«Visualising culture and gender: postcolonial feminist analyses of women's exhibitions in Taiwan, 1996-2003 This item was submitted to Loughborough ...»
M. Turner, © 2008 surfers may reconstruct themselves in a multiplicity of dazzling roles, changing from moment to moment according to whim.26 In the world of cyberspace, there are no clear lines between every individual and everyone can get involved in conversations in all sorts of topics at any time.
A re-interpreted understanding of gender and differences has been created and the exhibition, From My Fingers, was inspired by this new exploration of the world order. More importantly, Chen brought questions about how women’s lives have been changed in this kind of technological age and how women’s artistic creation can intervene in Taiwan’s social environment. 27 Apart from the curator’s concepts for the show, I am actually more interested in ‘coloured’ women’s involvement in the cyber world.
In ‘a Cyborg Manifesto’, Haraway describes the roles of ‘coloured women’ in
the computer assembling industry and proposes that:
‘Women of colour’ are the preferred labour force for the science-based industries, the real women for whom the world-wide sexual life market, labour market and politics of reproduction kaleidoscope into daily life […] young Korean women hired in the sex industry and in electronics assembly are recruited from high schools, educated for the integrated circuit.28 Haraway argues that whilst white, male, middle-class men and women are enjoying the convenience and adventure of cyberspace, coloured women are labouring in industry to produce these facilities. Those women are usually Stallabrass, Julian. ‘Empowering Technology: The Exploration of Cyberspace’ in New Left Review, No 211, May/June 1995, p 15.
This curatorial arguments can be found at the curatorial statements published in the exhibition catalogue. See Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, op cit, p 22.
Op cit, p 174.
M. Turner, © 2008 employed to do the job because they are globally considered to be ‘cheap’ labour forces. Consequently, Haraway further addresses the point that ‘“women of colour” might be understood as a cyborg identity, a potent subjectivity synthesised from fusions of outsider identities […]’. 29 The paradox between women of the developed and the developing worlds (who are the main labour forces but not necessarily technology users) is the key element in this chapter. The coming of industrialisation and the invention of computing has served to alleviate some of the burden of human labouring, but in reality it has also brought more suffering to many women of the developing world, rather than providing them with any sense of enjoyment through the hardware that they produce. Nevertheless, this situation is changing gradually because, in the developing nations most heavily involved with technology, the number of middle-class women has increased and they are no longer an element of the labour force; now they too can use the technology that they have helped to create as a means of improving their own lives.
Due to a different social background than the West, women of the developing world have different perspectives from which to confront cyberspace. I am interested in their attitudes towards cyberspace and how they consider their identity within their industrial business and how they express their perspectives through art. To continue and to give further arguments on this issue, I need to address the relationship between the problems of minorities and cyberspace.
Cyberspace and the Problems of Minority Those who were colonised in the past and who still live in the developing areas, Ibid.
M. Turner, © 2008 have the chance to communicate with those who were their previous colonisers at an equal level in this unlimited cyberspace. Beth Kolko, Lisa Nakamura and Gilbert Rodman explore discourses of problems related to the minorities by relating it to cyberspace, which can provide a powerful coalition building and progressive medium for ‘minorities’ separated from each other by distance and other factors. On the other hand, these nodes of race in cyberspace are marked as being parts of the whole, islands of otherness in a largely white, male, and middle-class cyberspace.30 Kolko, Nakamura and Rodman address the fact that in cyberspace, minorities and the inferior (read: in terms of races, colours and classes) are given equal opportunities to those who are superior in society and the world orders. As a result, the chance exists for every individual from any part of the world to become a part of ‘the whole’ in cyberspace. The label of ‘being a minority’, therefore, does not exist in the cyber world. It is in cyberspace that Taiwanese women can search for and discuss information beyond the social moral ideology and it is only in cyberspace that it is easier for Taiwanese women to communicate outside the geographical boundaries of the island, especially when they are not provided with the convenience to travel freely outside of the island. 31 Because of the use of high-tech means of communication, the differences in biological and cultural appearance will not be easily noticed when they are simplified as images and text shown on a screen. For example, when logging-on to internet discussion forums, most individuals are Kolko, Beth E, Lisa Nakamura and Gilbert B Rodman (eds). Race in Cyberspace. New York and London: Routledge, 2000, p 9.
As Taiwan is not internationally recognised as a nation with sovereignty, the Taiwanese people need to seek a visa to travel to any country in the world, except for Japan.
M. Turner, © 2008 represented as a title rather than by their real names and the title usually consists of English letters despite the fact that English is not their mother tongue. Regarding the fact that English is the most common language used in cyberspace, I shall further address this point in the later part of the argument.
In addition to the titles used on the web, many people prefer to choose an image, known as an avatar (usually something other than a photograph of themselves), with which to be identified.
Technology provides artists with the possibility to explore their imaginations and ideologies; it becomes a kind of vehicle to carry artists’ cultural elements and sources, through which to address their individuality. The question of identity and race within cyberspace and technology is rarely discussed in academia, as it is a new territory of knowledge, only emerging since the 1990s when globalisation became the key element to bring the world to cyberspace.
It has now become a global phenomenon that most people communicate more often through emails (rather than by posting a letter), check news and the weather forecast on-line, make their holiday travel bookings through a website, manage their savings by internet banking, etc. For feminists in the developing area, their concerns are not only how they can be heard and seen via technology but also how their concerns about feminism can be addressed through it. For instance, Radhika Gajjala examines how postcolonial feminism (ie. feminism for women from materially disadvantaged regions, so-called ‘Others’ to the West) can be exposed through the effects of
technology, and she asks:
Will women all over the world be able (allowed) to use technologies under M. Turner, © 2008 conditions that are defined by them and therefore potentially empowering to them? Within which Internet-based contexts will women of less material and cultural privilege within ‘global’ power relations be able to develop collaborative work, and coalitions, to transform social, cultural, and political structures?32 Indeed, when most of the ‘headquarters’ of the internet are based in the developed world, we should consider what kinds of perspectives do women from the developing world hold when they are in the process of being seen and getting near to the core of power.33 When the middle-class women of the developing world have increased in number, they are more likely to be heard
subaltern can be heard via technology is problematic and I propose that by researching how Taiwanese women artists use the term, cyberfeminism, in their art, we can observe the struggle of the Others as they manage to move closer to the core and to be viewed through the means of Westernisation (e.g.
being able to use English and being aware of Western culture).
In recent years, Taiwanese women artists, as inferior in gender and as people of the developing world, have contributed to the arguments about how technology and computers can reshape their lives and the public’s ideology.
Traditional positions of subjectivity and objectivity in real life dilute their positions in cyberspace as biology and culture can no longer determine who is able or allowed to participate in the world of technology. Nevertheless, I suggest that some characteristics of minority have been kept, and this will be Gajjala, Radhika. Cyber Selves: Feminist Ethnographies of South Asian Women. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, 2004, p 93.
Gajjala uses the word ‘headquarters’ to describe the most important parts of the geographical locations which control the internet world. Ibid.
M. Turner, © 2008 discussed in a later part of this chapter. In my view, a new perspective of postcolonial feminism is generated in the age of cyberspace and moreover, we are all creating the history of this theory either as scientists, the public, historians or artists.
A New Appearance of Identity In this section, I aim to address the importance of issues of race in relation to cyberspace. When acknowledging that cyberspace is generated in the West, we must also acknowledge that this happens at the expense of low-wage
element for postmodernism in the West, but for those women producing the hardware, it is merely a means of making a living. I intend to explore how Taiwanese women’s art practice is effecting a change as Taiwan’s growing economy enables them to ‘use’ rather than to ‘produce’ computer related materials for a living. I emphasise that there are surely issues of identity and hybridity contingent with applications of technology, as explained by David
It should not surprise us, then, that representing the otherness of cyberspace might involve forms of racial and ethnic otherness – especially hybridity, with its negotiation of identity and difference. Nor is it surprising that hybridity would be privileged, celebrated and even fetishised in the attempts to portray the shifting boundaries of an emerging postcolonial global economic structure and especially a resistance to that structure.34 Identity discourse occurs when people seek a position for themselves in historical and cultural environments and it usually presents itself in the form of Crane, David. ‘In Medias Race’ in Kolko et al (eds), op cit, p 90.
M. Turner, © 2008 hybridity. Hybridity, a presentation of transformation and resistance to confront changes and invading forces in terms of culture and politics, emerges to show subjectivity of ones’ strength. Ella Shohat and Robert Stam indicate that ‘women of colour might be understood as a cyborg identity, a potent subjectivity synthesised from fusions of outsider identities’.35 I suggest that there exists a different way than that in the West for Taiwanese women to ‘enjoy’ the cyber-constructed world and specifically for Taiwanese artists to use technology to create art. I propose three stages of the relationship between Taiwanese women and technology: they firstly ‘suffer’ from labouring in factories, then ‘own’ the facility when they become wealthier and finally ‘enjoy’ the technology, for example to create art with it. With the boost in economic development and with government’s policies after the lifting of martial law, Taiwan is moving further into the age of technology under the influence of a belief that geographical and political boundaries disappear in the imagined cyber-world. Artworks in the exhibition are clear evidence of the changing characteristics and ideologies of Taiwan, which are revealed through the means of technology.
From My Fingers Eight Taiwanese women artists and seven women artists from countries in East and Southeast Asia were invited to participate in this show, including Hsieh Juin Hung-Chun, Hsu Su-Chen, Tari Ito (Japan), Lin Debbie Tsai-Shuan, Liu Shih-Fen, Phoebe Ching Ying Man (Hong Kong), Ling Fan, Mina Choen (Korea), Varsha Nair (Indian working in Thailand), Joan Pomero (French but Shohat, Ella and Robert Stam. Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media.
London: Routledge, 1994, p 174.
M. Turner, © 2008 working and living in Taiwan), Margaret Tan (Singapore), Shirley Tse (Hong Kong), Wang Tsui-Yun, Wang Tzu-Yun and Wu Mali [fig 79].36 Moreover, Chen invited two women artists’ groups from Kaohsiung and Taipei, each of which created a collaborative work to respond to the curatorial themes. The women artists’ groups were entitled Black Cats at Takao and Sin Log Gi.
Since this exhibition was organised as the second members’ exhibition of the Association of Taiwanese Women Artists, the choosing of Taiwan’s artists has been based on a selection from among its members.37 The Black Cats at Takao was composed of eleven artists, including Chang Hui-La, Chen Ming-Hui, Chen Yi-Fang, Chiu Yu-Feng, Chiu Tsu-Yuan, Chuang Tsai-Chin, Huang Ying-Yu, Lai Fang-Yu, Lin Li-Hua, Liu Su-Shin and Tsay Tzong-Fen. The work, Black Cats’ Virtual Adventures [fig 80-82] imagines various humorous ways that people (especially housewives) can access computers and the Internet in their everyday life. It also explores the uneasiness of being watched by CCTVs, which are hidden in many corners of public space in Taiwan. The group, Sin Log Gi, was organised in 2001 with the intention of using multi-media as the means to create three-dimensional works, computer interactive programs and theatre writings. Sin Log Gi was a cooperation between three artists, namely Wu I-Chien, Cheng Huang-Ching and Tsao Lo-I. Their work, Workshop for Evolution – Phase I (2003) [fig 83 and fig 84], an interactive multi-media piece, makes experiments dealing with how pregnant women’s emotions, food, and external elements, such as weather, can affect babies’ reactions in the womb.
All of them are Taiwanese, unless stated otherwise.
The exhibition, Sweet and Sour Yeast (2001-2002) was the first members’ group show of the Association of Taiwanese Women Artists.