When I was young I remember hearing the first tangible reference to feminism, my mother told me “your great grandparents were feminists” They divided the farm equally between their three children: one son and two daughters. This was a very unusual in conservative rural Ireland in 1930’s. And so my first understanding of the term was equal resources.
‘Existence – An International Feminist Art Exhibition’ opened on May 20th curated by Zhen Guo. A huge thank you to some other wonderful women, Zhang Haixia (chairperson of Bu Gao group) for supporting this landmark exhibition , to Wu Xiaobin (head of culture and art BBK Group). The opening coincided with a launch of another BBK project which is local art program for female artists called Cloud Water(Yun Shui project) . Also would like to thank the people of Mezzi book complex especially local curator Peng JunYao and manager Yang li Hui for all your help during installation and to translator ZhangShen for his help during the forum.
The afternoon began with a forum discussing the expansive subject ‘Feminist Art: Present and Future’ with curator Zhen Guo moderating Wu Xiaobin manager of culture BBK group,with other panel members artists Franziska Greber, Li Xinmo, and myself, and supporting academicians Tsao Xingyuan, Guo Yaxi and Ai Leier.
This post will look at my works: the Hair Skull and the Pillar of Time which is exhibiting in this venue .
The Hair Skull
Writer Guo Yazi takes a closer look at the Hair Skull during the opening of ‘Existence’.
Using my own DNA as an art material brings a whole new sense of application. For example, selecting one strand it for its tensile quality which can hold the shape and occupy space. Another strand is selected for its elasticity, these qualities speak of enduring strength and resilience throughout history even though most women have been written out of history books and museums. The Hair Skull was originally made for an exhibition called Walls and Borders (Irish Wave 2013)。
My intention for this work relates more to the psychology of oneself, referring to self awareness and transparency of thought, ie for women supporting other women, especially those abused, awareness of actions and the impact on future generations, exploring facilitation with our male colleagues in correcting these global economic and social imbalances.
The knitted ‘Pillar of Time’ explores time from a female perspective. It was made especially for an exhibition titled Intimate Revolution – A discourse on disappointment (Irish Wave 2012). The ‘Pillar of Time ‘ has two calendars private and public which are aligned side by side. The private cycle of a woman (450 gold discs for the cycles in a lifetime) and the public world events spanning from the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 to the global economic crisis in 2008. And so the memory of births, deaths, miscarriages and terminations are positioned with external world events.
Some of the public world events here include:
1962 Cuban Missile Crises
1978 China Emerging
1983 HIV identified isolated and cultured for research
1989 Berlin Wall
1997 Hong Kong reunified with China
1999 Internet becomes worldwide
2000 Human genome mapped
2003 War in Iraq
Tsunami: 2004 -Asian tsunami, 2011- Fukushima tsunami
2008 Economic Crisis
The timing of the Changsha exhibition also aligns with an important date in Ireland, on May 25th 2018 the people of Ireland are preparing for a referendum to decide whether to change the Irish constitution, to repeal the 8th amendment. Ireland will decide if pregnant women should have autonomy over their bodies and healthcare. This artist believes the Yes vote to Repeal the amendment will bring progress to a country, will help numerous women who find themselves in dangerous medical circumstances and also those women (and even young girls) who have other seriously troubled circumstances .
Since arriving in China I have been part of some interesting art projects addressing the role of women in society from both a historical and contemporary perspective such as Intimate Transgressions . Here is a different work I did for that project but I also used knitted hair.
A two minute video on making my work the ‘Hair Lock’ for Intimate Transgressions Project 中文字幕
“Intimate Transgressions”was a project which deals with the challenging subject of violence against women during times of conflict, the narrative of that project began with the issue of the comfort women extending to a global and contemporary present day. The ‘Hair Lock’ for this project was exhibited in 4 venues: NewYork WhiteBox (Sept 2015), InterArtGallery 798 Beijing (Oct 2015) (Cunningham was the local co curator for the Beijing exhibition) , Hangzhou Library (April 2016) and Chiang Kai Shek memorial Hall (Nov 2016).
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The next blog will take a look at the diverse and exciting participating artists for this exhibition ‘Existence’