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It has been to New York, it has been to Beijing, now the exhibition “Intimate Transgressions ” is showing in the impressive new Hangzhou Library until April 16th 2016.
This collaborative work with Fion Gunn has taken several months in the planning. Having worked with Fion for years preparing, installing and deinstalling group shows in China this was an exciting project to finally make an artwork together. The work is called “Inside Out” and on first glance is presented as a bed.
Gunn’s side of the canvas is an internal world of isolated islands, each with a solitary figure covered in a blanket.
In place of a headboard is there is a huge looming wave under which are some boats. A little further down is a weir hinting that we are approaching waterfall , between the weir and waterfall are boats floating aimlessly with their dead cargo.
My “side of the bed” deals with the external world. This is based on the memory of the village Xi Yan in Yu County in Shanxi where I attended the funeral of comfort woman Zhang Xiantu Nov 20th 2015. Most of the canvas is painted with flat simple blocks of colour. The flat grey rooftops of village dwellings echo the shape of the isolated islands and in the tradition of folk art the figures are primitively painted.
Many inanimate objects on the canvas are made within textiles such as felt, embroidery, glass beads, leather, coloured and natural twine . The funeral wreaths outside the dwelling are interlaced with a combination of embroidery , knotted twine and beads, the stored sweetcorn ( made of knotted yellow leather) in a pen in the yard which the family had harvested earlier. Outside the family gate is the figure who breaks the bowl on the ground to enable the funeral procession to begin. (See video on earlier post (click here for earlier post on funeral)
Some figures in the funeral procession wind their way through the village. I included a figure with a bike to represent Zhang Shuangbing a retired school teacher who found, researched, befriended and encouraged many of the comfort women to come together and stand strong in their pursuit for justice from the Japanese government. Zhang the teacher (no relation to Xiantu) wore out several bikes on the yellow roads of Yu County researching these women and getting them to tell what they could of their stories. Although not representing a regular day in village life I wanted to suggest what living in a small village would be like, carrying the burden with everyone knowing your history, the judgment and ostracizing that comes with that (there are occasional figures looking out of windows.) There is a bridge that joins the internal and external worlds connecting the two canvasses. There is also a reference to two caves of black felt where women were imprisoned for many months (this story is separate from Zhang Xiantu and was featured in documentary film by Guo Ke called “22” which refers to the number of known surviving comfort women at the time of filming)
It was also important that I included the sheep in the yard of the family home as they were there on the day of the funeral. Zhang Xiantu’s father bought his daughter’s freedom from the Japanese soldiers using all his remaining sheep. In an interview with the Financial Times last year Zhang Xiantu told how the payment ruined him, how angry she was that the following decades were spent in hardship and near starvation compounded by being shunned by the village for decades.
The funeral leads to the edge of a sweetcorn field with a dozen sweetcorn plants. The sweetcorn field spills over the edge just as the waterfall does on the other side of the bed into the abyss or simply the end as we know it.
Francesca Arri (Italy)
Chen Xiaodan陈小丹 (China)
Chu Chu储楚 (China)
Chuan San 川三 (China)
Niamh Cunningham瑞莲( Ireland /China)
Rita Duffy (Northern Ireland )
Gao Yuan高媛 (Taiwan/USA)
Anita Glesta (USA/Australia)
Guan Huaibin管怀宾 (China)
Fion Gunn飞扬 (Ireland/UK)
Han Ying韩 英 (China)
Heide Hatry (Germany)
Hu Yuanbo 胡元波 (China)
Jiao Jian矫 健 (China)
Jing Yibing荆艺兵 (China)
Lei Yan 雷燕 (China)
Li Xiuqin 李秀勤 (China)
Monika Lin (USA)
Meng Liping 孟麗萍 (China)
Luo Yongjin 罗永进 (China)
Michael Lisle-Taylor (UK)
Phoebe Man文晶莹(Hong Kong)
Atsuko Nakamura (Japan)
Gail Ritchie (Northern Ireland)
Shen Ye 沈也(China)
Song Xin宋昕 (China)
Tami Xiang (Australia/China)
Tang HuiMin 唐慧敏(China)
David Turner (Northern Ireland)
Wang Dongling王冬龄 (China)
Zhang Liaoyuan 张辽源(China)
Many thanks to Sam Chen of CAPA (Centre for Asian Pacific Affairs) the support of HangZhou Public Library, Irish Consul General Terese Healy who spoke at the opening, Zhejiang Minong Century group, Demaotang China, curators Fion Gunn and Tiger Hu (Hu Yuanbo) in association with Jiao Jian, Louis Chan, Steve Chen, Glassia Lu, the dozens of volunteers in HangZhou to make this program a reality and of course all the participating artists above.
Also showing in this exhibition is the Hair Lock.
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