|I Got Super Strong Courage / 2008-2009|
I grew up in a country with a unique political culture. As children we were taught a partial history, the creation of which was influenced by politics. At the time, the attitude was that this would shield children from past hardships, conflicts and difficult situations. Growing up, I gradually realized that people around me were told completely different stories, and Taiwan was not considered a country by the rest of the world. Because of this, Taiwanese people feel that establishing identity is a difficult and important mission.
In my series entitled I Got Super Strong Courage, I play the role of Snow White, a warrior, and a circus acrobat..., and in these roles I talk, contradict, struggle and compromise with myself. Made from 1999 to 2010, this series explores how contemporary women seek self- confidence and power. As they absorb a variety of information, women must respond to the challenges posed by changes in the times, as well as pressure from society which obliges them to play many roles.
Traditionally, in Asian societies women were expected to follow Confucian moral injunctions for women and while changes in the times have afforded women more opportunities for self realization and freedom, many of their roles and responsibilities are rife with contradiction as they try to bridge traditional and contemporary society. The media is also implicated, as it continually and everywhere reinforces commercialism. Media’s restrictive messages result in many women overlooking their own potential, as they pursue its stereotypes. Furthermore, when women attempt to simultaneously play multiple roles, they tend to forget their own unique power.
For my series I Got Super Strong Courage,I titled five of its works Wen (gentleness), Liang (intelligence), Gong (respectfulness), Jian (frugality), Rang (forbearance), which are virtues Confucius used to describe noblemen, and later became those to which women should aspire. While tradition may be one way of coping in the world, I attempt to reinterpret these virtues such that they empower the modern woman. For example, I interpret the virtue of frugality with a very sexy thong made with the least possible amount of cloth. In this way, the work displays the balances and struggles of women between two forces - expectations from society and self identification from within.
I believe true power comes from deep self-awareness, and it is through this that we can seek advantages. Perhaps we can also say that we are our own worst enemies if we allow ourselves to be restricted by tradition or an unclear, clichéd westernization. To me, surrendering to these restrictions is just as bad as playing the role of a man, which puts us in a battle poorly armed. Traditional Confucian ethics do not have to be a trap, and the messages conveyed by the media do not always have to be blindly accepted on faith alone. The process of finding one's own identity may be brutal, but I got super strong courage.
We are taught the relentless pursuit of perfection, the perfection of the individual, of public consensus, or of mass media messages. This piece is made up by more one-thousand pictures and in the end it looks like a real thing, as real as how I exploited myself to achieve this real effect. It took me hundreds of working hours to achieve the final fantasy in one simple picture. Why did you do that? Isn’t it what we often ask ourselves, “Why did you do that?”
If being a gentle woman is as simple as wearing faux leather? What does creamily beast look like? What do I have to take off to put on this skin? 。
Artificial Fur - creamily beast 1,2
I Got Super Strong Courage- Wen(Gentleness), Liang(Intelligence), Gong(Respectfulness), Jian(Frugality), Rang(Forbearance)
Despite struggling to be herself, the challenges faced by the Princess are continuous, after getting rid of explorations in the mirror, establishing identity, she then enters into a new mirror stage, where she faces even more external challenges, and many ideals not going according to plan, the Princess can only endlessly fight and revolutionize, in order to seek freedom and liberation, giving up clothing for military attire, rushing into the battle of life. In the “I Got Super Strong Courage –Wen, Liang, Gong, Jian, Rang,” series of works, Meng-Chuan Ho intentionally divulges five kinds of combat ready postures under the camouflage, referring to the psychological contradiction and conflict of the modern woman between expectations of the self and of society. Nonetheless, the artist thinks that no contradictions exist in between, because everyone is a soldier in the jungle of society, and the Princess is no exception; but entering the battlefield does not mean that the self must be discarded, nor her proud feminine characteristics in order to conform under masculine hegemony, or to the contradictory views of some early feminists which contends the masculine as well as feminine qualities. As a result the natural blend and evolution of new age femininity with old traditional values are emphasized, and various different objects which symbolize tradition or the feminine gender, such as dolls, g-string, bellyband, bound feet, and bra etc, all carelessly matched with camouflage into a mix and match style of fashion; the opposite elements of masculinity/femininity, reform/old, conflict/harmony, enforce the current display of complex feminine characteristics and appearances. The latest work “Artificial Fur” continues to reflect Meng-Chuan Ho’s ultimate pursuit and unwavering perseverance toward feminine characteristics; removing the camouflage and military gear, is only to clearly show and preserve ideal femininity in its most original form – the true appearance of women is gentle. (Excerpts from “The Princess’s Gentle Battle and Evolution of the Mirror” by Sean C.S. Hu)
Happily Ever After
Fast food society makes people see the appearance only and ignore the process and the background behind it. Wedding photography represents the result of perfection but what hides underneath the skirt is a different story. What is written on Honey’s legs is the Nüshu script circulated in the Song Dynasty; it is a syllabic script created by illiterate women to pass on knowledge. In this series of work, I attempted to use women’s language to depict modern society, like the Nüshu script. So many words I wanted to tell girls.。
Happily Ever After-Baby, My Love, Honey, Sweetheart(Set of 4)
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