«Visualising culture and gender: postcolonial feminist analyses of women's exhibitions in Taiwan, 1996-2003 This item was submitted to Loughborough ...»
Robert Young further emphasises that by the First World War, ‘Britain governed one-fifth of the area of the world and a quarter of its population’. Young, R. (2001), op cit, p 2.
M. Turner, © 2008 imagined community for the once-colonised regions to re-consider their fate, future and hybridity of themselves.
However, apart from the ‘old’ colonial power before the First World War, the imperial power of Japan and the trend of globalisation from the United States, different kinds of anti-colonial struggles which have occurred more recently, have been formulated. These include East Timor by Indonesia, Tibet by China, Taiwan by the Nationalist Chinese, Kashmir by India, Palestine and the West Bank by Israel and the state of Israel itself. In addition, there are those tribal peoples who seek nothing more than their own survival, many of whom wish to, but cannot return to their own country, disadvantaged ethnic minorities and impoverished classes in most countries of the world, etc.91 Thus, the ‘colonial subject’ in postcolonialism has gone beyond the stereotypical imagination of imperialism as it can now be used to describe the subaltern status of ethnic or class minorities who live in the same society as the dominating part. Examples of this new kind of colonial relationship include working-class women, the majority of the Taiwanese aborigines who are at the marginal position in the spheres of economics and politics, and the ever increasing number of ‘foreign brides’ in Taiwan.92 See Young, R. (2001), op cit, pp 3-4.
In 1992, Taiwan started to have an increasing number of local men marrying foreign women, when foreign workers from Southeast Asia were allowed to work in Taiwan.
Statistics from the Cabinet’s Ministry of the Interior have shown that by July 2001, there were around 100,000 foreign brides in Taiwan, half of whom originated from Mainland China whilst the other half were from Southeast Asia. The term ‘foreign brides’ was created to describe these women, most of whom married Taiwanese men through agents. Max Hirsch has indicated that in 2006, one out of every eight newborns in Taiwan is from a cross-border family (in most cases from the foreign brides), something which most Taiwanese consider to be a ‘severe’ situation in Taiwan’s society. For more details, see Ko, Shu-Ling. ‘Foreign Brides in Taiwan: Wedding Bells for Foreigners’ in Taipei Times, Monday, 1 October 2001, p 3 and Hirsch, Max. ‘Cross-border Couples Discussed’ in Taipei Times, Thursday, 21 September 2006, p 2.
M. Turner, © 2008 Young has suggested that postcolonial critique, mainly generated in academic circles in the West, is actually to go against western ideology. He notes that [p]ostcolonial critique marks the moment where the political and cultural experience of the marginalised periphery developed into a more general theoretical position that could be set against western political, intellectual and academic hegemony and its protocols of objective knowledge.93 Postcolonial theory examines the binary opposition established between the colonised and colonisers in the spheres of culture and tradition, by which it intends to constitute another possibility of knowledge that is against the hegemony of the West. Nevertheless, in Edward Said’s 1994 Afterword to Orientalism (originally published in 1978), the author asserts his observations
on postcolonial studies and notes that:
[O]ne of the most interesting developments in post-colonial studies was a re-reading of the canonical cultural works, not to demote or somehow dish dirt on them, but to re-investigate some of their assumptions, going beyond the stifling hold on them of some version of the master-slave binary dialectic.94 Indeed, Said’s wise interpretation of postcolonialism is to re-investigate and re-formulate the colonisers’ absolute binary parts (developed/developing and Central/Margin). In other words, postcoloniality offers a bridge that forms a new relationship between the colonial subject and the colonised object. The individuality of the latter has been influenced by the former and this has given Young, R. (2001), op cit, p 65.
Said, Edward W. Orientalism. London: Penguin, 2003, pp 352-353.
M. Turner, © 2008 rise to a kind of hybridised culture which differs from that which existed before colonisation. Thus, postcolonialism is the process by which the once-colonised intend to establish their new voices, both in cultural and in national spheres. Furthermore, the essential nature of the artistic representation of postcolonialism not only reveals and places emphasis on its individuality but also re-locates the tensions between the colonised people and their colonisers. What I aim to seek in this thesis is the cultural outcome of the new structure of order and power, whilst contemporary artistic practices visualise this kind of possibility and knowledge.
Postcolonialism has been one of the most powerful discourses in contemporary cultural studies and it has been developed with the influence of globalisation. Arif Dirlik has proposed that ‘the post-colonial begins with the emergence of global capitalism’,95 and that ‘[it is] not in the sense of an exact coincidence in time but in the sense that the one is a condition for the other’.96 Postcolonialism and global capitalism have been essential elements for one another and it was not until global capitalism spread to, and economic development took place, in the developing regions of the world that the situation of being ‘Janus-faced’ came to be discussed more seriously and academically.97 This phenomenon also exists in Taiwan and the ways in which Taiwanese women have re-interpreted their gender myth under the influence of the trends of globalisation and postcolonialism will be discussed Dirlik, Arif. The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of Global Capitalism.
Boulder: Westview Press, 1997, p 352.
The term ‘Janus-faced’ is used by Homi K Bhabha to mean that the situation is vague and not definable, which implies the process and phenomenon of hybridity. In the original text it is stated that ‘[t]he boundary is Janus-faced and the problem of outside/inside must always itself be a process of hybridity’. Bhabha, Homi. ‘Introduction: Narrating the Nation’ in Bhabha, Homi (ed). Nation and Narration. London and New York: Routledge, 1990, p 4.
M. Turner, © 2008 in greater depth in later chapters.
Postcoloniality has transformed the appearance of the developing nations and it is in evidence as a global condition within the developing regions, including the Asia-Pacific region. A Taiwanese scholar, Chen Fang-Ming, believes that postcolonialism is ‘nothing but the establishment of identity’.98 In summary, postcoloniality is the process by which a people seeks for its own location in terms of its culture, politics and history.
For Taiwanese artists, postcolonial ideology can be traced back to the 1940s and to the work of several woodblock printmakers. These artists, including Ju Ming-Kang, Mai Chun-Kuang and Liu Lun, had strong socialist values which prompted them to criticise the racial and social discrimination (among the Taiwanese and the Chinese Mainlanders) which had existed in Taiwanese society since the Chinese Nationalist government took over in 1945. For example, the work, Three Generations [fig 6], created by Ju Ming-Kang in 1946, depicts the poor and hard life of the average Taiwanese in the early days of Chinese colonisation. This work vividly illustrates the reality of being Taiwanese in the 1940s and it implies that the Taiwanese, as an ‘imaginary community’, were opposed to the Chinese who monopolised them during that time. In Three Generations, the image of the ordinary Taiwanese is portrayed by the members of a family living in a rural place. A woman, carrying a little boy and with another child standing beside her, is working hard at the pump in order to draw some water from the well. A man is squatting Chen, Fang-Ming. Postcolonial Taiwan: Essays on Taiwanese Literature, History and Beyond. Taipei: Rye Field Publications, 2002, p 16.
M. Turner, © 2008 behind her, cutting wood with a knife, whilst a small boy holding some banana leaves is depicted at the centre of the picture. The boy’s swollen belly is exposed to the viewer, indicating that he is not very healthy and he is even too
Taiwanese at the beginning of the KMT’s rule in Taiwan. The artist intended his work to be a critique of the cultural isolation and the inferior social status of the Taiwanese, through which he expressed the consciousness of being Taiwanese within the same community. The exposure of the hardship of Taiwanese people’s lives in the early stage of the KMT’s control has given a voice to politically and socially marginalised Taiwanese, through which a
original artists who initially developed postcolonial ideas were men, since the early 1990s, women artists have started to contribute their own criticism to the discourse of identity, including issues of gender, social class and nation in the post-martial law era.
Global Capitalism, Westernisation and Essential Terms Even after attaining its political independence, the developing region is still in a state of economic and cultural colonisation by the West because of the vast global network for the communication of information and persistent economic ties. Colonialism does not simply disappear, but rather it is transformed and continues to affect the developing area, with the result that a nation like Taiwan has transformed itself from being an agricultural economy to an industrial/high-tech economy as a consequence of its government’s policies Here, I need to emphasise that owing to the fact that the Chinese Nationalists were eager to implant traditional Chinese culture in Taiwan, this has resulted in a sense of superiority in the Mainlanders over the rest of the people living on the island. Therefore, even today it is considered that speaking Chinese Mandarin is more ‘civilised’ than speaking ‘Taiwanese’.
M. Turner, © 2008 over the last thirty years.
Capitalism has changed the appearance of some major cities in the developing nations and it has also persuaded people to consider their locations in terms of culture and identity. For those nations who gained their political identity from their colonisers, postcolonialism is the forum for them to challenge the boundaries and limits of outside and inside. Global capitalism has brought the ideas of localism and individuality to some parts of the developing world, especially in major cities of the Asia-Pacific region. In my research, the exhibitions I aim to discuss were mostly held in major cities in Taiwan and this situation indicates the fact that under postcolonialism and globalisation, identity has been addressed significantly in Taiwan, especially in its cities.
Apart from global capitalism, the other aspect that has played an important role in contemporary Taiwan’s society is Westernisation. I shall briefly examine its concepts as it has greatly influenced the methods of many contemporary Taiwanese artists’ practice (such as video, multi-media, installation etc).100 To explore the concepts of Westernisation, I begin with James Elkins’s arguments on whether art history is global. In Is Art History Global (2007), Elkins states that ‘[a]rt history is closely affiliated with senses of national and regional identity’ and in response to E.H. Gombrich’s Here I need to emphasise that even though the theories I have modified in my research are mainly generated and published in the West, there is no contradiction of my argument to examine the ideas of Westernation. Despite the fact that postcolonial feminism is mainly written and published in the West, its main concept is to challenge the norms of homogeneity and essentialism, established by the West (the middle-class white). To be more specific, my intention to examine Westernisation shares the same spirit as the postcolonial (feminist) scholars featured in my research.
M. Turner, © 2008 Eurocentric The Story of Art (1950), he further proposes that art history should not be global.101 To challenge the Eurocentric views of art history
writing, Elkins proposes that:
The possibility of non-Western interpretive methods looms on the horizon for a genuinely multicultural world art history. Otherwise the ‘global community’ of art historians will continue to refer [in Hayden White’s words] to ‘congeries of historians from various countries who have adapted the “standards of practice” of Western professional historians’.102 Friedrich Teja Bach responds to Elkins’s question and asserts that in the era of a ‘politically aggressive globalisation’, a ‘centrism’ of Western cultures have
ex-colonised nations (the non-West) have gained their political freedom, they still live under great influences of the West, in terms of culture and economy.
This situation can be observed in the majority of contemporary Taiwanese artists’ works, which absolutely follow the forms and concepts of the West and which exclusively abandon ‘oriental’ materials, such as ink or silk paintings.
Ironically, even these are originated from Taiwan’s previous colonisers, China and Japan. 104 Under the increasing power of Westernisation today, the majority of contemporary Taiwanese artists simply emulate the style of Elkins, James. ‘Art History as a Global Discipline’ in Elkins (ed), op cit, p 9.
Elkins (David Summers), op cit, p 62.
Bach, Friedrich Teja. ‘The Modality of Spatial Categories’ in Elkins (ed), op cit, p 73.
Here, it is interesting to note that ‘political’ reasons have also influenced the preference of the contemporary fine art market. After having an interview with a Taiwanese ink painter, Li Kuang-Chun argues that ‘the changing taste of the painting market highlights something fundamental about the meaning of Taiwanese ascendancy. In fact, the downplay of traditional painting is part of the very definition of the ascendancy of the Taiwanese, which is trying to create a culture of its own, including painting style’. Thus, the conscious devaluation of ink and silk paintings has some political connection to develop a ‘new’ appearance of Taiwanese culture, which aims to be different from Chinese and Japanese cultures. Li, Kuang-Chun. ‘Mirrors and Masks: an Interpretative Study of Mainlanders’ Identity Dilemma’ in Corcuff (ed), op cit, p 121.