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Archive for April, 2014


Chun Hua Catherine Dong wrapped her face in Chinese silk brocade fabric and positioned herself in front of camera to create a series of ID-card photographsChun Hua Catherine Dong wrapped her face in Chinese silk brocade fabric and positioned herself in front of camera to create a series of ID-card photographsChun Hua Catherine Dong wrapped her face in Chinese silk brocade fabric and positioned herself in front of camera to create a series of ID-card photographsSkin-Deep-Chun-Hua-Catherine-Dong-03Skin-Deep-Chun-Hua-Catherine-Dong-02Chun Hua Catherine Dong wrapped her face in Chinese silk brocade fabric and positioned herself in front of camera to create a series of ID-card photographs

Visual Poetics of Embodied Shame is a series that explores the visual culture of shame in its personal and socio-political dimensions through performance, photography, and video.

Shame is a complex, universal and often painful affect connecting subjects to social relations. It is an innate human reaction rooted in childhood experience, and it is linked to sexuality and the cultural norms that regulate the body. Shame operates on the relation between self and other, between the emotional and social. The etymology of the word shame is derived from the Old German meaning, “to cover” or “to hide” oneself. The dynamics of shame revolve around the world of sight and of being seen. Freud suggested that visual pleasure is related to shame, as the physical gestures of blushing, downcast eyes and slack posture are projected on another—the subject imagining herself as seen by the gaze of the other. This aspect of shame as located at the interface between a vulnerable self and an outsider, between cover and discover, makes it significant in visual art.

But Freud didn’t consider eastern cultures. Asian societies are associated with “shame culture.” In this context, on the one hand, shame can involve honour and positive change. On another hand, it is an insidious social control mechanism playing on the emotion’s negative aspects. Despite the rise of feminism and many acts of aesthetic, theoretical and cultural transgression that have attempted to challenge taboos, the deep structure of shame has not been significantly undermined. Shame is, therefore, a central feminist issue, and an important one to rise within my artwork and its associated research.

In this work , I translate the word “ shame (to cover)” to a cultural symbol by wrapping my face in Chinese silk brocade fabric. this work contains 25 pieces of photographs and a performance video: while standing still and breathing under the fabric in the video, I position myself in front of camera and creates a series of ID-card photographs. in this work, figure and ground blend and reverse roles. The reason I cover my face is because the notion of shame – or “losing face” – is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. In fact, if one has “ lost face,” one feels shamed of letting down culture, family, or self.

Shame in this work is both social and personal that arise from the awareness of the consequences of my failure in maintaining my identity as a Chinese after living in the West for many years. In order to reinforce my cultural identity, I deliberately mask myself with the symbolic fabric. However, contradictorily, while my collective identity becomes visible, my individuality as an individual disappears because the gesture of covering my face with fabric is a metaphor of self-effacing. As a result, I both literally and metaphorically “lose face, ” and feeling shamed of losing self begins. Maybe shame in this work has transformed itself to a visual symbol alive on my skin already. It knits difference into identity and identity into difference, becoming signs of awareness and evidence of inability to escape.

Photo credits: Dayna Danger

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Gray Zone

Chun Hua Catherine Dong, holding an umbrella, is naked and covered her head with red fabric, She starts to draw red circles on her belly while letting her saliva running down from her mouth to toesChun Hua Catherine Dong, holding an umbrella, is naked and covered her head with red fabric, She starts to draw red circles on her belly while letting her saliva running down from her mouth to toesChun Hua Catherine Dong, holding an umbrella, is naked and covered her head with red fabric, She starts to draw red circles on her belly while letting her saliva running down from her mouth to toesChun Hua Catherine Dong, holding an umbrella, is naked and covered her head with red fabric, She starts to draw red circles on her belly while letting her saliva running down from her mouth to toes

20 minutes at Gray Zone for Performance Art in Kingston,  NY. April 6, 2014,photo credit: Erik Hokeson

I stand in a gallery space, wrap my head with a red fabric, and hold an umbrella. I start to draw circles on my belly button, and then expand it to the whole belly. While I am consistently drawing circles on my belly, I drip saliva. The saliva gradually run down from my chest and my belly, mixed with the red ink, and run down to my feet.

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Just Another Mouth to Feed

Chun Hua Catherine Dong's performance in New York: she was half naked, stood in a crib, lift a red cover, and sang a sad songChun Hua Catherine Dong's performance in New York: she use a butcher knife and cut stuff animals' mouthsChun Hua Catherine Dong's performance in New York: she was half naked, ore a diaper, sat on a round table and drew circles on her diaper with a red sharpie markerChun Hua Catherine Dong's performance in New York: she was half naked, wore a diaper, dancing on a red carpetChun Hua Catherine Dong's performance in New York: she was half naked, wore a diaper, she wore a big shoe that she took from an audience, she stepped on peanut seeds with that big shoe. Chun Hua Catherine Dong's performance in New York: she was half naked, wore a diaper, she used medicine stethoscope to examine her whole body like a doctorJust-Another-Mouth-to-Feed-Chun-Hua-Catherine-Dong-12

90 minutes at Grace Exhibition Space, Brooklyn, NY, April 4, 2014, photo credits: Miao Jiaxin

Just Another Mouth to Feed is a performance that explores visual culture of shame associated with vulnerability in its personal and socio-political dimensions, deconstructing the experience of shame through gestures, moments and audience participation. Shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person. It is an innate human reaction rooted in childhood experience, and it is linked to sexuality and the cultural norms that regulate the body. In this performance, I create a fictional figure: a girl who wears a mouthpiece and diaper. The reason she is like that is because when she was born, she was told that she was just another mouth to feed. At her time and the place she was born, being a girl is a mistake. For her, shame is like a birthmark that she has to carry from her birth to death. In this performance, I divide her life to seven stages: Newborn, Childhood, Youth, Adult, Mid Age, Elder, and Death. She encounters and expresses different type of shame in each stage of her life. The performance enacts these affective states through gesture, humor and exaggeration.

 

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