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«Visualising culture and gender: postcolonial feminist analyses of women's exhibitions in Taiwan, 1996-2003 This item was submitted to Loughborough ...»

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M. Turner, © 2008 this exhibition has encouraged more and more curatorial women’s shows in Taiwan from the mid 1990s. Here, it is interesting to make the connections between Sexuality & Power, the 2.28 Commemorative Exhibition and Lords of the Rim: in Herself/ for Herself as the last two shows have strong concepts to construct what was ignored in the Taipei Biennial 1996. Wu Mali denounces the role of Shieh and the structure of the Biennial by asserting that ‘[this show] looks more like a report of severe sexual discrimination in Taiwan’.53 The presentation of this show was an early trial for organising a ‘women’s’ show and even though the curatorial concerns were not complete, this show did contribute to the promotion of Taiwan in the international art scene. From 1998, the Taipei Biennial has been conducted by two curators: one Taiwanese and one established foreign curator. Additionally, the Taipei Biennial 1998 was designed as an international show by inviting artists from the island and from abroad, through which the government’s ambition is expressed to promote Taiwan’s images as a globally independent entity.

As cities begin to expand, to develop and to create their own unique characteristics and properties, the women in this kind of environment are required to adjust their way of thinking in order to catch up with the new trends in urban areas. It is in this context that a re-interpretation of traditional values is essential in order to survive. Thus, women in urban areas have the possibility of de-constructing the old values that have been imposed upon them and this has encouraged more and more women’s art exhibitions, providing them with a chance to transform the traditions of their worlds.

Wu, Mali. ‘There Isn’t Enough Femininity behind the 1996 Taipei Biennial’ in China Times, 24 August 1996, p 39.

M. Turner, © 2008 Through large-scale exhibitions, a new appearance of women’s art is emerging and it is becoming a powerful means to encourage the public to re-consider sexuality and gender identity. Most importantly, contemporary exhibitions visualise Taiwanese women’s lives and culture, and what is perceived as the complexity of being Taiwanese.

M. Turner, © 2008

Cyberfeminism and Discourses of Identity:

From My Fingers: Living in the Technological Age (2003)

In 2003, the first Taiwanese women’s technology exhibition, From My Fingers:

Living in the Technological Age [fig 76], was held in the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts [fig 77], organised by the Taiwanese Women’s Art Association (TWAA). This was its second annual members’ exhibition and was on show between 8 May and 27 July 2003.1 The subtitle of this show was ‘The First International Women’s Art Festival in Taiwan’ and the show was curated to echo the celebration of Women’s Day.2 The curator, Chen Elsa Hsiang-Chun, invited Taiwanese women, and women artists living and working in Asia, to respond to the phenomenon of developing high technology and cyberspace in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in Taiwan. The theme of the show was to investigate how technology has increasingly influenced lives of women and how cyberspace has changed women’s attitudes to sexuality and identities.3 This exhibition included many installations and technological artistic works, very different from what women were creating in the mid 1990s, and different from what I have examined in previous chapters.

The first members’ exhibition was entitled, Sweet and Sour Yeast: A Sweet Conversation between Kia-A-Thau Sugar Factory and Taipei Winery, held at the Hua-Shan Arts District in Taipei and the Kia-A-Thau Art Village in Kaohsiung in 2001 and 2003. More details are given in Chapter 3.

International Women’s Day takes place on the 3rd of April every year but the date did not match the time scheduled for the show. Nevertheless, another important day for women in Taiwan, Mother’s Day, influenced by American culture, is on the second Sunday of May each year. The exhibition, hence, responds to Mother’s Day rather than International Women’s Day, even though the latter is used as the title for the show.

Chen, Elsa Hsiang-Chun. ‘Cultural Transition in the Technological Age: From My Fingers:

Living in the Technological Age’ in Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts. From My Fingers: Living in the Technological Age, The First International Women’s Art Festival in Taiwan, 2003. Exh.

Cat.,Kaohsiung, 2003, pp 16-17.

M. Turner, © 2008 In this chapter, I investigate how the Taiwanese government is focusing its nation’s resources on technology and how the direction of this development becomes a trend not only in Taiwan but also in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. I then argue the relationship between technology and women by relating the story of Ada Lovelace and her discovery of the significant link between weaving and computer science. A new binary order established via technology will be demonstrated with a comparison of the binary relationship in gender. Before looking at some artworks as evidence for my argument, I argue that issues affecting the minorities and the identity of Taiwanese women (as one of the main labour forces in the industry of global computer production) are becoming seen in cyberspace.

Cyberspace and Visual Art Chen invited the well-known cyberfeminist artist, Faith Wilding, to publish her article, Where is Feminism in Cyberfeminism?, in the exhibition catalogue. As a result, the term, cyberfeminism, became the main theme around which the show was organised. Cyberfeminism, which first appeared as a phenomenon in the 1970s but only began to be discussed in the early 1990s, argues that the internet and technology have provided women with a new means of addressing gender issues.4 Cyberfeminism responds to contemporary global art trends and emerges with the increased interest in technology. The use of cyberfeminism as a focus for this exhibition marks recognition of the fact that technology has played an important role in Taiwan’s society and that In On the Matrix: Cyberfeminist Simulations, Sadie Plant stated that ‘[t]he cyberfeminist virus first began to make itself known in the early 1990s.’ See Kirkup, Gill, Linda Janes, Kathryn Woodward and Fiona Hovenden (eds). The Gendered Cyborg: A Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2000, pp 265-266.

M. Turner, © 2008 technology has been one of the Taiwanese government’s primary policies for developing the island.

The notion of cyberfeminism as a theme in Taiwan is provoked directly by the change of government’s policies and indirectly by the growth in people’s wealth, which allows them to afford computers and broadband facilities, whilst the trend of industrialisation in the Asia-Pacific region has brought technology to people’s lives. In many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, IT and high technology have become a major strategy for their respective governments to develop their nations’ economy and environment. This trend has been developed as the strategy to promote the images of many nations in Asia, including South Korea, Japan, Singapore etc, and to upgrade each nation from developing to developed status through the growth of their economy. As a result of the Taiwanese government’s decision to develop high technology as a means to survive in the global economy, a cyber-world has, therefore, influenced most people’s lives in Taiwan. This phenomenon is evident in the everyday use of microwave ovens, televisions, radios, computers, air conditioners, etc. The power and influence of government policy encourages the idea of a media environment, which has facilitated the rapid growth of wireless communication and cyber culture. After hundreds of years of colonisation by different nations and cultures, Taiwan eventually decided to embrace technology in order to catch up with the globalised world environment after gaining its democracy and freedom in 1987.

Cyberspace and technology have provided us with an indefinite space which anyone from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds has the chance to M. Turner, © 2008 access; therefore, once people are on-line, there is no geopolitical division of race, gender and colour. In East Asia, Globalization and the New Economy (2006), Gerard Adams asserts that ‘[n]ew communication and networking technologies enable East Asian countries to participate more easily, more effectively, and more widely in the “new economy” and e-business world’.5 According to Adams’s argument, East Asian countries are experiencing an e-world where things can be communicated and transported by technology and this phenomenon has also facilitated women’s exposure to the easily-accessed and imaginary world, created by technology and the internet.

Consequently, how women consider their traditional roles will be interpreted in this inorganic environment: cyberspace.6 In Taiwan, the first technology exhibition, French VIDEO Show, was shown in

–  –  –

Western ideas of video and high-tech works to the island and introduced a modern artistic language to Taiwan’s art circles. Since then, kinetic art, light art, cybernetic art, neon art, video art and high-tech art have been widely experienced and explored by Taiwanese artists. It was after the Taiwanese government’s policies announced the importance of technology as a part of the

Adams, F Gerard. East Asia, Globalization, and the New Economy. London and New York:

Routledge, 2006, p 4.

Either inorganic or non-organic environment refers to the situation where things are not organic and do not include living creatures or animals in nature. As a result, inorganic environment shows neither the difference between sex/gender nor any human characteristics;

only cyborgs exist there. Inorganic environment in the text means the time when the transference of information and the use of technology have dominated our lives rather than the contacts or exchange of individuals. This environment is what I define as ‘cyberspace’.

Chen Wen-Yao noted that the first technology art exhibition in Taiwan was French VIDEO Show shown in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and although the show only lasted for nine days, it made the term ‘tech art’ well known in the artistic field. Chen, Wen-Yao. Beyond the Deception of a City without Residents – A Critique of Yuan Goang-Ming’s Solo Exhibitions ‘Human Disqualified’, MA Dissertation. Taiwan: Tainan National University of the Arts, The Graduate Institute of Art History and Art Criticism, 2001, p 56.

M. Turner, © 2008 nation’s development that technological arts started to receive more sponsors than ever, which has therefore created a trend to which artists, art critics and curators devoted much more attention.8 The interest in technology arose in the artistic field not only because of the improvement of facilities and science but also because of the increase of public funding for projects relating to high-tech art. For example, this show was funded by several government institutions, including the Ministry of Education, the Council for Cultural Affairs of Executive Yuan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bureau of Cultural Affairs of Kaohsiung City Government, the Cultural Bureau of Kaohsiung County

–  –  –

exhibition was successfully supported by several private sponsors.9 In 2002, Taiwan’s authorities launched the six-year Challenge 2008 Development Plan to ‘foster the creativity and talent Taiwan needs to transform itself into a green silicon island’. 10 When arguing that art is one of the In recent years, there have been several foundations and institutes established with an aim to support the development of high-tech art in Taiwan. These organizations include the Yageo Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council in Taipei. From 2002, the Yageo Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council started a co-operative project, entitled the Yageo Tech-Art Award, to annually sponsor a Taiwanese artist for a six-month residency in New York, which suggests the fact that technological arts have more advantages, in terms of public attention and funding than traditional art. Further details can be found at http://www.yageofoundation.org. Before the award was established, it has been a kind of phenomenon in Taiwan’s artistic community that art creation and curatorial projects based on technology, rather than traditional materials, tend to receive more funding and awards from the National Art and Cultural Foundation and major competitions held in the museums.

The list of sponsors can be found in the exhibition catalogue, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts. Ibid., p 172. After the exhibition finished, the TWAA was awarded a grant to help to cover the loss caused by the unexpected influence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which was spreading on the island during the period when the exhibition was being held. The TWAA was sponsored for the sum of 58,685 Taiwanese dollars (approximately £948) by the National Culture and Arts Foundation in August 2003 and the funds were to cover the loss of organising an international conference regarding the exhibition. The loss included the expenses of publicity, insurance, tickets and travelling for speakers.

This statement is cited from Brereton, op cit, p 189. The background of announcing this policy can be found from the huge amount of Taiwan’s export business of electronic and electrical products. According to the data of the Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association (TEEMA), the production of electronic and electrical products in Taiwan in 2005 was worth 1,707.6 billion US dollars (about £883.68 billion), which is about M. Turner, © 2008 interfaces through which to observe a nation’s ideology and cultures, this exhibition has indicated that technology has become one of the most popular mediums for Taiwanese women artists to consider their roles in the twenty-first century.

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