«Visualising culture and gender: postcolonial feminist analyses of women's exhibitions in Taiwan, 1996-2003 This item was submitted to Loughborough ...»
M. Turner, © 2008 In addition, critical essays regarding the exhibitions should have been published and the shows need to be pertinent to gender issues and relevant social discourses. Furthermore, solo exhibitions have not been considered as their concepts tend to be more personal rather than dealing with issues regarding Taiwanese women’s art within a larger social and cultural framework.
I have categorised my thesis into three main topics: ‘Re-positioning History’, ‘Colonial Heritage’ and ‘International Perspectives’. Each of them covers two exhibitions, which have been chosen to respond to the topics during the period of 1996 to 2003. Choosing 1996 and 2003 as the starting and the ending points of my research is determined by two crucial exhibitions: the first official exhibition on gender issues, the 1996 Taipei Biennial, and The First International Women’s Art Festival in Taiwan, which was held in Kaohsiung in
2003.13 I have chosen four other exhibitions for my research project, by which I have divided the development of contemporary Taiwanese women’s arts into three main periods over six chapters in order to illustrate its trends in outline.14 At this stage, I should emphasise that I do not include exhibitions In the Taipei Biennial 1996, the theme, ‘Sexuality and Power’, is described by Wang Jin-Hua as the first show that ‘brings Taiwanese women’s art from private galleries to a public artistic “temple” and [through this show], the issue of gender has finally become one of the “subjectivities of Taiwanese art”’. Wang, J. H., op cit, p 29.
Women’s themed exhibitions, which were held between 1996 and 2003 but are not included in this thesis are Women-Women (Taipei International Art Centre, 1996), Mind and Spirit: Taiwanese Women’s Arts in Taiwan (Fine Arts Museum of Taipei, 1998), Women 60 (LungMen Art Gallery, Galerie Pierre and Hsin-Sheng-Tai Gallery, 1998), Women Interpret Women (Taichung Ching-Shiun Gallery, 1999), Heaven/ Men; Earth/ Women (Taichung, Chiayi and Tainan galleries, Taichung, 2000), Journey of the Spirits (Kaohsiung Fine Arts Museum, 2000-2001), Women˙Comfort (Hong-Gan Museum, Taipei, 2001), I Am the Bride (Kaohsiung Women’s Bureau, 2001), Absolute Body (Taipei Trend Gallery, 2001), Au Nom De Lui. (Taichung Providence University Art Centre, 2002), Show Colours: Women’s Art and Interpretation (Kaohsiung Dog-pig Art Café, 2002), Hsiungnu Artists: A Way towards Arts (Kaohsiung Chengshiu Art Centre, 2003) and Women in May (Kaohsiung Kia-A-Thau Art Village, 2003).
M. Turner, © 2008 which were organised as collections of women’s art, as they do not fall into the criteria of how I categorise the three main themes of my research.
However, during the selected period of my work, there were two themed exhibitions, which I have not considered: Journey of the Spirits (2000-2001) and Absolute Body (2001). Journey of the Spirits did not explicitly explore my main concerns, nation and culture, while Absolute Body overlapped the topic surrounding ‘body’, which is extensively addressed in Chapter 5 (on the 1996 Taipei Biennial).
I have selected six exhibitions, divided into three parts. In part I, ‘Re-positioning History’, I juxtapose both political and economic histories, two crucial fragments of Taiwan’s society, as the foundation of the whole thesis.
In the second part, ‘Colonial Heritage’, my focus is centred on colonial space, a physical space within the frames of colonial architecture, and on micro space, which is women’s domestic space, inspired by Chinese and Japanese textiles in colonial culture. In Part III, ‘International Perspectives’, my concern shifts from internal to external discourses, through which I consider the position of contemporary Taiwan in the structure of the globe. Here I need to emphasise that even though I chose the 1996 Taipei Biennial as the first case study for my research, I have categorised all selected exhibitions by the curatorial themes rather than by their chronological order. Therefore, the chapters start with a study of the 2.28 Commemorative Exhibition, held in 1997.
Chapter One, ‘Re-positioning History’ begins with the 2.28 Commemorative Exhibition (1997). By considering the significance of Taiwan’s history, I M. Turner, © 2008 argue that concepts of nation and nationalism have influenced women’s artistic creation and vice versa. In this chapter, Taiwan’s hybridised culture is initially interpreted in detail by looking at the complicated historical relationship between Taiwan, China and Japan. Using the ideas of Homi Bhabha on ‘ambivalence’, the uncertainty of Taiwanese culture and national identity emerges. Additionally, being inspired by Benedict Anderson’s concepts regarding the ‘imagined community’, I study the development of Taiwanese national identity and how it influences women’s artistic practice, as well as how women’s re-interpretation of history changes the concepts of nation.
In Chapter Two, I examine the connection between industrialisation and the women’s labour force, by examining the exhibition, Lords of the Rim: in Herself/ for Herself, which was staged in 1997 and 1998. Here, my focus shifts from colonial politics (in Chapter 1) to the development of the Taiwanese economy since the 1970s, during which period, Taiwan experienced an ‘economic miracle’. I address Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s ideas of how to define ‘women of the developing world’ and the concepts of ‘subalterns’, firstly proposed by the Subaltern Studies group. Both of these terms are applied to the women’s labour force in textiles during Taiwan’s industrialisation. In this exhibition, I argue that apart from the discourse of nation, Taiwanese women can also find their identity in the market of labour force and materials.
Under the second main topic, ‘Colonial Heritage’, I firstly analyse the show, Sweet and Sour Yeast (2001-2002), which was held in two former colonial M. Turner, © 2008 buildings, built during the Japanese colonisation of Taiwan. In this chapter, I intend to demonstrate the fact that the Taiwanese have transformed the perspectives taken towards their colonial past. Additionally, the ideas of ‘binarism’ (the colonisers and the colonised) are re-examined when the colonial subject (the Japanese power and colonial architecture) is used as an object for the exhibition. I suggest that the re-use of the colonial buildings in this show has visualised Bhabha’s concepts of ‘hybridity’ and ‘mimicry’, both of which will be addressed in detail in the chapter. Furthermore, I explore women’s sensory experience and their involvement in administration work in this show.
In the fourth chapter, community projects and women’s fabric arts are
BuBaoFu, held in 2003, gives evidence of the fact that Taiwanese women have hybridised traditional Chinese and Japanese handiworks (as a kind of colonial heritage) and given them a new appearance. The idea of ‘micro space’, introduced by the curator of the show, challenges how the domestic
addition, I would like to emphasise that the exhibition title, BuBaoFu, which has dual meanings itself, has symbolised the hybridised culture and the heterogeneous characteristics of contemporary Taiwan’s society.
Moreover, whilst the gap between different generations has been shown by the various perspectives adapted by different artists, I examine the ideas of Westernisation through their works.
Refer to Chapter 4 for the dual meanings of the term, BuBaoFu.
M. Turner, © 2008 In the first exhibition chosen for the last main topic, ‘International Perspectives’, the Taipei Biennial 1996: The Quest for Identity was conceived at a time when globalisation and urban cultures provided the two main terms and influences for this show. In the Taipei Biennial 1996, I investigate how new ideologies have been juxtaposed and hybridised in the Asia-Pacific region, by which I aim to demonstrate how large-scaled international exhibitions are curated to construct a Taiwanese national and cultural identity in the globalised environment. I specifically consider how Taiwanese women re-think traditional values in order to maintain their individuality within the trends of westernisation and globalisation. In this (fifth) chapter, the themes will also be centred on ‘power’ and ‘body’. In particular, I examine how contemporary Taiwanese women consider these terms in their artistic creation and how their works have expressed a new interpretation of looking at ‘power’ and ‘body’.
In the final chapter, The First International Women’s Art Festival in Taiwan (2003) is examined as a demonstration of the fact that the artistic climate for women artists has changed. From being considered merely as one category in an international biennial (the Taipei Biennial 1996), women artists have progressed to the holding of an international women’s festival, from which it can be seen that the role of women artists in 2003 was considerably more visible than it was in 1996. In this chapter, essentially I propose that cyberfeminism is used as a strategy by Taiwanese women artists to debate and challenge the patriarchal systems which still exist, despite a technology-led society. Additionally, I adapt the concepts of Bhabha’s ‘Third Space’, which is the ‘in-betweenness’ between the East and the West, to M. Turner, © 2008 address a new presentation and form of contemporary Taiwanese women’s art. Through analysing this show, I have observed that the advancement of technology has been one of the most important governmental policies in twenty-first century Taiwan, in place of the intense labour-focused textile industry addressed in chapter two.
To explain how I have categorised my chapters and how specific themes have been chosen, I should outline a very brief history of Taiwan, before going on to explore some key theoretical terms. In the following argument, I aim to emphasise the shifting of colonial power on the island.
A Brief History of Taiwan Situated less than 100 miles from the southeast coast of Mainland China, Taiwan is located in one of a string of archipelagos in the western Pacific Ocean, extending from Japan to Indonesia [fig 1]. For six hundred years, Taiwan was a destination for Chinese (Han) immigrants who are the ancestors of most of today’s Taiwanese. 16 Since the sixteenth century, Taiwan’s geographical location has made it a desirable strategic target during the phase of Western and Eastern imperialist expansion in East Asia. 17 Taiwan was first made known to the West as Ilha Formosa (meaning ‘beautiful island’) by Portuguese sailors, who were the first Europeans to land on the More detail regarding the history of Chinese (Han) immigration to Taiwan will be given in Chapter 1.
The fact that Taiwan was a desirable target for both Eastern and Western imperial powers can be seen in John E Wills, Jr’s research, which states that ‘[i]n the late 1500s many heavily armed ships – Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish – passed through the Taiwan strait every year, and the strategic position of Taiwan and P’eng hu [Peng-hu islands] attracted a good deal of attention. There were discussions in Japan in 1593 of an expedition to Taiwan’.
See Wills, John E, Jr. ‘The Seventeenth-Century Transformation: Taiwan under the Dutch and the Cheng Regime’ in Rubinstein, Murray A (ed). Taiwan: a New History. New York: East Gate, 1999, p 87.
M. Turner, © 2008 island in 1582, as the consequence of a shipwreck.18 It is argued by Niu Ciong-Hai that ‘[i]t was the Dutch who established a formal government in Formosa for the first time’ and this period of history happened during the time when the forces of Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands fought to conquer the Orient.19 In 1624, after eight months of fighting in Taiwan between the Dutch and the Ming Dynasty, the Dutch succeeded in gaining the right to occupy the island.20 Taiwan, therefore, fell into the hands of the Dutch who ruled it through the Dutch East India Company and who established Castle Providencia in Tainan (the south of Taiwan).21 However, the Dutch control over the island was not complete as at the same time, some Japanese traders remained on the island and the Spanish occupied some of the area around Tamsui (the north of Taiwan).22 With the increasing threat of the Manchus (a tribe located in the North East of China, who established the Qing Dynasty in 1636 and who ruled China from 1644-1911), the Ming Dynasty was eager to take over the island in order to increase its military strength. In 1661, Cheng Cheng-Kung, a soldier of the Ming Empire in China, forced the Dutch to leave the island, which resulted in the fact that ‘Taiwan had a Chinese ruler for the first time’.23 In 1683, Qing’s forces landed in Taiwan and in 1886, Taiwan was, for the first time, elevated to the level of a province of the Manchurian Empire. 24 See Wills, ibid. Also in Boxer, C.R. The Great Ship from Amacon: Annals of Macao and the Old Japan Trade, 1555-1640. Lisbon: Centro de Estudos Históricos Ultramarinos, 1959, p 44.
Niu, Ciong-Hai. ‘The Formation of the Formosan Nation’ in Formosan Quarterly, Vol, 1, No 2, 1962, p 45.
Ibid., p 46.
See Wills, op cit, p 95.