«Visualising culture and gender: postcolonial feminist analyses of women's exhibitions in Taiwan, 1996-2003 This item was submitted to Loughborough ...»
In Vacuum, the artistic concepts deny and ignore the sexuality of the glass dolls, unified as a group rather than as individuals, to absorb and transfer the light and heat. Through this method, there are no sexual characteristics of the dolls as they are more like an agent to enable these physical properties. The dolls, being cyborgs, are created as a non-organic family structure and have no origins of sexuality. The asexual dolls are symbols of post-human conditions, which are created by science rather than by a genetic family. For the artist, the dolls provide a means for her to present her fantasy of dreaming about the origins of her childhood; memories of being brought up by her grandmother in the US whilst her parents were busy at work. 51 Vacuum demonstrates the fact that sexual, racial and class differences of bodies in cyberspace will be unified when technology becomes a key part of our lives Ibid., pp 54-55.
Teloma, ‘“Who Am I?” on Lin Tsai-Shuan’s Solo Exhibition, Punctum’, updated on 28 April 2000, http://www.wenxue.com/scene/b5/yuejing/whoami.htm, consulted on 22 November 2006.
M. Turner, © 2008 and for globalisation.
The final work to be addressed is Secret of Miss W (2003) [fig 92-95], created by Wang Tze-Yun. The main part of this work is a scrolling Light Emitting Diode (LED) display in the corner of a room fully painted in a fluorescent green colour. Wang deconstructs Chinese words by the Cangjie method, which is a system to divide Chinese words into several parts for use in the Microsoft Word program. Incomplete parts of Chinese words are shown in red moving across the scrolling LED display as if displaying information and secrets. According to Wang’s statements, these symbols resemble 0 and 1, which are the most basic elements of information and technology and are the indispensable formation of meaning. Wang breaks meanings into pieces to represent how information is understood by simplified marks, through which she intends to protect her privacy and security in cyber space. The title of this work, Secret of Miss W, refers to the transformation of her private data into ‘secrets’ whilst being in the public cyber-world. Wang therefore, asks herself ‘[i]f I deliver some information through the internet, am I assured that it can be done in privacy? Or can I control the route of the delivery?’ 52 As technology has become one of the most important parts of people’s lives in Taiwan, the public (but invisible) cyberspace has inspired the artist to create this work.
This work provides an opportunity to address the identity of minorities. The use of symbols for Chinese words showing oriental cultural input in the technological installation works, which originated in the West. As the English These questions are cited from artist’s statements published in the exhibition catalogue.
See Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, op cit, p 138.
M. Turner, © 2008 language has become the most common language in the cyber world, the presentation of other languages reveals the existence of a difference from English culture and ideology. It is said that computer science is designed for English speakers and this is the reason why Chinese speakers needed to invent Cangjie for their communication in computer technology. Even though the form in which the artist chose to present this work has similarities with some Western artists’ works, it is the use of the Chinese language which gives the work a new interpretation and a sense of cultural identity.
Cyberspace and the Intersectional Nature of Being Taiwanese From My Fingers (2003) received a lot of attention in the media, not only because of the fact that it is the ‘first’ international women’s art festival but because its financial support from the ‘first’ Bureau of Cultural Affairs in Kaohsiung City Government also promoted the popularity of the show. The governmental involvement in the show definitely increased the exposure of the venture and the city mayor’s and the chair of the Bureau’s participation in the opening has demonstrated the fact that art can be used as a political tool to express the government’s cultural policy.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that two minor projects were specifically organised to support this exhibition, including a group show, Women in May, held at the Kia-A-Thau Art Village, 17 May – 14 June 2003 and the Big Quilt Project 2003 [fig 96], staged on the grass outside the Museum on 4 May 2003.
Despite the fact that these two events did not respond to the curatorial theme of ‘women and technology‘ in From My Fingers, they represent the local voice reacting to the major event. Women in May was mounted to exhibit works M. Turner, © 2008 created by twelve women artists from Kaohsiung while the Big Quilt Project 2003 was a community project, where ninety women from several local social and educational groups were involved. 53 The organisation of these two projects largely increased the media and the public’s attention to the show, From My Fingers, and women’s art organised in Kaohsiung, an indirect result of which was that the administration office of the Taiwanese Women’s Art Association was then moved from Taipei to Kaohsiung in 2005, when the chair of the Association was Hsu Su-Chen, an artist based in Kaohsiung.
It is evident that the influence of From My Fingers does not centre on the curator’s main concerns for the current contemporary art trend, e.g. the adoption of technology as the media. Rather the press, the locals and the artists’ field still focused on the power of women’s gathering. This situation explains the reason why some exhibitions I have discussed in this research do not explicitly explore some of the significant theoretical arguments that I have emphasised.54 In other words, women’s group exhibitions are often simplified as women’s gathering, by which some essential themes of the curatorial concepts are overlooked. I see this situation as a process of progression, which will gradually become mature and which, over time, the public will According to the flyer of this event, these groups belong to the institutions which are ChengShiu Art Centre, Taiwanese Women Artists’ Association, Association of Kaohsiung Modern Art, Group of Kaohsiung women Artists, Association for Art Appreciation, Kaohsiung Awakening Association, Association of Women’s Welfares in Kaohsiung, Kaohsiung Monocotyledonous Orchid Association, Kaohsiung Community Association and Kaohsiung Lifeline Organisation. When this event was nearly finished, the curator Chen Yen-Shu asked every woman who took part to sign their names on a framed canvas beside the needles and threads they used for the quilt. The number was recorded by counting the number of signatures. This canvas has been kept as well as the big quilt in the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts.
The obvious example is that in the show Sweet and Sour Yeast, the curator Chang Hui-Lan overlooked the significant meaning of using formal colonial buildings as the site for the exhibition. Instead, she simply focused on women’s connection and power in alternative spaces.
M. Turner, © 2008 become more aware of the curatorial concepts.
To conclude this chapter, I need to return to the main themes of From My Fingers: cyborg, cyberspace, women and identity. Since Ada Lovelace’s discovery of simple computer logic in the mid nineteenth century, women’s contribution to technology cannot be ignored. With the increase in, and the popularity of internet access, women’s involvement in this electronic communication has attracted the attention of several scholars in the early to mid 1990s. Kolko et al confirm how those in academia began to write and
argue about this area of knowledge by claiming that:
Mark Poster, Allucquère Rosanne Stone and Sherry Turkle (to name but a very few) began writing in the early to mid-1990s about the multiple and dispersed self in cyberspace – a fluid subject that traversed the wires of electronic communication venues and embodied, through its virtual disembodiment, postmodern subjectivity.55 Cyberspace, a knowledge area of cultural studies, has only been discovered in recent years, and this situation is similar to that of postcolonial theories, which started to be widely addressed from the late 1980s onwards. However, in the fluid cyber-world, the issues of race and identity in cyberspace matter no less than in real life. Even though anyone can hide their genetic characteristics, i.e.
skin colour, age, hair etc, or even log-in to the world of the internet with anonymity, their experiences of being different can still be noticed in the cyber-world. The problems of race and the identity of the minority are addressed by very few scholars whose writings focus on cyber culture. This Kolko, Nakamura and Rodman. ‘Race in Cyberspace: an Introduction’ in Kolko et al (eds), op cit, p 4.
M. Turner, © 2008 situation reflects the fact that the first and second waves of feminism are mainly addressed by middle class and white women. These two waves of feminism often failed to include the problems of women of the developing world and it is only since the late 1980s that postcolonial feminists have started to include the topic of women from less material-privileged areas into academic research. Kolko et al assert that ‘there is very little scholarly work that deals with how our notions of race are shaped and challenged by new technologies such as the Internet’.56 One of the most influential publications concerning cyberspace and gender is Donna Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs and Women, already cited frequently in this chapter and which primarily focused on the issues of gender rather than other topics of identity.
There are very few resources and discussions on which to draw when I address the significant role race occupies in cyberspace in the developing world. Even though I have addressed the problems of race in the previous chapters, the artworks I have selected as examples of my arguments only focus on women’s views on the culture of technology rather than the discourse of race. As both Chen and the group of artists who participated in this exhibition are from the élite and/or the middle classes, they have not connected themselves with the working-class women, which is very different from the circumstances of the curator, Chang Yuan-Chien and the artists in the show, Lords of the Rim (1997-8), addressed in the second chapter. 57 Ibid., p 8.
I was invited to join the artist group, Black Cats at Takao, to create a big installation for this exhibition and I was also a member of the TWAA during the period when this exhibition was under curatorial discussion. Therefore, I had an opportunity to access the detailed information of how this show was curated and how the artists were invited for the show. In my experience of working with the invited artists and the curator, I observed that the gap between classes in Taiwan had made women in the upper class unable to understand the lives of the M. Turner, © 2008 Therefore, I argue that they either overlooked or ignored the situation of Taiwanese women who were not given consideration for this exhibition in spite of the fact that it was they who produced many of the technological facilities exported to the world market. Ironically, despite the fact that postcolonial theories have not been widely argued in cyber culture, we cannot deny the fact that as the English language is the most common and important language to be used on the internet, there exists a sense of re-recognition of one’s identity, especially for those who are not English-speakers. Regarding the use of language in cyberspace, Mark Warschauer comments on the subject as
As the saying goes, nobody on the Internet knows that you’re a dog, nor can they easily determine if you’re black or white, male or female, gay or straight, or rich or poor. But they can immediately notice what language and dialect you are using - and that language is usually English.58 Only when Taiwan started to seek its identity in the vast growth of the cyber-world, did it start to develop its websites in its own language, through which it is capable of generating its identity in the globalised world. In addition to using a nation’s language, other than simply English, to develop an identity in cyberspace, the use of the language in women artists’ works also achieves the same result. For example, in Wang Tze-Yun’s Secret of Miss W, the elements of Chinese characters used, emphasise the difference of being Oriental even though the title of this work is still adopted from an English letter
working class. The problems of women’s labouring in the science industry were thus not explored and shown in the exhibition, From My Fingers.
Warschauer, Mark. ‘Language, Identity, and the Internet’ in Kolko et al (eds), op cit, p 156.
M. Turner, © 2008 ‘[l]anguage-as-identity’59 can therefore be seen through Secret of Miss W and this work records who the artist is.
In 1996, Joe Lockard wrote that ‘[w]e are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth’.60 Lockard’s statements indicate a phenomenon that the new capitalism, made of machines and internet facilities, has invited everyone regardless of their race and gender, to create an utopia. This phenomenon is similar to that which has been provoked by globalisation, addressed in the previous chapter and which is the link that connects most people in the world.
However, seeking individuality in globalisation is essential for a nation to establish its identity, and in cyberspace, people have a similar attitude in terms of looking for nationalism.
Postcoloniality and feminism therefore become essential themes to explore as Taiwan is experiencing urbanism, internationalism, industrialisation and cyberfeminism. Meanwhile, government policies have played a key role in deciding the directions for the nation and its social policies. When art is able to visualise the stories of a nation, international exhibitions become more and more important to promote artists and nation beyond geopolitical territories.
As Taiwan’s economy experiences its enormous boost, the Taiwanese have realised that production can be used for the sake of culture rather than simply for manufacturing development. As a result, I chose this exhibition as the final The term ‘language-as-identity’ comes from Warschauer’s ‘Language, Identity and the Internet’, to describe how languages signify historical and social boundaries. Ibid., p 155.