their more traditional roles as mother and housewife. This is today’s Perfect Woman. Back to your sponges!Virginie Lerouge Knight

Private: Wu Meng: Gravity photography, Dimensions variable “I Am an Actress Today”

Wu Meng’s work consists of the performance video installation “Sad Clown” and four photographs titled “Gravity.” She tries to involve women in public issues, hoping they will poetically transform from caterpillars to butterflies. Meng also explores how vulnerable women resist and survive when in the public eye. Curator Anke Haarmann notes, “Wu Meng creates works using clothes, which are symbols of the transition from the human body and the private to the environment and the public. Her performance pieces involve real life, some take place in alleys and other public places.” The work “Sad Clown” in this exhibition is a recording of a performance piece. The sentences on these pieces of clothing pertain to social issues as well as daily hidden communication. In “Gravity,” each piece of clothing represents the state of living in a weightless place outside the city. At the same time, she uses photographic records of moments to try to find the issue itself and its development in society.

Xu Zhifeng: Mona Lisa Smileless, Mixed media installation, Dimensions variable, 2010

“A wall often has two distinct sides, and you either stand on one.”

Shaw’s displaced two-sided wall installation challenges the conventional exhibition space’s presenting/viewing experience. Because the spectator can only be on one side of the wall, the spectators on the other side of the wall passively become part of the artwork. This is the paradoxical and metaphoric response when anyone addresses gender issues.

At first glance, there appears to be a urinal on the wall, but here it is not a toilet. With a second glance, it becomes evident that it is not a urinal but a squat toilet. Then, chatting with your companions, you walk closer, not realizing that the conversation can be overheard clearly on the other side of the wall…

The title “Mona Lisa Smileless” was inspired by a Chinese squat toilet brand, so it’s merely a coincidental resemblance to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” (1503) and Marcel Duchamp’s “L.H.O.O.Q.” (1919) and “Fountain,” (1917).

“Mona Lisa” expresses Leonardo’s belief in the “sacred feminine;” the title is a coded reference to the Egyptian gods Amon and Isis, “Mona” being an anagram of the former and “Lisa” being a contraction of l’Isa, meaning Isis. This hidden reference is supposed to signify Leonardo’s secret opposition to Orthodox Christianity and his belief in the ideal union of masculine and feminine principles, as does the sitter’s androgynous features.

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