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Visualising culture and
gender: postcolonial feminist
analyses of women's
exhibitions in Taiwan,
This item was submitted to Loughborough University's Institutional Repository
by the/an author.
• Submitted in partial fullment of the requirements for the award of Doctor
of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
c Ming-Hui Chen
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Visualising Culture and Gender:
Postcolonial Feminist Analyses of Women’s Exhibitions in Taiwan, 1996-2003 by Ming Turner A Doctoral Thesis Submission in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University May 2008 © Ming-Hui Chen (2008) For my beloved parents, Mr Chen Wu-Lung ( ) and Mrs Chen Liu Wan-Tze ( ), and my brothers, Chen Rui-Hong ( ) and Chen Tzung-Ching ( ) Thesis Abstract This thesis examines a selection of Taiwanese women’s exhibitions, held between 1996 and 2003. It explores the questions related to contemporary Taiwanese women’s art and how art exhibitions can demonstrate women’s role in the post-martial law period (since 1987) in the intersections of Taiwan’s culture, history, economy, social classes and its relationship with the rest of the globe. It investigates the particular perspectives that women artists (as the subordinate part of Taiwan’s patriarchal society) have contributed to the interpretation of the complex nature of Taiwanese presence. It also aims to identify a wide range of dimensions that women’s art exhibitions enable us to question women’s particular contribution to visualising the concepts and impact of what constitutes the multiple Taiwanese identities.
The research is driven by a triangular relationship, consisting of theory, culture and art, in which each element influences the other two. As my focus is on the ambivalent and hybridised culture of Taiwan, I have chosen specific postcolonial and feminist theories to examine its art.
I have categorised my thesis into three parts, covering six selected exhibitions. In Part I (Re-positioning History), I juxtapose both political and economic histories and examine issues related to national identity, nationalism, working-class women, industrialisation and Subaltern Studies. In the second Part (Colonial Heritage), my focus is centred on physical colonial space and on domestic micro space, where Homi Bhabha’s concepts of hybridity and in-betweenness are the main themes to address the ambiguity of Taiwanese conditions. In Part III (International Perspectives), my concern is the position of contemporary Taiwan, dealing with issues related to Westernisation, globalisation, urbanism and cyberspace. I argue that a new form of identity is generated in cyberspace and that women artists are visualising hybridised culture in the virtual world.
Ultimately, I propose that Taiwanese women artists are contributing to the visualisation of a hidden but essential part of Taiwan’s historiography, as well as the shifting nature of contemporary Taiwanese culture, through which an open yet complex field is created for us to explore.
Table of Contents
PART I Re-positioning History 1 Historical Narratives and National Identity:
the 2.28 Commemorative Exhibition (1997) 53 2 Economic History and Hidden Women:
Lords of the Rim: in Herself/ for Herself (1997-1998) 98
PART III International Perspectives 5 Globalisation and Urban Culture: Taipei Biennial 1996 205 6 Cyberfeminism and Discourses of Identity:
From My Fingers: Living in the Technological Age (2003) 247
Acknowledgements I would not have been able to complete this thesis without help from many people who have been very kind in providing me with all sorts of support. I am extremely grateful for the inspirational and insightful supervision from both Dr Marsha Meskimmon and Dr Jane Tormey. I especially thank Dr Gillian Whiteley, who was extremely helpful in carefully reading through my first draft and suggesting ways to edit and improve my text and arguments. Thanks too, to my examiners, Dr Dorothy Rowe and Dr Marion Arnold, who provided me with many valuable and intellectual suggestions for improvement and corrections. I should also mention those colleagues in LUSAD and my friends who have been very supportive during my four years of research. My grateful thanks go to Dr Clive Edwards, Sandra Leeland, David Chapman, Kim Tyler, Deborah Harty, Raff Dewing, Andy Chong, Ben Dolman, Beccy Kennedy, Sue and Dave Clews. My previous colleagues in the Taiwanese Women’s Art Association have also been very supportive, providing me with research materials and answering my enquires. Indeed, my involvement with the Association during 2001 and 2003 was my motivation to conduct this project.
Therefore, I am deeply grateful to Professor Lin Pey-Chwen, Professor Victoria Lu, Chang Hui-Lan, Chen Yen-Shu, Chang Jin-Yu, Chien Fu-Yu, Hsiao Li-Hung, Lin Pin and Wu Mali.
On a personal note, I thank my beloved parents and brothers at home, on the other side of the world, who have always shown their respect for whatever I have planned to do, and for their trust that I can achieve my ambitions. Finally, I do not think that I could have finished my research without the care and love of my best friend and husband, Colin Turner, whose unwavering support, patience and wisdom have been invaluable on this journey of discovery.
Preface You go round the entire globe: when you know what everybody else is, then you are what they are not. Identity is always in that sense, a structured representation which only achieves its positive through the narrow eye of the negatives.1 September 2005 was an important moment in my life. It was then that I was unable to obtain a visa to visit Italy where I had some works on show in an exhibition. This made me realise for the first time that being in a minority, especially being a resident alien, meant that I had subordinate status. It also occurred to me that because of my nationality, I was not readily entitled to partake of most of the world’s systems and resources. Italy and the West recognised my art but I, as a person, could not obtain permission to visit my own show, even though my name was printed in the publicity material produced by the British Council detailing UK participation in the Venice Biennale. The simple fact of having been born in the developing world, meant that I could not easily pass the interview of the Italian embassy. My nationality sticks to me like a label which I cannot remove and the same is true of my colour, race and gender. Not until I left Taiwan, coming to England to begin my PhD research in the summer of 2003, did I become aware of my predicament as a citizen of a nation that is not universally recognised. It gives rise to situations in which I am denied the respect and the opportunities accorded to other people who are Hall, Stuart. ‘The Local and the Global: Globalization and Ethnicity’ in King, Anthony (ed).
Culture, Globalization and the World System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1991, p 21. For the sake of consistency, in all of the footnotes in this thesis, I use English spelling rules, ie: ‘ise’, not ‘ize’; labour not labor;
colour not color; catalogue, not catalog, centre not center, etc. Those that have been changed will not be shown with square brackets.
citizens of states with stronger governments and established geopolitical identities.
Only when people are living away from their home countries do they realise in full the importance and meaning of national identity. It hardly occurred to me to argue about issues of identity when I was living in Taiwan, which indicates that it is diasporic people who tend to seek their identity in terms of nation and culture.
Kurt Brereton, an Australian artist and academic who has regularly visited Taiwan since 1998, proposes in Hyper Taiwan (2005), that ‘with more than a third of the population living abroad, the Taiwanese Diaspora is greater than most any other in the world – except perhaps for the Irish, some Greek Islands and European Jews’.2 Although many of the Taiwanese living abroad do so for economic investment reasons, there has been an increasing number of people emigrating to other countries to seek a sense of security in politics and society, especially under the ever present military threat from Mainland China. For many years, Taiwan has been very isolated in the world and has been either expelled or excluded from virtually all of the key international organisations.3 Taiwan is the only country that is excluded from the United Nations, although its population numbers twenty-three million.4 Furthermore, even though being the world’s seventeenth largest economy, Taiwan's diplomatic partners have Bereton, Kurt. Hyper Taiwan. Taipei: Art & Collection Group, 2005, p 46.
One recent example is that for the tenth time, Taiwan’s bid in 2006 to be granted observer status (not even membership) by the World Health Organization has been rejected. Taiwan has been ostracised due to China’s relentless and arbitrary insistence that Taiwan must not be recognised as an independent political entity. Relevant information can be found in Gau, Michael. ‘WHO’s Deal with China is a Shame’ in Taipei Times, Taipei, Sunday, 21 May 2006, p 8.
The evidence can be seen in Andrew Morris’s argument that ‘[w]ith the admission of Tuvalu into the UN in 2000, [Taiwan] is the last nation in the world to be excluded from the world body’.
Morris, Andrew D. ‘Taiwan’s History: an Introduction’ in Jordan, David K., Andrew D. Morris and
Marc L. Moskowitz (eds). The Minor Arts of Daily Life: Popular Culture in Taiwan. Honolulu:
University of Hawai’i Press, 2004, 31.
dwindled to fewer than two dozen countries, most of which are small Latin American, Caribbean and African countries or Pacific island nations.5 Under the trends of globalisation, those who have travelled and kept moving between boundaries have re-interpreted their roles and positions from various perspectives. It is this kind of phenomenon that provides the impulse for my research, to uncover the reality and the myth of being a Taiwanese woman, and
homeland for an extended period of time, my primary concerns have been centred on my national identity, my memory and my imagination of home, all of which reveal a state of ambivalence and uncertainty.
My being outside of the geopolitical boundary of Taiwan has provided me with the opportunity to investigate the development of contemporary art on the island with an open eye and an open mind. Furthermore, as a part of the ethnic Chinese diaspora in England, I am fortunate enough to be able to observe the difference in life styles and cultures between my motherland and my current geographical location. The different languages I use, the food I eat, the clothes I wear and the people I have met all remind me of where I originate from and of what Taiwaneseness can be. As a consequence of this, apart from collecting first-hand materials (including exhibition catalogues, newspaper cuttings, journal articles, etc), this research has been conducted mainly responding to the ‘cultural shock’ I have experienced, which has aroused new
differences I see between myself and the Englishness around me have Andrew Morris asserts that ‘[t]he world’s seventeenth largest economy, Taiwan is recognised by less than two dozen tiny African and Caribbean nations’. Ibid.
strengthened my intention to explore both the attributes of Taiwaneseness and myself as a real being.
After nearly four years research of contemporary Taiwanese women’s art, the process of trying to outline what Taiwan is and the characteristics of gender issues in Taiwan have gradually directed me to another route - to investigate my current situation in England. In my mind, the ambiguous character of belonging has been shifted between the island, Taiwan, on the western rim of the Pacific Ocean, to England, on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean. My initial search for identity as a Taiwanese woman artist has changed as a result of what Ien Ang has described as a sense of ‘uneasiness’.6 Thus, being a part of the group of people who have kept moving across geographical boundaries under globalisation, perhaps my next task will be to search for my sense of belonging. However, this time it is about my relocation to England.
Regarding the term, uneasiness, Ang states that ‘the concepts of hybridity should be mobilised to address and analyse the fundamental uneasiness inherent in our global condition of togetherness-in-difference’. Ang, Ien. On Not Speaking Chinese: Living Between Asia and the West. London and New York: Routledge, 2001, p 200.