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Fabricating Nationalism: Contemporary Artist Chen Man Challenges the Idealized Woman in China of 2003-2012 by Danielle Wu Washington University In St. Louis, Class of 2014 Advised by Kristina Kleutghen Ila Sheren

A thesis submitted to the Department of Art History and Archaeology In partial fulfillment of the Requirements for the Bachelor’s Degree with Honors


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Abstract This project focuses on a selection of artworks produced during the 2000s by Chinese contemporary fashion photographer Chen Man 陈漫 (b. 1980), which reflect the sentiments surrounding the Beijing Olympics held in 2008. An analysis of her works, which range from magazine spreads to independent work intended for exhibition, reveals how the artist utilized the opportunity offered by a densely concentrated period of national image reconstruction, spurred by foreign pressures and government ambitions, to insert her own ideals and social commentary. Specifically, Chen challenges the ethnic and gender boundaries within the historical use of women as both symbols and bearers of national progress. Chen employs editorial space in fashion magazines and the presumed apolitical nature of fashion photography as a site, medium, and object for critical analysis of embedded social structures of power and injustice. Within the politics of representing Chinese collective identity within a global context, her artwork explores cultural stereotypes and defies dominant ideals of femininity.


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Table of Contents Chapter 1: Introduction: Who is Chen Man?.….….….….….….…..….….….….………… 4-14 Chapter 2: New Ideals of Womanhood….….….….….….…..….….….….………..………14-29 Chapter 3: Daughter of the Party: Transgressing Feminisms….….….….….….………….. 30-53 Chapter 4: The Construction of Ethnic Hierarchies….….….….…….….….….………...… 54-64 Chapter 5: Conclusions….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….………… 65-69 Works Cited………….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….………… 70-76 Figures……………….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….………… 77-85 Appendix: Interview with Chen Man……………………………………………………… 86-91

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Chapter 1 Introduction: Who is Chen Man? “I want to capture contemporary China, Chinese conceptions of beauty, and to show the world today’s China as it really is.” – Chen Man1 To most people across the world, Chen Man (b. 1980) is just an unusually young fashion photographer. Chen was born in Inner Mongolia, when her parents were relocated there during China’s “Down to the Countryside Movement” (shangshan xiaxiang yundong 上山下乡运动) (1968-78) but spent most of her life primarily in Beijing.2 Since graduating from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing (CAFA) in 2005, she has been transgressing many of the borders of a conventional artist by balancing a multitude of occupations. In one part of her life, she photographs celebrities and models for magazines, advertising campaigns, and fashion editorials. Meanwhile, Chen has become a celebrity in her own right, exhibiting works in galleries and museums across the world. She also released a line of cosmetics for MAC called Love & Water in 2012 – all before the age of thirty-five. And yet, Chen continuously chooses to project the distinct persona of an ordinary Beijing girl. In a recent self-portrait (fig. 1), Chen is photographed with hair held by two oversized fuchsia ribbons in “ox horn” double-buns, sporting a terrycloth bathrobe, and grasping youtiao (油条), a cheap Chinese street food. It is characteristics such as these that Harper’s Bazaar China

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“Jing Daily Interview: Top Chinese Fashion Photographer, Chen Man,” last modified May 10, 2012, http://www.jingdaily.com/jing-daily-interview-top-chinese-fashion-photographer-chen-man/18116/. 2 “我是在内蒙出生的然后在北京长大的。因为我妈,我爸是在下乡的时候,在他们下乡的地方生了我。然 后生过我之后在回到了北京。(I was born in Inner Mongolia, and then grew up in Beijing. My mother and father had me during their relocation there [in Inner Mongolia] during China’s Reeducation Program. After having me, they returned to Beijing).” Chen Man, Interview by Danielle Wu at Studio 6, June 11, 2013.


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defined as “the typical Beijing city girl.”3 At the same time, this portrait offers Chen’s own body as a site for combining multiple contemporary references to China, which perhaps best synthesizes both her interests in the semiotics of China and her occupation within multiple industries. She wears a vintage Chinese Huqiu 35mm film camera around her neck, which alludes to her profession as a photographer, but emphasizes the organic artistic direction that her work involves, as well as specifically identifying her as a Chinese photographer. Ironically, both her commercial photographs and independent works are anything but the candid developments from a film camera, often involving hours of painstaking digital manipulation in post-production. Chen attributes her success to the youth and naiveté of China’s rising commercial and design industry, recalling how her earliest photo shoots required her to multitask simultaneously as stylist, makeup artist, and photographer – tasks that would have normally been distributed amongst a team of professionals in more established companies abroad. In a recent interview, the artist says, “China’s contemporary art history is a blank slate, this causes local shots to not have a director or stylist, only a makeup artist and photographer, so everything is DIY, everything is do it yourself, to the extent that the photographer has to find clothes, style makeup, and do the retouching. But this situation birthed many heroes, creating many local photographers, makeup artists who were multitaskers.”4 Without much local competition in the field in the early 2000s, she was able to first gain significant fame before completing graduate school at CAFA. Although she first specialized in painting and stage design, Chen quickly switched to photography after being offered a chance to design a series of front covers for Vision Magazine (qingnian shijue 青

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“[Chen Man] is a pigtail-wearing, hot fritter-eating, hutong-scurrying typical Beijing city girl” (…她是扎着小辩, 叼着根热乎乎的油条在胡同里乱窜的北京城妞…) “Chen Man: Youngest Pioneering Photographer Artist (陈漫 :最年轻的前卫摄影艺术家).” Harper’s Bazaar China, December 2011. 4 Ibid.


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年视觉), one of the first contemporary arts and fashion magazines in Shanghai.5 This initial set of artworks formed the precursor to what would become her signature style in later years: women digitally manipulated to the point of doll-like perfection, at times accompanied by offputting details. In fact, many celebrities photographed by Chen often complain that even they were unable to live up to the beauty that Chen created in post-production.6 One of her works from the series, for example, was Goldfish Goblin Master (2004) (fig. 2), featuring a woman’s portrait rendered completely alien with the introduction of overlapping designs of prismatic color and computer-generated fish to produce an illusion of a mythical underwater being. Given this trajectory, Chen’s commercial works thus began to cross the lines between high and low art, between avant-garde fashion and computer artistry, in their simultaneous celebrations of human beauty and experiments with the limits of digital technology. Since her debut, Chen has become a widely sought-after cosmopolitan fashion photographer, traveling to multiple cities for photography commissions. Despite being represented by Studio6 in Beijing, she can be found there only a few times a year. She continues to simultaneously explore commercial photography and produce independent works, enjoying the lucrative business of photographing celebrities as well as the creative liberties offered by working under no one else’s command. However, this causes even her artworks that are not commissioned for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, or Cosmopolitan to borrow influences from her experiences within the global fashion industry and its global expansion. Chen continuously exhibits a preference for featuring women with impossibly elongated limbs and flawless, glossy

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Sam Gaskin, “Chen Man: The Beijing Photographer on Bridging Fine Art and Fashion Photography,” TimeOut Shanghai, last modified May 11, 2012, http://www.timeoutshanghai.com/features/Art-Art_Features/5334/ChenMan.html. 6 Karen Smith, Chen Man: Works 2003-2010 (Hong Kong: 3030 Press, 2010).


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skin, achieved by extensive use of Photoshop. Meanwhile, their allure is often stunted by qualities of aversion that ultimately harbor feminist critique. In the years surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Chen’s works began to evoke undeniable nationalistic fervor. In works such as Long Live the Motherland (2009), she chose to photograph women against distinctively Chinese national icons as backdrops, such as the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. These visual explorations of nationalism essentially utilize women’s bodies as a means to reformulate the Chinese collective identity, one that scholars have often argued had been left in crisis and uncertainty after the massive socio-economic transformation of the country in the twentieth century.7 This sudden value vacuum occurred specifically after the rise of new party leader Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) and the implementation of the 1979 Open Door Policy. With the introduction of “reforms and opening up (gaige kaifang 改革开放), economic reform policies increased foreign trading capabilities within China, introducing an influx of foreign goods and capitalist characteristics to an otherwise socialist economy. Deng also reportedly said, “to get rich is glorious” (zhifu guangrong 致富光 荣), declaring market ambitions and the pursuit of wealth as politically and socially acceptable after a long era spent adamantly denouncing bourgeoisie habits. Accordingly, China rose to become an eminent global power, at the cost of discarding much of nearly a century of steadfast ideologies to combat capitalism. Its established revolutionary identity, made singular by strict control over art and image production during the Revolutionary Era (1949-1976), was held in

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For examples, see: Lingchei Letty Chen, Writing Chinese Reshaping Chinese Cultural Identity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); Jing Wang, High Culture Fever Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng’s China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); Rong Cai, The Subject in Crisis in Contemporary Chinese Literature (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2004).


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jeopardy. The rules that governed all art production in China, which were originally set in 1942 by Chairman Mao at Yan’an, were reevaluated and abandoned by 1982.8 During the 1980s, China was in the midst of what one scholar characterizes as “vanishing nationalism,” which led the central government to fear its “failing legitimacy.”9 This fragile national identity was intensified less than a decade after the Open Door Policy, in which the uneasy ending to the student demonstrations at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 disrupted the unified identity of the Chinese community. Moreover, it disrupted the world’s confidence in China’s governing ability and disturbed the unified identity of the Chinese community. In the aftermath, the central government responded by launching a “patriotic education campaign” (aiguozhuyi jiaoyu 爱国主义教育) in 1991, which was created to deflect domestic criticism, stabilize national uncertainty, and reestablish the importance of the Chinese Communist Party within Chinese citizens’ political beliefs.10 This campaign especially targeted China’s younger generation – Chen Man’s generation – from kindergarten to university level, involving the distribution of patriotic films to Beijing’s primary and middle school students and the introduction of patriotic education courses in the curriculum of high schools and colleges.11 The next step towards maintaining the integrity of the nation was to construct the Chinese collective identity in the global arena, an essential element in repairing China’s international relationships. The question that remained was how to represent it in a way that would alleviate the international society’s hostility towards China.

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See Mao Zedong, Talks at the Yenan forum on literature and art (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1967) and Colin MacKerras, Chinese Theatre: From Its Origins to the Present Day (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983). 9 Jean-Luc Domenach, “One People?” China’s Uncertain Future, (Sussex: Columbia University Press, 2012), 109118. 10 Suisheng Zhao, “A State-led Nationalism: The Patriotic Education Campaign in post-Tiananmen China,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 31, no. 3 (September 1998): 287–302. 11 Ibid.


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Formulating the National Image in 2008 The opportunity for Beijing to host the 2008 Olympic Games offered just such a chance for China to craft an official national image to the rest of the world under heavy publicity. Once Beijing was chosen as host city on July 13, 2001, it was subjected to an intense amount of international scrutiny.12 When placing the bid, President Jiang Zemin (b. 1926) assumed the responsibility of not only refurbishing the physical infrastructure of the city, but also of projecting a set of appropriate images and values that would appeal to the world and glorify China’s current condition. Ultimately, this included formulating a distinct nation-state identity that would communicate the state’s ability to legitimately govern in a way that would meet the approval of foreign entities. Beijing was essentially pressured to suddenly become a “global city,” one which scholar Choy Lee Weng argues as “not just a Euro-American but a global gaze on Asia.”13 Although Beijing was only one city in China, it began to symbolize aspirations and pride at a national level. Given this historical context, a time of both literal and figural rebuilding and cleanup of the nation for foreign viewing pleasure, the prevalent pressures to conform to a certain standard set by foreign expectations perhaps became more perceptible. The Chinese government began responding to foreign pressures to conform to a narrative of modernization that Olympic host cities have had in the past.14 The 1964 Tokyo Olympics, for example, exhibited Japan as “the first Asian, industrialized, capitalist, and democratic nation…As for Beijing 2008, the predominant theme anticipated by the existing narrative appears to be that of China’s successful 12

Heidi Ostbo Haugen, “‘A Very Natural Choice’: The Construction of Beijing as an Olympic City During Bid Period,” in Owning the Olympics: Narratives of the New China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008), 145. 13 Choy Lee Weng, “Just What Is It That Makes the Term ‘Global-Local’ So Widely Cited, Yet So Annoying?” in Over Here: International Perspectives on Art and Culture, n.d. 29. 14 Sandra Collins, “The Fragility of Asian National Identity in the Olympic Games,” in Owning the Olympics: Narratives of the New China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008).

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entrance into…the world system.”15 The capital city in which Chen resided was in the processes of rebuilding and refurbishing explicitly for the purpose of showing tourists and foreigners a spotless national image. The artist was a first-hand witness in the sudden production of national culture for international consumption. In her retrospective book, Chen recalls the demolition of her old home in Beijing’s historic but rundown Qianmen district during the time of China’s fervent rebuilding.16 Perhaps most telling of the government’s desire to cater its image towards this touristic gaze rather than for the benefit of its own citizens was the purging of the homeless and migrant workers that occupied the city prior to the Opening Ceremony (August 8, 2008). The pressure on the Beijing’s citizens to align with the government’s vision of a utopian society was extremely palpable and ubiquitous, in ways that Chen could not have ignored as a citizen of Beijing herself. The fashion industry was no exception to China’s various modernization projects: efforts were made to advance Beijing and Shanghai into becoming fashion capitals akin to cities such as New York, Paris, and Milan.17 The development of new local magazines aligned with the nation’s desire for iconicity, and accordingly, cultivating sites for displaying the nation’s beautiful women as cultural assets. The renewed interest in fashion, models, and women in particular coincided with a period of national identity crisis, which demonstrates how measurements of modernity continue to rely heavily on an evaluation of women’s bodies. Working within this highly commercial market, these tensions, including the idea of international competition, are revealed in Chen’s works. Amidst a national scramble for perfection and status change, the artist takes advantage of the blank slate offered by the fledging Chinese fashion

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Ibid. Karen Smith, Chen Man: Works 2003-2010, 6. 17 Frédéric Godart, Unveiling Fashion: Business, Culture, and Identity in the Most Glamorous Industry, Houndmills, Basingstoke, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). 16


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magazine industry to subvert traditional ideals of beauty and femininity, using the fashion magazine as a quasi-pedagogical space to reconstruct histories in a way that engages in social commentary. Specifically focusing on Chen Man’s works that were released around the time of the Beijing Olympics reveals how she both subverts the conventional sanitized images of the nation that were commanded by the government, and yet remains completely dedicated to her own personal cultural history in the process. Although Western scholars argue that the Olympic Games might have forced a regurgitation of historical motifs, “familiar images,” and “stereotypes about China that have accumulated over hundreds of years,” these analyses greatly underestimate artists’ agency in formulating a national image.18 Chen is an example of the type of artist frequently overlooked, as a Chinese citizen who challenges select governmental policies or ideologies while explicitly celebrating a shared cultural heritage. Her presence within the academic discussion complicates the current image of China as a black-and-white nation of either political dissidents or subdued conformists.19 An analysis of Chen’s Vision (2003-2005), Five Elements (2011) and Four Seasons (2011) series provide a look into how the artist constructs new ways in which to present traditional ideals of beauty on an international level through the mechanics of avant-garde fashion. Chen uses uninhibited digital manipulation to imbue Chinese traditions such as Monkey King and white skin with contemporary relevance, while at the same time critiquing the physical unrealistic expectations placed on the female sex. In other words, the artist allows cultural representations to become active agents of her beliefs, and the purposeful context of China as a 18

See Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, “Dreams and Nightmares: History and U.S. Visions of the Beijing Games,” In Owning the Olympics: Narratives of the New China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press: University of Michigan Library, 2008), 163-184; and Jim Mann, The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression (New York: Viking, 2007). 19 Geremie Barmé, In the Red: on Contemporary Chinese Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999).


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country within her works allows for a culture-specific discussion of beauty ideals, feminism, and femininity. As a highly accomplished commercial photographer dabbling in advertising, Chen has learned to construct a legible national image of China that is marketable and satiating to a multitude of audiences. An analysis of her works reveals the ways in which Chen not only formulates representational attributes of her nation, but also why she changes them in order to appeal to different audiences. Her Long Live the Motherland series (2009), for example, was published in Vogue China and utilizes imagery specifically from the Revolutionary era (19491976). However, Chen provokes discussions on the ethnic boundaries of gender politics in her Rise and Shine (2012) series for British magazine i-D, which showcased a multitude of China’s ethnic minorities. These differences in international image perception reveal the pressures to conform to a certain expectations set by different populations, from local to abroad, that will be explored in later chapters. In her works that make more of a deliberate effort to display national pride through symbolism and iconography, such as Long Live the Motherland (2009-10) and Young Pioneers (2008), Chen uses nostalgia as a powerful tool to unify China under a collective identity founded on an idealized past. However, as Benedict Anderson theorized in his book on the illusion of nationalism, Imagined Communities, “communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined.”20 Using this as a lens in which to examine Chen’s work can reveal how the artist imagines China as a community, and why she chooses to imagine it in certain ways. At times, it is to introduce concepts that she finds absent in reality, such as consumerism as a legitimate means of nationalism. Other times whimsically

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Benedict R. Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991).


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over-the-top and defying laws of gravity, Chen’s uses excessive digital manipulation to be both self-reflexive and acknowledge the idealism, optimism, and perhaps the naiveté, of the Chinese government’s ideologies. In doing so, the artist essentially creates a safe space in which to freely imagine a utopian society without the burdens of reality, in which she at times chooses to hope with the Chinese Communist Party rather than against it, imbuing contemporary ideologies with ideals of her own. In many ways, Chen attempts to amend what some scholars identify as the “wounded romantic spirit,” the passionate and heroic of model communist art produced under Mao that the younger generation has tended to ridicule and mistrust.21 As a child of the 1980s, Chen’s art deviates from the radical political critique of the 1985 New Wave artists such as artist-turnedactivist Ai Weiwei (b. 1957), or Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964), an artist who recently set the record price for a work of Asian contemporary art that sold at auction for $23.3 million with Last Supper (2001).22 The artworks of Cynical Realist artists who began working in the 1980s and 90s often respond directly to the psychological trauma of China under Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976) that emerge from the artists’ first-hand memories of lived experiences under the time he was in power.23 Having been born after the drastic socioeconomic changes of 1979 and only nine years old at the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident, Chen maintains perspectives that are unburdened by a first-hand memory of the Revolutionary era. However, she no doubt developed an extensive understanding of Revolutionary China through the permeation of its legacy at every level of contemporary society – reminded by her parents, residency in the Olympic city, and

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Chang Tsong-zung, “Introduction: Into the Nineties,” in China’s New Art, Post-1989 (Hong Kong: Hanart TZ Gallery, 1993), III. 22 Katie Hunt, “Chinese Artist’s ‘Last Supper’ Sets Record for Asian Contemporary Art,” CNN, Accessed January 30, 2014. <http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/06/business/record-asian-art/index.html>. 23 Wu Hung, Making History  : Wu Hung on Contemporary Art (Hong Kong: Timezone 8, 2008).


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Chinaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s national education system. Thus, her artwork also reflects how Chinaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s younger generation perceives their revolutionary roots through secondary accounts.

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Chapter 2 New Ideals of Womanhood "[A]ctress, sex object, prostitute, performer, spectacle; all these identities render [woman] the paradigmatic symbol of a culture increasingly structured around the erotics and aesthetics of the commodity...a creature of style and artifice whose identity is created through the various costumes and masks that she assumes" – Rita Felski, The Gender of Modernity24 Early in her career, Chen Man began testing the limits of digital manipulation on the human body within her artwork. As witness to the vast changes in China's economic growth and commercialization of beauty industries in the 1990s, Chen explored the negative social implications of advertisements setting new and unrealistic expectations for women. For example, the beauty brand Dove introduced a worldwide “Campaign for Real Beauty” in September 2004, which featured people who were not models.25 The advertising campaign was poorly received in China; research revealed that women preferred images of “perfect” women, and saw the women in Dove’s ads as “imperfect.”26 Throughout several of her series, Chen reveals an interest in the emerging opposition between commercial model and “real” woman in contemporary China, a product of an increasingly consumer-oriented culture. Her exploration of the extremely manipulative potential of Photoshop is perhaps best demonstrated by her Skateboard Girls series (2003), in which she juxtaposed photos of highly sexualized nude women that she perfected on the computer with their unmanipulated portraits. On the left, women are taller, leaner, and barely clothed, using a skateboard to strategically censor their body. Chen’s choice of female nudes and skateboards, which feature cropped 24

Rita Felski, The Gender of Modernity, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), 4. Katherine Frith, “Globalising Women: How Global Women’s Magazines in China and Singapore Transmit Consumer Culture,” in the Globalisation of Advertising in Asia: The impact on media, (St Lucia, Qld, Australia: University of Queensland, 2009), 143. 26 Ibid. 25


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versions of Cultural Revolution posters, blames the commodification of China’s revolutionary past and the objectification of the female body on the male gaze, given that skateboarding was, and remains, a male dominant sport. One image from the series (fig. 3) shows a woman’s sexualized body partially obscured by skateboard, positioned to suggest a precursor to coitus more ferarum. Meanwhile, the same woman is shown in her unaltered self on the right, clutching an ashtray in one hand and holding a cigarette loosely between her lips. With these pairs of contrasting images, Chen identifies the emergence of two distinct ways of depicting women in popular culture: the fictionalized fantasy vixen and the ordinary “real” girl. The girl on the right, despite being visually faithful, acts as a foil for the imagined ideal, willing the viewer to prefer the nude woman. In this way, Skateboard Girls explores the devaluing of visual authenticity in the contemporary era, and ultimately suggests Photoshop as a means of trickery and illusion. The nude is still not readily accepted within the cultural fabric of China, and public exposure of the naked body is often associated with moral degeneracy/indecency. Fen-Ma Liuming (b. 1969) and other contemporary Chinese artists that utilize the nude in their work must conduct their practices in private, secretive settings in order to avoid the censorship of the Chinese government. Thus, Chen’s Skateboard Girls can be seen as an attempt to dissociate the existing associations between nudity and prostitution in her depictions of dual roles that normal, everyday girls can play. Skateboard Girls emphasized the sexualized female nude as an aspect that can be made manifest in every woman given the technology to do so. In this way, Chen implicates the role of digital technology in the proliferation of women as victims of consumer eroticism. The staggering difference between real and ideal reveals Chen’s pleasure in her abilities, appreciation of the opportunities offered by computer enhancement, as well as an


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acknowledgement of the different pros and cons of both means of representation. In comparing the nude woman with the same woman in street clothes and candid poses, Chen exaggerates the disparities between real and ideal in order to contradict viewer expectations. The viewer witnesses how even an ordinary buttoned-up white-collar worker (fig. 4) can be transformed into a bare-bodied, high-heeled seductress. Another woman talking on a mobile phone (fig. 5) looks downward at the viewer, her legs and arms bearing tattoos. In the next frame, she is suddenly somewhat demure and coy, her tattoos visually minimized and shielded by the skateboard. Chen thus displays confidence in her ability to portray sex appeal through simple editing and a change of clothing. However, in doing so, she explores gender binaries and qualities perceived to be feminine. In conventional portrayals of sexual appeal as submissive, body-conscious, and deindividualized, Chen thus identifies qualities such as economic capability, individuality, and a returned gaze as more masculine attributes. When seen in the full series of ten girls, the attributes perceived to be desirable become apparent and repetitive â&#x20AC;&#x201C; female sexual appeal is homogenous, predictable, and loses shock value with each repetition. Meanwhile, the fully clothed girls on the right do not adhere to the industry ideal, yet retain their sense of animation and individuality, demonstrated through a variety of different clothing, poses, and expressions. Accompanied by more objects within the picture plane, the focus remains on their faces rather than their bodies or potential products for sale. This juxtaposition comments on the desensitization to sexuality as an effect of contemporary advertisement designed to sell through sexual allure. In a loving representation of â&#x20AC;&#x153;realâ&#x20AC;? women, Chen essentially laments the loss of substance and individualized narrative just as much as she admires the potential of digital perfection.


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This tension between nostalgia and lust for progressivity captured in Skateboard Girls reflects the mixed sentiments towards China’s most recent economic revolution. Despite Skateboard Girls being an independent work, it explores the process in which women cede their bodies as commodities designed to sell other commodities. The template of the female form next to commercial product evokes the language of commercial advertisement, which expands Chen’s commentary to encompass broader perspectives on the future of commercial advertisement in China. Although it was one of her earliest works, one can easily see how the artist already reveals observations of the hypersexualization of women’s bodies within an increasingly market economy. However, whether this awareness and interest would diverge into disgust, concern, or criticism was rather unclear, and her future trajectory complicates the most predictable narrative.

Rising standards for Chinese working class women Chen seemed to like the format of the Skateboard Girls series, and continued the pattern in 2011 with Five Seasons and Four Elements. In keeping with the themes of her earlier works, Chen explores methods of exposing commodity fetishism and the differences between real and ideal. Similar to her series Skateboard Girls, Chen juxtaposes two visually different pictures of women side-by-side, forcing the viewer to analyze them as a pair. A comparison between these visually similar series, occupying the pre- and post-Olympic era offers a multifaceted narrative of the condition of women’s bodies represented within China after a progression in time. Both Five Seasons (2011) and Four Elements (2011) featured un-retouched pictures of women juxtaposed with idealized pictures. However, the disparity between the two vastly increased; achieved this time by selecting older women, between middle and old age, who are clearly active in the workforce as salesmen, woodworkers, and factory workers. This new interest in capturing


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women of an older age identifies the emergent conflicting desires within China’s society to both protect the traditional and encourage the new. For the Four Seasons series, Chen even rendered the “normal” women in black-andwhite, which alludes to the documentation of events during the Cultural Revolution in monochromatic film. Meanwhile, professional models are digitally altered to look like giant deities atop scenic natural formations. Four Seasons is actually a translation of the original title in Chinese, “four heavenly kings” (si da tianwang 四大天王). The four gods who watch over the cardinal directions of the world originate from Buddhism, and are quite ubiquitous throughout Chinese culture, flanking the Longmen Grottoes and temples around Beijing.27 The pairs of photos are united by similarities in pose, allusion to the same season, or certain visual likeness. For example, in Four Seasons – Summer (2011) (fig. 6), a flower shop worker poses in a form akin to the model representing Virudhaka (pilou boyi 毗樓博义), guardian of the South and summer, “the lord of growth.”28 The worker holds a keyhole saw, pointed in the same vertical direction of Virudhaka’s sword (fig. 7), and her presence amongst a wealth of flowers certainly suggest her role as the initiator of growth. This newer rendition of real versus ideal reveals recognition of a widening gap between what is considered the ideal female figure and actual body of the female worker. Years after her Skateboard Girls, representations of the ideal female has diverged into two identities: on the left is the ideal physical appearance designated by rising commercial industries, while on the right is the ideal socialist worker, who actively contributes to society through physical labor. In these depictions of women hard at work in industries that, Chen draws upon the “Iron Girl” image 27

Meher McArthur, Reading Buddhist Art: An Illustrated Guide to Buddhist Signs and Symbols (London: Thames & Hudson, 2002), 17-18. 28 Ibid; C. A. S. Williams, Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives (VA: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1974), 197.


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promoted during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which will be discussed more in the next chapter. Nonetheless, Chen identifies the emergence of a new ideal woman in the contemporary era that both contradicts and continues sentiments from the Cultural Revolution. The digitally manipulated professional models represent a desire for beauty, monumental social impact, and power that is depicted as captivatingly illusionistic. However, both women ultimately face the burden of pursuing something wholly unattainable; an image that can only exist on the picture plane. This captures the unrealistic contemporary expectations placed on women today, Photoshopped ethereal beings, and reminds the viewer of the women who also pursued the ideal female image of their own generation. For example, Four Seasons separates the possibility of achieving ideal physical beauty with expectations to be a model worker. Unlike the propaganda posters of the Iron Girl, which created overly grandiose visions of what women could achieve, Chen separates invented image from reality. In some respects, Chen retains the optimistic confidence in women’s potential, but keeps the series grounded in revealing the illusory qualities achieved by digital augmentation of reality. However, Chen’s comparisons between real woman and cosmic creator do elevate the significance of their contributions to society. In historical Chinese depictions, the four heavenly kings are depicted as men with aggressive expressions, each with their distinct instruments of umbrella, sword, serpent, or pipa (琵琶).29 Chen’s translation of these deities’ into women signifies her firm dedication in emphasizing female empowerment. Furthermore, the depiction of goddesses asserts the existence of female authorities that are above even the law. However, what Chen ultimately presents are two competing visions of female empowerment within Chinese society, identifying the coexistence of the two generations with different pursuits.

29

Ibid


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Along similar themes, a middle-aged woman in Five Elements – Metal (fig. 8) wearing a fur jacket and jade jewelry stands beaming in a Chinese bank, proudly holding forth red hundredyuan bills as a large portrait of Mao Zedong looms in the background, casting eyes of judgment and control. She is compared to an image of a woman with a downcast gaze that appears to be half automaton, her glossy skin coated by a plastic sheen that reflects the cold electric blues of the urban cityscape behind her, and a propeller-like blur around her bald head. In her analyses of the changing status of women under conditions of urbanization and industrialization, Rita Felski expresses, “figure[s] of the woman as machine can also be read as the affirmation of a patriarchal desire for technological mastery over woman, expressed in the fantasy of a compliant female automaton…"30 In other words, technological advancements in society often afford women new opportunities, and yet their predominant positions within service industries and jobs under male supervision simply reinforce gender hierarchies. Given Felski’s interpretation of the robotic woman as a lens in which to view Metal, Chen depicts a rather sad and poignant portrait of the economically successful Chinese woman. Despite her wealth, she remains an obedient mechanism within a male-dominated society, subject to the male gaze. On the other hand, the comparison with real-world women forces the reevaluation of occupations deemed “women’s tasks.” In fact the shapes that frame the women reflect the various gemstone cuts, such as pear-shaped, oval, or table cut. Earth is round cut, while Metal mimics the cushion cut – redefining their occupations as precious, even luxurious. Manufacturing jobs such as those in the cotton industry, Five Elements – Earth (fig. 9), are comparatively upheld as otherworldly, involved in the very creation or destruction of earth. Felski goes on to hypothesize that this coupling of power and violence with pleasure is historically equated with female deviance; “the figure of the deadly woman exemplifies the 30

Felski, 20.


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power of demonic nature as embodied in the power of a newly discovered unconscious; her power is instinctual, irrational, and destructive.”31 In her depictions of real-life women and their sexualized “alter egos,” Chen reveals the underlying fear of powerful women within Chinese society. At the same time, she captures portraits of contemporary women with admiration – despite the occasional “weapon,” the women are relatively harmless and jovial – all in an attempt to assert this fear as irrational.

Critiquing Beauty Chen Man’s works produced after Skateboard Girls launched her career into stardom; between 2003 and 2005, Chen obtained an opportunity to design a series of ten covers for Vision, a Shanghai magazine established in 2002 in order to have a Chinese equivalent of the EuroAmerican global design magazine Wallpaper.32 Her Vision series was perhaps as much as a continued exploration of the potential of Photoshop as it was a foreboding prediction of the future of advertisement and women's beauty. Each cover featured a model given an uncanny degree of beauty. Treating each woman’s face as a sculpted portrait bust, and instead of utilizing Photoshop as a corrective airbrushing tool, the artist used the model as a blank foundation on which to add invented three-dimensional details. Parisian Snow (2005) (fig. 10) even transforms the shoulders of a real woman into a bullnose plinth, and her skin takes on the stony, lifeless quality of chiseled white marble. Seamlessly suspended in whimsical computer-generated environments, these women invite the viewer to question the boundaries between reality and fantasy, as well as the treatment of women in contemporary portraiture. In her unconventional

31

Felski, 193. “Miista Chen Man,” Miista, last modified March 30, 2012, http://miista.com/chen-man/; “About Vision,” Vision, Accessed February 28, 2014, http://youthvision.cn/about2013.asp. 32


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depictions of flawless skin and overly perfect symmetrical features, Chen highlights the possible eerie outcomes of striving for womanly perfection. As one who was born at the start of China’s Reform Era and economic boom, Chen’s inspiration comes from a new market of icons, styles, images, and values from a globalized, Western consumer culture and entertainment industry unknown to the previous generation.33 Some have speculated that this sudden influx of foreign consumer culture caused China to adopt an increasingly standardized beauty ideal based on Caucasian features.34 Indeed, Chen takes the concept of homogenizing beauty to an extreme, altering the skin colors and facial features of her models to obscure their ethnicities. Erotica #3 (xingzhihua 性之花) (2004) (fig. 11) features Chinese model Zheng Fangfei with light blue eyes and a combination of real cosmetics and digitally added elements that give new meaning to the phrase “clown-like makeup.” Through the elimination of any indication of the model’s race and Chinese heritage, Erotica #3 explores the fundamental question of what it means to be racially Chinese, as well as envisioning the outcomes of an impending future where all biological ethnicities are united by the common desire to look digitally perfect. In her renderings of supernatural, almost alien forms, Chen playfully predicts the prospective creation of an entirely different ethnicity altogether – an artificially created ideal heavily reliant on digital manipulation.

Defending Whiteness In the midst of evaluating possible outcomes of homogenization, Chen explores alternative ways of retaining cultural traditions, and projecting a certain national identity 33

Liu Kang, “Searching for a New Cultural Identity: China’s Soft Power and Media Culture Today,” Journal of Contemporary China 21, no. 78 (August 2, 2012): 929. 34 Hyun Jeong Min et al., “Skin Lightening and Beauty in Four Asian Cultures,” Advances in Consumer Research 35 (2008): 444–449.


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regardless of uncertain biological identity. This includes using white skin as a cultural icon rather than a widely accepted beauty ideal. For instance, in Golden Fish Goblin (金鱼精) (2004) (fig. 2), the model bears a powdery mask-like makeup, literalizing several fearsome aspects of whiteness. Her stony, corpse-like expression lacks animation, which separates whiteness from its usual associations with youth and vitality. Chen further manipulates Golden Fish Goblin’s pupils to appear slightly off-kilter and cockeyed, evoking a greater sense of a fierce creature that mixes woman and beast. This depiction of a critical perspective on the idolization of white skin nonetheless retains a sense of pride in whiteness as a cultural identifier of China, connecting the ideal to certain cosmological traditions within China’s history. For instance, the menacing look achieved by bold eyebrows redrawn into geometric patterns makes a direct reference to Peking Opera (jingju 京剧). The full-frontal, perfectly symmetrical faces of the models in Chen’s Vision series refer to patterns drawn on Peking Opera masks and utilized as makeup. Chen thus alludes to makeup as an inherently artificial tool that helps performers assume a particular role; and thus, reveals whiteness as a representation of femininity to be a form of performance that has cultural significance. This response perhaps stems from exposure to the Western media, which has maintained critical perspectives on the differences between Eastern and Western beauty, including the proliferation of epicanthic fold surgery and idolization of white skin. Skin whitening products have particularly come under fire for their health detriments, and the archaic nature of the ideal is also especially noted.35 The traditional proverb “fair skin can hide three flaws (yi bai zhe san chou 一白遮三丑) is commonly cited, essentializing the Chinese desire for white skin into a

35

Perry Johansson, “White Skin, Large Breasts Chinese Beauty Product Advertising as Cultural Discourse,” China Information 13, no. 2–3 (September 1, 1998): 59–84.


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classist desire to self-differentiate the leisured elite from the laboring worker.36 This not only critiques these native customs as outdated, but also wills them to change, conforming to a EuroWestern ideal of tanner skin as “healthy.” Although there is no doubt truth in the harmful effects of skin bleaches, the bias and distaste for whiteness in Western media becomes apparent in their descriptions of whiteness as “ghostly” and “chalky.”37 Because the desire for white skin is easily conflated with connotations of reverse-racism and ethnic struggles in the West, particularly in the United States, it has been since discarded as an offensive beauty ideal and symbol of female oppression. The beauty ideal has largely been replaced with golden bronze skin, although it still carries classist prejudices. Scholars have noted that bronze skin symbolizes adequate leisure time to travel to exotic places, while the working class is forced to remain indoors.38 However, without the political background of black and white race relations and a larger proportion of blue-collar workers, China is one country that understandably maintains whiteness as a beauty ideal that is related to elite, high-class life. Although the Chinese tradition of pale skin was indeed historically an indication of class, where it separated the aristocracy from the laboring peasantry, Vision indicates how the desire for it has instead become a dividing characteristic between Asia and Euro-America. In Golden Fish Goblin, a partially colored cherry-red top lip and vertical stripe on the bottom lip reinvents an imperial Manchu custom, an ethnic minority in China today but previously rulers of the Qing 36

Jeong Min, 445. For examples, see: CBS News, “Latest Trend Sweeping China: Lighter Skin,” last modified October, 2012, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/latest-trend-sweeping-china-lighter-skin/; Marianne Bray, “SKIN DEEP: Dying to Be White,” CNN, last modified May 15, 2002, http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/east/05/13/asia.whitening/; Phillip Martin, “Why White Skin Is All the Rage in Asia,” GlobalPost, November 25, 2009, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/china-and-its-neighbors/091123/asia-white-skin-treatments-risks; Shuan Sim, “In China, a Long Tradition of Dodging the Sun,” Asia Society, July 25, 2012, http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/china-long-tradition-dodging-sun-photos; 38 Solomon Leong, “Who’s the Fairest of Them All? Television Ads for Skin-whitening Cosmetics in Hong Kong,” Asian Ethnicity 7, no. 2 (2006): 168. 37


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dynasty (1644-1912), to produce a fishy wet pucker. Manchu fashion – an “old society” of renowned luxuries and opulent prosperity – was particularly persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, when the “four olds” (sijiu 四久): old customs, culture, habits, and ideas, were pronounced counterrevolutionary.39 However, Chen elevates the look of some of these earlier cultures, such as the imperial Manchu style, to be viewed once again as elegant, glamorous, and the epitome of femininity. Indeed, this reference demonstrates how the revival of white skin as an allowed ideal reflects shifting Chinese ideologies to become more accepting of traditional practices, though not always necessarily because of aspirations to be more Western. Chen utilizes several techniques to attempt to reach an understanding with both international and local audiences. The first is an acknowledgement of the inherent artificiality of pursuing any ideal of beauty, from flawless skin to whiteness. Despite Photoshop’s inherent artificiality and expanding use in the globalized advertising industry, models are nonetheless continually burdened with the obligation to feign natural perfection. Although most audiences may recognize Photoshop’s key role as a manipulative and illusory tool, commodity fetishism renders consumers impervious to constant acknowledgement of its artifice. Advertisement and clever marketing nonetheless continues to successfully set a devastatingly unattainable standard of beauty. Advertisements frequently promise an easily achievable beauty and happiness as a result of a particular product. Advertising methods for skin-whitening products, which form over 30% of the entire skin care market in China, equate light skin with health and virtue.40 Moreover, advertisements typically accuse internal factors as the cause of skin flaws, such as bad health,

39

Mao Zedong, Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art. Zhang Xi, “A Lighter Shade of Pale,” China Daily, September 23, 2011, http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/weekly/2011-09/23/content_13775846.htm. 40


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and promote skin products as having restorative properties, thus presenting flawless skin as the fundamental skin type of humans and accusing flaws as being unnatural.41 However, Chen’s use of Photoshop deliberately departs from the realms of reality. The fallacy of her images, which allude to the uses of makeup as performance and disguise, emphasize the artificial properties of white skin, and in this way discourages the audience from reading her images as figures to imitate or aspire to mimic as in advertisements. For example, Monkey Face (fig. 12) refers to one of China’s most iconic and recognizable figures from the novel Journey to the West, Monkey King (sun wu kong 孙悟空).42 The sixteenth-century book, in which the mischievous monkey character acquires supernatural powers through Daoist practices, have been readapted and translated into every medium imaginable, from children’s television cartoons to Peking Opera plays. In this case, the distinctive Peking Opera makeup pattern juxtaposed on the model’s face creates a striking and undeniable illusion of a monkey’s face: enlarged circular eyes, flattened snout, and cleft palate. In this case, makeup is to help the model assume a particular fictional male role. Furthermore, Chen Man recalls the desire for white as not only a color of skin, but emphasizes instead the Chinese desire for luminosity and reflectivity.43 Almost all portraits in her Vision series contain contrasting flecks of light and shine, solar flare, or sparkle added in post-production, their makeup emphasized with a slick, glossy sheen. Golden Fish Goblin’s pearl necklace and highly reflective fish serve as metaphors for the ideal luminescent sheen achieved by the cosmetic product of skin highlighters, as well as alluding to the ancient superstitious practice of swallowing pearls with the intention of achieving lighter skin.44 This is further 41

Jeong Min, 446. Cheng’en Wu and Anthony C Yu, The Journey to the West (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977). 43 Leong, 167. 44 Jeong Min, 444. 42


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accentuated by the lustrous severe geometry formed by the tops of the models cheekbones and brow ridge, which ends in a triangular point at the jaw. Perhaps more obvious is the photograph Monkey Face, where the woman is surrounded with impossibly large diamonds that emanate reflectivity as well as conveying a sense of exorbitant wealth, and Lollipop Girl (2004) (fig. 13), encircled by ribbons of laser beam-like light. Also important to note is Chen’s choice of medium: when exhibited in shows, the photographs are printed as transparencies and mounted on a light box, so that they may emit light in a more literal sense.

Critiquing patriarchal traditions Within these imaginings of a homogenous society created by international scrutiny and infiltration of a globalizing Western market, Chen also remains critical of the gender hierarchies embedded within China’s own cultural traditions. Several of the works in her Vision series are also subtitled Erotica, which at first seems arbitrary, as all the women are photographed well above the bust line. However, this over-exaggeration of the woman’s sexuality implies that women are inescapably symbolic images for sexual desire within society, regardless of the degree to which the body is exposed. In fact, the Chinese title can be read as “sex flower” (xinzhihua 性之花), referring to the use of flowers within Chinese cultural tradition as metaphors for women and sexual intercourse. The cymbidium orchid, for example, carried erotic connotations and represented the courtesan. However, the connection between object and its forged associations are manmade. Chen Man reinvents this symbol of the feminine and erotic in order to problematize this manmade, irrational fear of beauty and women, as well as myth of the hypersexual woman embedded within Chinese tradition. In Erotica #1 and Erotica #3, the petals are metallic, sharp, and sinister.


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Erotica #1’s (fig. 14) flowers expel vines and root-like, penetrable plant life that grapple at the viewer and seem to be an extension of the woman herself. Much like the long filaments in the center of flowers, these masculine parts of flowers create a phallic anxiety. In other cases, such as in Goldfish Goblin Master, flowers are much more subtly incorporated but nonetheless present; the goldfishes’ tails bloom into petal-like arrangements, the left side of the woman’s face covered with transparent plants that echo seaweed and watery vegetation. In her unsettling renditions of cultural beauty ideals, Chen explores the difference between attributes of the fearful women and beautiful women. The uncanny intersections between the two challenges the viewer to reevaluate the discrepancy, problematizing the social stigma of female sexuality and female beauty embedded within cultural tradition. For example, the derogatory term for a woman who is “too good-looking” in Chinese is “flower vase” (huaping 花瓶), which referred to someone who is beautiful on the outside yet vapid and of little use inside.45 The title of Goldfish Goblin Master itself is a combination of the Chinese word for “goldfish” (jinyu 金鱼), and “goblin” (yaojing 妖精).46 This demonizes the woman as essentially wicked, and the fusion between woman and animal is one of the many traditional Chinese methodologies for imagining beautiful women. Chinese myths warning against female ghosts or shape-shifters such as fox spirits and fish demon were often fostered on the male fear of formidable yet beautiful and seductive women, used as a platform to imagine a purely aestheticized female ideal or “hyperfemininity,” something so unattainable that it could only be

45

Chen Nan, “A Versatile ‘Flower Vase,’” China Daily, September 12, 2008, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2008-09/content_7021150.htm. 46 妖精 (yaojing) can also mean “alluring woman,” or “evil spirit.” Chen Man has conflicting translations of her title, with her book Chen Man: Works 2003-2010 listing it as Goldfish Master and her gallery representatives listing it as Golden Fish Goblin or Goldfish Goblin Master.


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conceived as another being.47 The moral to most of these stories warn against judging based on appearances, falling victim to vanity, and most importantly, falling prey to the charms of a woman. For example, the interplay of snake and woman is a theme in the Chinese Opera Legend of the White Snake or Madame White Snake, which tells the story of a young scholar who falls in love with a beautiful woman, unaware that she is a thousand-year-old white snake that has taken on human form. Erotica #1 carries a similar indubitably snake-like demeanor: the woman’s outstretched tongue licks lips that seem to bleed a poisonous black, stepping beyond the normal seductive gesture of lust and conveying instead a sense of wanton hunger or thirst. The color scheme of moldy greens and deep plum evoke a disconcerting sense of morbidity and rotting decay, effectively conflating the idea of a dominant female with the poisonous woman within Chinese tradition. Despite her innovation, Chen’s Vision series was actually not immediately well received amongst local audiences. Chen Man’s covers for Vision, which transformed these ordinary models into fantastical ethereal beings amid imaginary dreamscapes, were certainly ambitious and yet met criticism with local Shanghainese audiences. Phillip Ing, vice-president of M.A.C. cosmetics described locals’ reactions to the covers of the avant-garde Shanghai-based arts and design monthly, “[Chen’s Vision series] started [figurative] riots, because Chinese people thought they were ugly.”48 This perception of ugliness was based on the fact that Chen’s emphasis of narrow eyes and large, upturned lips refuted the “Shanghai girl” look – small lips, large eyes with an epicanthic fold, and passive demureness – as well-established, unquestionable ideals of feminine beauty. The artist reportedly continues to receive hate mail from viewers who 47

Judith T. Zeitlin, The Phantom Heroine: Ghosts and Gender in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Literature (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2007), 29. 48 Lesa Hannah, “Culture Shock: Photographer Chen Man’s Boundary-pushing Imagery Make Their Way into a M.A.C Collaboration,” FashionMagazine, February 23, 2012. http://www.fashionmagazine.com/blogs/beauty/2012/02/23/fashion-photographer-chen-man-m-a-c/.


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find her attempts at creating a new beauty ideal offensive and ugly.49 However, an analysis of her works reveals that her intention is not a radical defiance of Chinese tradition, as what might have been viewed by the local population, but in fact a preservation of deeply rooted Chinese traditions that are in danger of irrelevance with new steps toward modernization. In subverting the typical portrayal of whiteness as natural, Chen challenges the language of advertising heightened by new capitalist markets, yet retains white skin as an important part of Chinaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cultural identity.

49

Ibid.


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Chapter 3 Daughter of the Party: Transgressing Feminisms “Feminine as emblematic of a nonalienated, nonfragmented identity is…a crucially important motif in the history of cultural representations of the nature of modernity. Woman emerges in these discourses as an authentic point of origin, a mythic referent untouched by the strictures of social and symbolic mediation; she is a recurring symbol of the atemporal and asocial at the very heart of the modern itself.” – Rita Felski, The Gender of Modernity50 Although in existing interviews Chen prefers to leave her associations with the terms “feminism” and “feminist” ambiguous, her work within fashion photography can be interpreted as having unexamined feminist ambitions. Especially in a Chinese context, in which clothing and the adornment of women’s bodies has been historically used as a site of patriarchal control, the reintroduction and acceptance of fashion as socially permissible reinstates women’s control over their own bodies. China has a long history of facilitating unity, and clothing trends often indicate changes in structures of power. The Nationalist government of the Republic of China (1912-49) banned women from wearing clothes, hairstyles, and cosmetics deemed as “bizarre dress” (qizhuang yifu 奇装异服) during the New Culture Movement (1915-1921) with the premise that it was associated with communist spies loyal to the People’s Republic of China.51 The ban on extravagant clothes, vivid colors, and permed hair continued into the founding of the People’s Republic of China (1949), in which fashion was seen as frivolous attention to one’s personal appearance with no practical use, and thus counterrevolutionary. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a codified dress code was enforced. Variations of the militant, asexual “Mao suit” were mandated to both men and women with the intent of 50

Felski, 37. Dorothy Ko and Zheng Wang, Translating Feminisms in China: a Special Issue of Gender & History (Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell Pub. Ltd., 2007). 51


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facilitating gender balance while establishing a distinctly national dress. It also created an antithesis to the Western suit, which was deemed too bourgeois and unpatriotic. On the surface, the Chinese Communist Party welcomed feminist ideas (nuquan zhuyi 女权主义), but only because of its potential to benefit the declining economy. This “state feminism” can be further described as “a practice in which the state takes control of championing women’s liberation, by decreasing gender difference in the media and weakening the traditional family structure in order to replace family patriarchy with new state patriarchy.”52 Feminism was predominantly used as a means to raise production quotas in allowing women into the work force, perhaps most famously advocated by Mao Zedong in his saying, “Women hold up half the sky.” However, this regime aimed at erasing gender differences ultimately restricted women’s agency while incriminating fashion as morally corrupt. Moreover, the uniform only created the illusion of gender equality. While women were “liberated” into the workforce, they were faced with the doubled burden of not only motherhood and expected homemakers, but also laborers and salary-earners. After Mao’s death and the introduction of the Open Door Policy in 1979, public restrictions on clothing were relaxed. However, the residual effects of the regime poised at erasing its citizen’s gender through clothing still persisted, and “cultural dislocation and confusion” on the state of what exactly could be considered proper dress lasted until the mid1980s.53 Party officials only began wearing the Western suit in the 1990s, but still occasionally wear the Mao suit as national dress. Chen’s parents would have no doubt experienced the uniformed era, which renders her highly critical of the detriments of uniform, uniformity, and the theory that imposing asexuality on women will somehow garner their equality. The promotion of

52

Mayfair Yang, Spaces of Their Own: Women’s Public Sphere in Transnational China, Public Worlds v. 4 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 37. 53 Juanjuan Wu, Chinese Fashion from Mao to Now (Oxford  ; New York: Berg, 2009).


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fashion in print media only began being cautiously introduced in the 1980s, and in the form of articles in women’s magazines with titles that questioned, “Is fashion indeed good or not?” and, “Is Caring for Dress Capitalist?”54 The ultimately pro-fashion perspectives begun by these women writers demonstrated how fashion created an avenue for reclaiming a specifically female identity in contemporary China. Vogue China was considered a latecomer to China’s fashion industry, establishing its sixteenth headquarters worldwide in Beijing on September 2005. Chen Man published a series of photographs inside the pages of Vogue China’s October 2009 issue that would later be titled Long Live the Motherland. Here, Du Juan (杜鹃) (b. 1982), China’s first internationally recognized supermodel, poses against distinct national icons such as Tiananmen. Her figure is emphasized by her vibrantly hued dress, which despite variations in style in different frames, remains the same shade of pure saturated red. The words “60 Memorable Fashion Moments” and Chinese translation, “六十个经典时尚时刻” (liushige jingdianshishang shike), were white text overlay for the first photograph of the fashion spread, Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 1 (2009) (fig. 15), which featured Du Juan cradling peonies, a long-time national emblem for China. This semi-bilingual format of the magazine reveals how Vogue attempted to extend its local young female readership to include to English-speaking communities. This chapter primarily focuses on the social implications of this fashion editorial; as an explicit endeavor to represent an avant-garde conception of nationhood, this series offers insight on how Chen posits feminist critique, the fate of romanticized history under the global gaze, and lastly, the impending effects of the “touristic gaze” on the Chinese collective identity.

54

Juanjuan Wu, Chinese Fashion: From Mao to Now.


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Girl in Red Throughout the series, the woman is the exclusive wearer of red. In Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 3 (fig. 16), for example, Du Juan stands amongst a group of men who are not only homogenously dressed, but almost exclusively in shades of blue. Red has high cultural significance in China, but can denote different meanings. At weddings and holidays, it symbolizes happiness and good fortune; but red also dominates the national flag and can symbolize communism, and therefore China. However, within the context of women and fashion, red clothing can also represent individuality in the midst of conformity.55 Chen’s use of the color red therefore serves multiple uses. The colored distinction between male and female, with men as the sole wearers of pants and less revealing clothing as well, emphasizes physical differences between male and female form. Chen’s deliberate decision to polarize differences in dress creates a concentration on women’s biology for affirmation of femininity, and might be interpreted by some as a problematic essentialization of the female body. However, the photo series occupied a double-page spread, in which Long Live the Motherland provided contemporary reinterpretations of the historical photographs next to which it was printed. Thus, in a comparison with historical patterns of dress, Long Live the Motherland called for a future of embracing biological gender differences contrary to a historical past. Moreover, Chen demonstrates how men and women can be unified by common ideology and love of nation without uniform appearances. Reviving motifs from the Revolutionary Era (1949-76), when China’s collective identity was visually and ideologically strong, Chen deliberately borrows from the look of this particular period of artistic styles in order to portray a 55

Wu Juanjuan notes in Chinese Fashion: From Mao to Now that in 1984, two iconic films entitled “Girl in Red” (Hongyi shaonu) and “Red Dresses Are in Fashion” (jieshang liuxing hong qunzi) premiered, and reflected the emerging uncertainty towards fashion within the mainstream. Both centered on female protagonists who met conflict with their peers because of their decision to wear red. “Red Dresses Are in Fashion” ultimately denounced fashion as vain, and in “Girl in Red” her red shirt symbolized her rebellious character, who stood up to authority.


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type of feminine heroic power that was supported by the Chinese Communist Party. The very title “Long live the motherland (zuguo wansui 祖国万岁)” is a quotation taken from Quotations from Chairman Mao,56 a mass-distributed book treated with religious importance during Mao Zedong’s time as the country’s leader. Specifically, Chen makes modifications to the “Iron Girl” (tie guniang 铁轨娘) the image of the strong woman laborer promoted during the Cultural Revolution whose suntanned face and genderless Mao-suit uniform indicated her status as a member of the working class who labored in order to make her nation great.57 For instance, We are proud of participating in the founding of our country’s industrialization (1954) (fig. 17), is a Cultural Revolution poster depicting an Iron Girl, encouraging women to work in industrial professions in response to the great need for physical laborers. Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 3 (fig. 16) uses a similar metal architectural backdrop; Du Juan also holds the tool that (falsely) implicates her contributions to its building. However, while the woman serves as a symbol of the older days glorifying laborers and industrial workers, the combination of quirky elements in the photo communicates feelings of absurdity. Although Chen is best known for her Photoshop skills, she leaves this series rather unretouched in order to highlight the irrationality of the ideal Revolutionary Era woman when reproduced in photographic form. In this way, she is able to call attention to multiple ironies within the so-called liberation of women during the Cultural Revolution. The heading describes the scene, “in those days, the figure of the worker was absolutely the most fashionable, along with the most comfortable and durable clothing that could withstand lively industrious work.”58 However, the model wears minimal clothing that serves no utilitarian value in terms of 56

Mao Zedong, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1967. Ko, Translating Feminisms, 70. 58 “在那个年代,工人的形象绝对是最时尚的,舒适耐穿的服装让辛勤工作的姿态更生动.” Harper’s Bazaar China, December 2011. 57


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protection for the manual labor. In these paradoxical binaries, Chen comments on the contradictory expectations placed on women. The woman is simultaneously expected to be a sexualized object of visual interest and yet a productive servant. Her bare legs are covered in soot, and yet she holds a pair of spotless white gloves in her right hand. And although images of the “Iron Girl” promoted tan skin as a sign of an outdoor laborer, the model here has white skin, a sign of emerging conflict between past ideologies and present realities colliding. Despite the “Iron Girl” image being replaced in contemporary times by consumerist imagery, this series reveals how the contemporary ideal woman is built upon foundations laid by the Cultural Revolution, which were pressures to both make active contributions to the economy. However, women are now burdened with the added pressures of maintaining perfect appearances and to feign belonging in the elite class who can afford luxuries through clothing choice regardless of economic realities. In this way, Chen was able to reveal the changes she seeks in social spheres while celebrating a distinct cultural identity and gender integration. This dual role of both cultural relevance and male inclusivity is essential for the survival and acceptance of feminist ideals in China. Dorothy Ko notes that the main term for feminism during the Revolutionary Era, nuquan zhuyi, re-emerged in post-Mao China full of negative connotations, including “the stereotype of a man-hating he-woman hungry for power” and also “experienced a drastic downfall from being a valorized category translated from the modern ‘West’ via Japan…[and did] not appear even once in the three essays on Maoist policies.”59 In other words, the direct translation of feminism from English to Chinese became distasteful because of its associations with anti-masculinity and attribution to foreign competitors. Chen’s construction of an ideal Communist female citizen

59

Dorothy Ko, Translating Feminisms, 1, 4.


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within Vogue China as a mass printed media is significant in regards to Chinese feminism because it effectively created an imaginary community in which women’s empowerment through clothing and sexual liberation is not only supported by their male peers and the Chinese government, but also by the international community. As Benedict Anderson posits, these “visual and aural” representations of a nation provide citizens with confidence in other citizens’ “steady anonymous, simultaneous activity,” despite having no actual proof of real-time activities.60 Without text explicitly discussing the feminist virtues of preserving choice in clothing within China’s history, which faces the possibility of social stigma, the image forges an empowered female identity for readers to desire. Long Live the Motherland built a community in response to negative perspectives on consumerism, but most importantly against the perception that women are primarily responsible for the rise of consumerism. Female consumerism has not only been criticized by the Chinese government and foreign media outlets, as discussed previously with the market for skin whitening products, but also by artists as well. Wang Guangyi’s (b. 1957) Great Criticism series juxtaposes images from Cultural Revolution propaganda posters with Western logos such as Chanel No. 5 in Great Criticism – Chanel (2005) (fig. 18), in order to compare the language of corporate advertising to the persuasive techniques motivated by political agendas. This collapses the perceived difference between two icons of socialism and capitalism, stressing that they both similarly manipulate public perception. However, Wang simultaneously implies that the coexistence of the two ideologies is contradictory, and the female worker from the Revolutionary Era has succumbed to capitalist desires. This casts doubt on the integrity of the female citizen and defines these corporate brands as the inverse of romanticized national ideals.

60

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.


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What this does not take into consideration, however, is that the young female consumer should be perceived as a victim of corporate marketing, which primarily targets this demographic in advertising campaigns. In her examinations of the role of China’s economic transition in the process of gender-making, Megan M. Ferry suggests that, “contemporary Chinese female citizenship is in part defined by consumption.”61 Chen explores the difference between expectations placed on different genders in Long Live the Motherland – Shanghai 5 (2010) (fig. 19), a continuation of the Vogue China themes and commission for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.62 A model wearing bright red lipstick and chic designer clothing poses next to a seemingly unperturbed by the elder man cutting another man’s hair beside her. What Shanghai 5 ultimately represents is the shifting morals between generations in the depiction of a pretentious youth defying the Confucian tradition of respecting elders. However, Chen seems to neither defend nor lament the destruction of these morals. Rather, she critiques the distribution of gendered stereotypes. Young women are perceived as self-absorbed and disillusioned, while the male gender is depicted as faithfully traditional and somehow immune to capitalist interests. Chen identifies how the woman is still blamed as the cause of social imbalance and the uncomfortable displacement felt by the new woman emerging in China today – the professional working woman as the contemporary replacement for the housewife and/or Iron Girl is given an abrupt, unwelcome entry into society. Instead of highlighting the jarring disagreements between historical ideals and contemporary realities, Chen adapts the tropes of Socialist Realism to fashion photography in hopes that the valorization of women during the Cultural Revolution will live on in the collective historical memory. Socialist Realism was a highly idealized style of painting was originally 61

Megan M. Ferry, “Advertising, Consumerism and Nostalgia for the New Woman in Contemporary China,” Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 17, no. 3 (2003): 277–290. 62 Li Jingjing, “Water for the Thirsty,” Global Times, January 7, 2014.


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developed in Soviet Russia order to depict political figures in the most flattering way possible. It was favorably adapted into China during the Cultural Revolution because it served the requirements set by Mao Zedong at a Forum on Literature and Art in Yan’an, Shaanxi province in 1942, for art to serve the working class and advance socialist ideologies.63 Like the protagonists in Socialist Realist art, Chen places models on elevated horizon lines in order to greater exaggerate their “heroic” acts and monumental significance to society. Du Juan’s cheeks are even distinctly reddened with yanzhi (胭脂), a shade of red-pink blush that symbolized youth and vitality. This was a significant part of standards for art promoted by Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s wife, to depict people “red, bright, and shining” (hong, guang, liang 红光亮).64 The limited color palettes of deeply saturated primary colors such as red and blue evoke wartime posters produced from woodblocks, featuring large figures of workers and an expanse of negative space dedicated to overt political slogans. When the attributes of woodblock are reproduced with photographic realism, the oddities of idealistic depiction become more apparent. An example of this would be Destroy the Old World (1967) (fig. 20), in which the member of the Red Guard also bears a similar hammer to Du Juan in Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 3 (fig. 16), alluding to a common symbol of the communist party and rural working class derived from the Soviet hammer and sickle symbol. Chen translates the visual qualities of woodblock print, such as the rigidity of woodblock, into fashion photography. The stiff nature of the woman’s pose, which is simultaneously static and dynamic, is greatly exaggerated. Like the woodblock print, the figure is depicted from below, as well as with exaggeratedly broad shoulders achieved with shoulder inserts, in order to represent the monumentality of the human potential. 63

Mao Zedong, Talks at the Yenan forum on literature and art. Melissa Chiu and Sheng Tian Zheng, Art and China’s Revolution (New York; New Haven: Asia Society; in association with Yale University Press, 2008), 6. 64


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Dressing models in feminine cuts, tightened waistlines, and shorter hemlines, Chen somewhat softens the militancy of original Socialist Realist styles, but also to reclaim gender distinctions in clothing as an important change in women’s rights since the Revolutionary era. This nostalgia for an idealized past embodies a utopian vision of modernity that allows for embracing gendered differences. In this way, it aligns very much with the ideologies of thirdwave, Lipstick Feminism in its reclamations of sexual behavior previously interpreted by patriarchal systems to denote moral depravity, particularly female adornment such as cosmetics and high-heels.65 It also parallels the second term for feminism in China, nuxing zhuyi; a far less threatening term that calls for reinforcing gender distinctions and promoting femininity. However, it is at times met with the same ambivalence as nuquan zhuyi, and sometimes not considered a type of feminism in the Anglophone world. Long Live the Motherland’s depictions of a lone woman, whose sense of individuality is almost wholly dependent on the color of her dress and its feminine silhouette, defines the Chinese feminine consciousness as the desire to be feminine and desirable. This challenges the social and cultural boundaries of contemporary China; namely, the fear of female sexuality that informs gender politics, and, ultimately, the historical subjection of women’s rights to national interests. Perhaps the most transgressive aspect of this series is its unapologetic self-awareness of its historical incorrectness. Long Live the Motherland places women’s bodies directly in front of symbols of the old leading male order that decided the difference between decency and indecency in an act of subtle defiance. A curvaceous model in provocative clothing accompanied by a milieu of men in an otherwise abandoned alleyway (Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 5) (fig. 21) would have been scandalous just a few decades ago. The woman wearing bright red nail 65

Joanne Hollows and Rachel Moseley, Feminism in Popular Culture (Oxford; New York: Berg, 2006), 84. Also see: Linda M. Scott, Fresh Lipstick  : Redressing Fashion and Feminism, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).


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polish and bangles in front of Mao Zedong’s portrait at Tiananmen (Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 1) (fig. 16) would have been declared bourgeois; indeed, the woman dominates the picture plane, rendering the national landmark small and nondescript in the distance. The historical inaccuracy is precisely how it makes a quiet homage to the accomplishments of women, having destroyed patriarchal control of women’s bodies in the past. As a comparison, one might take a look Ai Weiwei’s compositionally similar June 1994 (1994) (fig. 22), in which Ai Weiwei’s wife, Liu Qing, provocatively lifts her skirt up to the camera in front of Tiananmen Square in a spiteful gesture of social defiance. This public display of unabashed female deviancy, with Mao’s portrait and on-duty official guards in the background, is one of the ultimate forms of political dissenting because it rejects the government’s control of the citizen’s body. Though far less directly insulting, Chen Man nonetheless attempted to restore fashion a site for women’s agency that aims to contest its historical connotations with narcissism and vanity. This is significantly subversive because although fashion advocates in the mass media helped transform Chinese fashion from “a vain and petty lifestyle issue into a legitimate industry” in the 1990s, it has not yet successfully dispelled all social stigma associated with female vanity in the contemporary era.66 Appearing alongside Chen’s contemporary photos were historical pictures such as the communist play “The East is Red” and “Lei Feng studying.” These romanticizations of an idealized past place women in relation to large-scale but mostly male social processes and icons. In Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 5 (fig. 21), the model wears the same iconic hat donned by Lei Feng, an iconic hero of the Communist revolution hailed for his selfless acts of bravery. His model citizenry appeared in school textbooks and propaganda posters depicting him darning

66

Juanjuan Wu, n.p.


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socks or serving tea to officers.67 He was often depicted with variations of the same military soldier’s hat, with distinctive ear flaps that attached to the top and lined with sheepskin, was first designed to keep farmers and workers warm in northern China, near his hometown. After the Cultural Revolution, there was rumor that such a person did not even exist, and was the creation of the Communist Party as a part of a nation-wide campaign to instill national spirit. Despite this controversy, Chen celebrates Lei Feng’s identity as an icon of China and the Communist spirit, using his well-established and highly recognizable image as a means of woman’s empowerment. This juxtaposition of model citizen and clothing model justifies concepts previously criticized as foreign and harmful – high fashion, a consumerist ethic, female empowerment – with a sense of tradition and cultural familiarity, relaxing their perceived threat to the stability of traditional norms. In other words, Chen’s fusion of indisputably model citizenry within the nation’s history with contemporary women’s fashion attempts to reclaim women’s fashion as politically synonymous with ideal social citizenship in the current era. Chen thus creates an alternative importance for women’s fashion, in serving a broader purpose of nationhood and national imagemaking. More importantly, this reclamation of women’s fashion as one that serves nationalistic purpose imbues feminism – a term that carries the stigma of anti-masculinity and xenophobia – with a feeling of cultural relevance.

Delivering Chinese Culture: The Commodification of Nationalism Long Live the Motherland exemplifies how China’s national identity is packaged and sold in contemporary times, which raises the concern that it may sanitize and glorify present 67

For an extensive history of Lei Feng and his iconicity, see Kuang-sheng Chʻen, Lei Feng, Chairman Mao’s Good Fighter (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1968) and James A. Schnell, “Lei Feng: Government Subsidized Role Model,” in Perspectives on Communication in the People’s Republic of China (Lanham, MD; Oxford: Lexington Books, 1999), 43-50.


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realities. In many ways, Long Live the Motherland reflects the multiple influences that caused this glamorization of China’s historical past. The choice in backdrops, for example, reflects many of the shifts in the tourism industry that Chen witnessed during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. For example, she interestingly excludes the Great Wall as an indispensible national symbol and icon of Beijing. Instead, as illustrated by Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 5, Chen choses to photograph Du Juan in a Beijing hutong, narrow alleyways between traditional Chinese architecture that faced rampant demolition during pre-Olympic preparations. After many were razed, a small selection was preserved near the center of Beijing and became a hub to a great deal of tourism. In Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 3, Du Juan poses against 798, a cluster of German manufacturing factories that were abandoned at the eve of the Cultural Revolution; the signs of their abandonment are emphasized in large rust stains and desolate landscape. Facing closure in 2005, the area was saved from government-mandated demolition because of the realization that it could be incredibly lucrative.68 The Chinese government took control of the area, turning it into a tourist destination complete with commercial galleries, cafes, and shopping areas. The gentrification of 798, in which rent prices have increased during its commercial success, has ironically driven out much of the original artist communities that had fought for its preservation. Despite the internal forces that keep the management of places such as 798 highly manicured and tightly controlled, the dilapidated look of the area projects cultural authenticity, humble origins, and masks its capitalization. Thus, the selectivity of locations for Long Live the Motherland indicate the increasing dependence on market forces, tourism, and the elite global audience, for deeming locations as culturally significant. Moreover, these mark the movement of tourist spaces into China’s urban environments.

68

Lucius C Kuert, Project 798: New Art in New China (San Francisco: Microcinema International, 2010).


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Artists such as Wang Guangyi in his Great Criticism series show concern for this gradual subsuming of the Chinese moral landscape by capitalist inclinations. Indeed, Chen’s ability to form a legible nation-state identity proves to be extremely lucrative particularly for globalized industries such as Vogue. The fact that cultural and national specificity has become a welcomed precious commodity in the global market is problematic in its own right. Sara Chaeng theorizes that the popularization of Chinese goods within the consumer industry has a history of reproducing imperialist habits and orientalist themes.69 Spaces such as the department store and commercial magazine provided a secured an alternative imperial space for examining the loot obtained from world travel. The knowledge about Chinese historical references, their origins and backgrounds, became a means for Western readers to accumulate cultural capital and exhibit it as symbols of an ordered empire. Meanwhile, it also restricted the Chinese identity to a feminine sphere. However, Long Live the Motherland offers perhaps a more nuanced perspective on the use of the magazine and commercial space as a means for world exposition and mass distribution. Perhaps most ironic about Long Live the Motherland is that China’s national identity is literally constructed using Western brands – everything from the jewelry to shoes are listed as originating from luxury powerhouses such as Chanel, Versace, Giorgio Armani, Longchamp, Dior, Hermes, and Marc Jacobs, their prices also listed at upwards of ¥40,000 (equivalent to about $6600 USD). The coexistence of luxuries previously deemed as “bourgeois” and references to Revolutionary China seem at first contradictory. However, these luxury commodities displayed on women’s bodies serve not only the purpose of boasting a modernized country with changing social conditions, but also high class mobility, and the purchasing power 69

Sarah Cheang, “Selling China: Class, Gender and Orientalism at the Department Store,” Journal of Design History 20, no. 1 (n.d.).


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of the growing Chinese elite. They also serve to assert the persistence and permeation of Chinese culture through Western frameworks, reversing the old imperial power structures that were very much the target of the Chinese Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. For example, In Long Live the Motherland - Beijing 5 (fig. 21), a female figure representing a Lei Feng incarnate poses next to men dressed in Navy Breton stripes, a nineteenth century garment produced for men in the French navy. This iconic shirt, now synonymous with haute-bourgeois Parisian chic because of efforts by couture designers Coco Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier, is paired with standard issue, black rubber rain boots. The men ride rusty, worn bicycles, which projects the identity of a middle- to lower-class urbanite. This coalescence of Chinese ideologies and luxury goods deliberately subverts the idea that consumer ideologies oppose national ideologies. This thus retains the Revolutionary worker’s ethic and collective thinking held significant to the Chinese identity, aspects that some such as Wang Guangyi have communicated to be in danger of extinction. As a whole, Long Live the Motherland challenged the seeming contradictions between today’s fast-paced commercial culture within China, creating a means in which self-indulgent individualism and the culture of the masses (qunzhong wenyi 群众文艺), a legacy of the revolutionary past can coexist. This series demonstrated how Chen could be seen as occupying a feminist perspective, in supporting the importance of women’s fashion in allowing women an important means of agency. The series also rewired existing imperialist power structures within the fashion industry, asserting the continued solidarity of traditions from China’s revolutionary past.

Young Pioneers of New Terrain: Generation of the Future


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Within the same years as Long Live the Motherland, Chen also crafted Young Pioneers (2008). Young Pioneers consists of three images named by the architecture in the background: Three Gorges, Chang E #7, and CCTV. All three titles are references to contemporary structures and also the Young Pioneers, communist organizations for youth in China between the ages of six and fourteen. Founded in 1949 as a mass youth organization to inculcate China’s youth into Communist ideology, it evolved to become the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution after Mao Zedong denounced the educational front, then restarted in 1977 after the leadership recognized quality education as necessary for modernization of the country.70 The Chinese Central Secretariat expressed in 1980, “Primary education is…an important stage of a person’s moral and spiritual development…and the starting point for raising our nation’s cultural and scientific level.”71 All children of Chen Man’s generation became inducted as a Young Pioneer in primary school, and were taught condensed views such as, “Chairman Mao founded China, Deng Xiaopeng made us rich and now Jiang Zemin is leading us into the future.”72 Thus, the CCP has focused its ideological education on the early stages of its citizens’ lives, indoctrinating China’s children with the weight of revolutionary history and political ideology from an early age. In referring to the Young Pioneers, and her past experiences as one herself, Chen examines how this political program directed an intense amount of national attention to producing little social citizens. Chen problematizes the treatment of human beings, especially women and children, as mechanisms within a larger political machine to raise productivity. Her use of digital manipulation is evidently less inhibited, most likely due to the fact that it did not have to respond to the demands of a larger corporation. Hence, this work similarly 70

Billie Lo, “Primary Education in China: A Two-Track System for Dual Tasks,” in Contemporary Chinese Education (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1984) 47–64. 71 Lo, 50. 72 Erik Eckholm, “After 50 Years, China Youth Remain Mao’s Pioneers,” New York Times, September 26, 1999.


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features women posed with national monuments or icons, but is able to carry a darker undertone, commenting on anxieties of racial purity and the consequences of modernity. Exhibited in MoCA Shanghai in a solo show entitled Man (November 23, 2011 - February 7, 2012) next to Four Seasons (2011) and other works, Chen stresses that the “girl in blue” found in the series was created to show more concern for the breakneck speed of development than for the actual actions of the Chinese Communist Party.73 However, perhaps a more accurate analysis of her work would be that the woman represented the expectations for national growth. Throughout Young Pioneers (2008), Chinese model Li Zheng (李峥) is dressed in a modified uniform of the Young Pioneer, interestingly excluding the red scarf as a key attribute. She is dressed in transparent modified clothing that she has clearly outgrown, the buttons of which burst at the seams. The pastel cotton-candy colors of pink and blue, as well as the juvenile pigtails and severely parted hair, form an uncomfortable dissonance with the model’s fully matured adult body. This depiction of precocious sexuality captures the nostalgia of growing up too fast, forced adulthood, and missed childhood. This equates China’s modernization with a sort of sexual awakening, forming a parallel with the various modernization projects the woman poses with in each image. The same model in a different selection from the series, Young Pioneers – Three Gorges (fig. 23), has been digitally copied into a row of repeating clones so that they appear to be giants standing on top of the Three Gorges Dam (sanxia gongcheng 三峡工程), a hydroelectric dam that spans the Yangzi River in Hubei province. The project of building the dam began in 1994, and immediately met controversy. Advocates argued that it would generate an immense amount of clean energy, equivalent to approximately one-ninth of the country’s electric power supply, 73

Sam Gaskin, “Chen Man: The Beijing Photographer on Bridging Fine Art and Fashion Photography.”


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which is crucial for China’s economic growth. Meanwhile, critics lamented its detrimental environmental impacts: forced relocation, contamination of the waters, and loss of access to archaeological sites under the Yangzi River. However, most Chinese citizens viewed the dam as an engineering marvel and an asset to the nation’s economic progress. 74 Anthony Hirschel notes in Internalizing Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art, “Many Chinese avoid Westerners’ sentimentality about the destruction of old towns when their residents are being relocated to nearby, newly constructed modern cities that offer amenities never before available to these citizens.”75 Chen’s interpretation of the dam mirrors what it symbolized for most Chinese people at the time of its construction – hope for a new future characterized by new modern living and advancements in technology – though not without satire. The model, Li Zheng, in Three Gorges bears expressions of varying degrees of boredom, yawning and preparing for a languid plunge, fully clothed, into the Yangtze River below. Although the Three Gorges Dam was not even been fully operational when the artwork was completed, Chen captures these highly optimistic expectations for the dam, which may have stepped outside the boundaries of reality. Excluding any signs of construction or ruin, the concrete structure of the dam is depicted as extending far into the distance, the rushing waters curving into a misty abyss that evokes waterfalls and natural earthly forms. The horizon line is blurred with fluffy white clouds, while a perfect rainbow streaks across the sky, tracing the model’s projected movement into the water as the model arcs her body into a dive. This romanticized rendition of an otherwise terrestrial and destructive developmental project parodies the nation’s overly enthusiastic aspirations for the undertaking to be not only being an efficiently working mechanism but also a manifestation of a seamless modernization. Chen ultimately 74

Anthony Hirschel, “Foreword” in Internalizing Displacement: The Three Gorges Dam and Contemporary Chinese Art (Chicago, IL: Smart Museum of Art, 2008). 75 Ibid.


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identifies this interpretation as slightly naïve, or a metaphorically childish desire for modernization without conflict or regard to injustices. This naiveté is encapsulated within the girl’s youthful appearance and illogical surroundings that manifest her own imagination. In this sense, Chen reveals a certain skepticism that the project will live up to its expectations. Contemporary Chinese artist Chen Qiulin (b. 1975) also similarly compares the Young Pioneers to the government’s construction projects in her works. In a segment in Chen Qiulin’s video work Color Lines (2006) (fig. 24), uniformed Young Pioneers wearing thick stage makeup emerge from the ruins of an unidentified city in China. It is ambiguous as to whether it is a site for construction or demolition. Regardless, the children are clearly depicted as symbols of a promising future, and a sign of renewal after ruin. However, their inadequacy in the task they have been given, rebuilding the city, becomes apparent when the youth lie down on a tri-colored construction cloth that match their uniforms. Like Chen Qiulin, Chen Man’s replication of Young Pioneers can be seen as a parody of the government’s methods of social engineering with an emphasis on uniformity. Chen critiques the aims of the Young Pioneers program and China's approach in educating its youth, which treats children as components within a larger mechanism to improve the country’s economic and political power. Chen also equates the government’s treatment of women and birth to the citizen’s duty to contribute to the nation’s economy. In Chang E #1 (2009) (fig. 25), the robotic spacecraft launched in 2007 and first phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program named after the Chinese goddess of the moon (chang’e 嫦娥), is literally birthed from below her skirt in a beaming solar flare. This gives the woman a maternal connection with the machine and suggests the womb as a vehicle for modern national formation. Chen reminds the viewer of the satellite’s connection to the female form, and thus, the literal expectation of women as producers of the


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new era. In many ways, this paradigm parallels the “Iron Girl” movements during the Cultural Revolution, in which the progress of a nation was thought to result from good motherhood. The product of modern technology magically emerges from a woman’s womb, capturing the unnatural and unprecedented speed of the government’s modernization projects. In this sense, Chen reveals contradictions, falsities, and nonsensicalness of national expectation – themes existing within other works in the series as well. Chen also highlights the similarities between the government’s treatment of children and industry, literalizing the legal reforms that demand a new generation of economically productive citizens that will exemplify national ambitions for modernization. For example, reproduction is strictly controlled by laws such as the One-child Policy (1979), a form of population control that has been emphasized by Chinese officials as a way to increase the “quality” (suzhi 素质) of the Chinese people by having more resources available per person.76 Although beginning in 2014 the policy has finally been relaxed to allow couples to have two children without any fines as long as at least one of the parents was an only child, the government still firmly believes that multiple economic and social problems are rooted in a large population.77 This places an extreme amount of societal pressure on women in particular, treating them as assumed potential wives and childbearers without allowing them full control of their own sexual activity. China lacks a sex education program for its youth, and there exist strict taboos against out-of-wedlock pregnancies. In the third and final image of the set, CCTV (fig. 26), which stands for the China Central Television (zhongguo zhongyang dianshitai 中国中央电视台) headquarters tower designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheren, the girl turns her face way from the viewer to look 76

Vanessa L. Fong, Only Hope: Coming of Age Under China’s One-child Policy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004). 77 Madison Park, “China Eases One-child Policy, Ends Re-education through Labor Camps,” CNN, Accessed March 26, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/28/world/asia/china-one-child-policy-official/index.html.


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contemplatively at the city of Beijing. The skyscraper met controversy amongst netizens, when it was suggested that the designs resembled inappropriate imagery, from a large pair of underpants to female genitalia.78 It is noteworthy that this skyscraper embodies a female form, thus forming parallels to the girl who occupies Young Pioneers. One writer proclaimed, “Koolhaas’s intervention in China is CCTV, a formalist-functionalist architecture, not phallic but vaginal, one that contributes both to the modernization of communist culture and to the definition of architecture.”79 His remark directly refers to a continuation of themes from Revolutionary China, in which imagery of women was used to mobilize the nation into productivity. In fact, many interpreted the skyscraper design, which attempted to defy the traditional vertical shape of the skyscraper, as an excuse to create spectacle and an exaggeration of its ingenuity. For these netizens, the CCTV Headquarters was a prime example of using the feminine form as a mask for patriarchal ambitions.

Conflicting Allegiances In a recent interview, Chen Man acknowledges certain aspects of Westernized ideology that she endorses, yet also maintains an intense desire to maintain a separate identity, saying that, “…you can globalize, but you have to remember your roots. My source is ‘from China.’”80 This perhaps encapsulates Chen’s perception of national identity as separate from the global market force. Globalized beauty industries such as Vogue simply provide the artist with sites on which to define a cultural identity that is distinctly different from global counterparts. Her Long Live

78

Joel Martinsen, “Rem Koolhaas and CCT Architecture Porn,” Danwei: Chinese Media, Advertising, and Urban Life, August 20, 2009, http://www.danwei.org/architecture/rem_koolhaas_and_cctv_porn.php. 79 Bert de Myunck, “The End of the Skyscraper as We Know It,” Accessed March 30, 2014, http://movingcities.org/bertdemuynck/on-china/cctv_archis/. 80 Chen Man, Interview by Danielle Wu at Studio 6, Beijing, June 11, 2013. Translated from Chinese into English, except phrase “from China” in single quotations, which was originally spoken in English.


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the Motherland (2009) series revealed her commitment to representing China as her national identity while simultaneously using the opportunity of her assignment to reformulate it. Her adoption of Revolutionary Era imagery to model Western luxury clothing was a bold approach in reclaiming womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fashion and female consumerism as acceptable within the boundaries of proper citizenship. At the same time, Chen was highly aware that the 2008 Beijing Olympics intended to be an outward display of Chinaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ambitious desire for unlimited growth that results in a dazzling beauty. Young Pioneers (2008) manifests this momentous optimism in a literal form by correlating the rebirth of national identity and the benefits and drawbacks of hurried modernization with the sexual awakening of an adolescent schoolgirl. With a hint of satire, Chen portrays national pursuits as precocious, conjuring visions of the predicted end without regard to the complex internal processes responsible for bring them to life.


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Chapter 4 The Creation of Ethnic Hierarchies “Minzu [was] a holistic concept that, while encompassing the body, was not bound by it.” - Thomas Mullaney81 Between the condensed sartorial timeline of Long Live the Motherland and representation of contemporary building projects in Young Pioneers, the selectivity of what constitutes the ideal citizen reveals a multitude of exclusionary principles. Despite productive conversations surrounding gender, discussions on race and ethnicity were cast to the wayside. Although Chen Man was born in Inner Mongolia and cited frequently in Chinese media as notably “darkskinned,”82 the artist excluded any hint of China’s biological diversity in these depictions of the idealized, yet quintessential representation of Chinese collective identity. Thus, Long Live the Motherland and Young Pioneers fundamentally reflect the intensification of perceptions around the Beijing Olympics that the Han Chinese best represented the quintessentially Chinese citizen. Chen created Rise and Shine as one of her first projects as a new photographer and visual director at i-D, a British magazine dedicated to fashion, youth culture, and discussions of identity. Created four years after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Rise and Shine (2012) reflected Chen’s perceptions during the post-Olympic period: a time of evaluating the outcomes and legacy of an event that was held up as the promise of a better future for China. Moreover, the magazine was directly intended for a foreign audience. The covers, which purported to showcase certain Chinese ethnic minorities (shaoshu minzu 少数民族), were commissioned for the prespring 2012 issues that coincided with the Chinese New Year. Thus, the series was created as 81

Thomas S. Mullaney, “Plausible Communities,” in Coming to Terms with the Nation Ethnic Classification in Modern China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 74. 82 Harper’s Bazaar China, December 2011.


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representational of China’s national holiday, increasing the pressure on Chen to formulate a specifically legible nation-state identity. This chapter explores how Chen Man articulates and promotes a more diverse cultural consciousness and individualist subjectivity in representing China to an audience abroad. Chen’s works for i-D magazine deliberately took a decidedly more ethnographic approach, asserting that the Chinese identity is composed of a diverse range of ethnicities, divided into categories and emphasizing their high biological variation. What could appear at first to be a conscious reproduction of the inner-orientalism of the ethnic minority identity can also be interpreted as a deliberate marketing strategy and also a subversive action. In an interview, she associated ideas of diversity as “Western” concepts while acknowledging China as having a more narrow vision of beauty.83 However, even given her conscious awareness of the divide, she revealed no intention of assimilating to the West. On the contrary, diversity is recognized as one characteristic of the West’s contemporary beauty ideals, and thus utilized as a tool to appeal to Western audiences. The founder of i-D himself, former Vogue art director, Terry Jones has said, “until I saw Chen Man’s photographs for the cover, I didn’t understand the huge diversity of looks that you have within China,” which reflects both the Western ignorance towards China’s ethnic diversity, and also the failures of the Chinese government to effectively communicate that diversity to an international audience.84 Chen essentially identifies the novelty of the Chinese ethnic minority identity and uses it to disrupt stereotypical notions of the Chinese collective identity that exists on the international fashion scene. The only unifying trait between each of the women featured on Chen’s covers is the trademark “winking smile,” in which all who appear on the cover of i-D must shut one eye in 83

Chen Man, Interview by Danielle Wu at Studio 6, Beijing, June 11, 2013. “Joyce and i-D Stage Joint Exhibition,” South China Morning Post, Accessed April 2, 2013, http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/fashion-watches/article/1069587/joyce-and-i-d-stage-joint-exhibition. 84


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order to imitate the magazine logo (when rotated, “i-D” becomes an emoticon that looks much like the facial features of winking and laughing). However, their looks are anything but uniform; with the help of stylist Lucia Liu, each woman was given jarring combinations of contemporary dress accented by boldly colored components from various Chinese ethnic minority costumes. For example, Chinese model Zhang Li Na (fig. 27), who wears a slick red nylon vest and a boldly embroidered headdress with a ferociously voluminous mane, a costume piece that appears to be a variation of the kind worn by the Bai, whom primarily reside in Yunnan (fig. 28). Meanwhile, Zhang Li Na also wears theatrical gold eye shadow and blush comprised of fuchsia and orange – makeup that accentuates her distinct facial features, such as her angular cheekbones and downward slanting, linear eyebrows. This disjointed ensemble, which sold magazines in depicting the ethnic minority identity as youthful, urban, and avant-garde, contradicted typical advertisements and collective thinking of ethnic minorities in China as that of traditional, rural folk. Moreover, Chen deliberately individualized her subjects in their closely cropped portraits by portraying them as distinct individuals rather than as anonymous social types, with each cover bearing the woman’s full Chinese name Romanized in pinyin. Thus, it can be argued that Chen’s portrayal of ethnic minorities in her Rise and Shine series for i-D magazine actively attempts to counter the existing prejudices in the Chinese advertisement industry, as well as foreign preconceptions of China as a homogenous, mono-ethnic, Han-Chinese nation, by foregrounding Chinese ethnic minorities within the highly competitive, predominantly Eurocentric fashion industry. The Ethnic Classification Project (minzu shibie 民族识别) in the 1950s was the Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to define ethnic minorities that lay outside of the Han majority. This ambitious undertaking proved to be an exhaustive and confusing process, in which linguists often


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misinterpreted the said peoples’ self-identification, ignored ethnic minorities with insubstantial population numbers, and sometimes relied on dialect to separate people into categories, or “plausible communities.”85 The number of ethnic minorities was capped at fifty-six, which includes the Han as one type of ethnicity. Meanwhile, this project was controversial because it also designated which peoples were to be more closely governed and focused socioeconomic development on certain regions, thus exacerbating a collective perception that ethnic minorities were fundamentally primitive and juvenile. In Cultural Encounters in China’s Ethnic Frontiers, Steven Harrell describes China’s ethnic minority categorization project as a kind of “civilizing project,” or “interaction between peoples, in which one group, the civilizing center, interacts with other groups (the peripheral peoples) in terms of a particular kind of inequality.”86 China’s ethnic identification project in the 20th century essentially targeted certain populations of people to be re-cultured and brought up to the standards of Han socialism. Thus, this apparently earnest attempt at nation-building by the Chinese government to preserve various cultures’ authenticity contained an underlying Han elitism, separating ethnic minorities from the “civilized world” by definition. After a brief hiatus from 1966 to 1969, Thomas Mullaney notes that, the “ascendance and increased ubiquity of the country’s officially recognized minzu groups – was [due to] the emergence of cultural tourism” during the 1970s and 1980s.87 The categories of ethnic minorities were visually packaged not only to foreign visitors but also to a rising Chinese middle class through souvenirs, dolls, collectible cards and other aspects of touristic visual and material culture. Because ethnic costumes, with bright colors and bold designs that 85

Mullaney, Coming to Terms with the Nation. Stevan Harrell, “Civilizing Projects and the Reaction to Them.” In Cultural Encounters on China’s Ethnic Frontiers (University of Washington Press, 1995), 13. 87 Mullaney, “Counting to fifty-six,” in Coming to Terms with the Nation, 125. 86


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differed greatly from Han contemporary dress, further emphasized the division by providing a clear visual distinction from the Han, they played an indispensible role in identifying ethnic minority. The ethnic costume essentially became a sort of uniform for China’s ethnic minorities, even if most of the costumes might have been rarely worn or only during ceremony in reality: non-Han peoples were often epitomized in pictures of young women in full traditional costume rather than modern dress, which metaphorically perpetuated their perceived inferiority as more female, juvenile, and archaic. This is exemplified by Our Country is a United and Unified Multi-Cultural Nation (ca. 1982) (fig. 29), a propaganda poster in which costumed representatives (mostly female) of the different ethnic minorities, sing and dance in a parade in Tiananmen Square. The focus on their art and cultural performances rather than their differences in systems of meaning and values presents diversity in a way that is nonthreatening to Chinese unity. Not only did the original project that defined the categories have blurred borders, but the images representing the categories came to be an oversimplification of a complex reality. In the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a procession of fifty-six children representing each of the fifty-six ethnicities in China (which includes Han as one ethnicity), carried the Chinese flag. Although they were each dressed in garments representing their respective ethnic minorities, it was later shockingly discovered that most of these children were Han.88 Within this series of unfolding events, it can be seen how the ethnic minority identity began to become performative, and the government’s presentation of China’s ethnic diversity was deceptive. In a response to the controversy, executive vicepresident of the Beijing organizing committee, Wang Wei, said, “it is normal for dancers, 88

Richard Spencer, “Beijing Olympics: ‘Ethnic’ Children Revealed as Fakes in Opening Ceremony,” The Telegraph, August 15, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/2563786/Beijing-Olympics-Ethnicchildren-revealed-as-fakes-in-opening-ceremony.html.


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performers, to be dressed in other races’ clothes.”89 Wang did not see a problem within being unable or unwilling to deliberately hire performers who belonged to the ethnic minority that was being showcased – in fact, “’minority dances’ were a regular part of frequent statesponsored entertainments, with performers coming from all over the country without having to belong to the relevant group.”90 Chen Man’s Rise and Shine series attempts to reverse this cultural history by quite literally depicting the categories as indistinct and performative. Each of the women representing ethnic minorities are explicitly Han: some Han celebrities and others well-known Han models. Chen explicitly presents the ethnic minority identity as essentially artificial, which challenges the implied authenticity of each ethnic minority category. In altering certain aspects of their dress, Chen transforms the visual representations of ethnic minority from aspirational and yet-to-be-enlightened to inventive and autonomous. Some covers, such as Li Zheng’s visibly red earphones (fig. 30) have simple additions that revise ethnic minority as contemporarily relevant, others such as Pan Yan (fig. 31), have more obscured ethnic costumes. Pan wears a traditional Miao headdress over a white-blond wig; the hair protrudes out of the sides of the headdress, reshaped into a crisp crescent shape that alludesto the metal, crescent-shaped upper part of the headdress that distinguishes this headdress as Miao, as well as their crescent-shaped necklaces. This also unites various subgroups within Miao under one costume, for there are many variations of Miao costume such as the Long-horn Miao headdress (fig. 32), or certain Miao women in Guizhou who mix yarn and horsehair as false hair into their headdresses.91 However, all feature the shape of ox horns in some way that alludes to the Miao’s ancestor worship, which involved the sacrifice 89

Ibid. Ibid. 91 Theresa Reilly, Richly woven traditions: costumes of the Miao of Southwest China and beyond (New York: China Institute in America, 1987), 16. 90


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of bulls.92 Furthermore, the monochromatic color palette conveys a blanketing sense of cool temperature and metallics; Pan poses against a gray backdrop, wearing a sheer top with a lustrous sheen. This refers to the iconic, overwhelmingly silvery look of the Miao costume, including ornaments and jewelry made from solid silver that often amount to several dozen pounds, a symbol of nobility and beauty that differentiates the Miao from all other ethnic groups.93 In this way, Chen defines ethnic identity as retainable and discernable even after deconstructing historical costume and predetermined identity templates, exploring different techniques other than costume to communicate ethnic pride. Moreover, the revisions elevate aspects of their traditional costume as high art rather than craft, as they are often referred to. In addition to addressing the perceived archaic nature of ethnic costumes, Chen also addresses gendered perception of ethnic minority culture as predominantly feminine, demure, and docile. Because female costumes were more elaborate and visually interesting, depictions and illustrations of ethnic minorities almost always, and still continue to, feature women in traditional costume rather than men.94 In this sense, women of ethnic minorities especially face eroticization and sexualization. For example, Yuan Yunsheng’s (b.1937) Water Splashing Festival – A Celebration of Life (1979) (fig. 33), a wall mural exhibited at the Beijing International Airport, depicted a group of nude Dai women bathing, an ethnic group from southern Yunnan, taking part in Yuan’s version of a famous festival. In placing scantily clad women prominently in the foreground with darker-skinned, secondary male characters in the background, Yuan perpetuated the association of minorities with erotic tension and savage promiscuity. Furthermore, their placement within the airport as passive decoration juxtaposed the 92

Ibid. Ibid. 94 “[W]omen are thought to epitomize peripheral peoples, since peripheral peoples are in some sense feminine...sexual metaphor is one of domination, in which the literal or figurative femaleness of the peripheral peoples is one aspect of the act of defining them as subordinate,” from Harrell, 13. 93


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Dai, painted against lively vegetation while performing song and dance in colorful costumes, with an urban public building that symbolized major technological development, thus forming a binary opposition between advanced and underdeveloped space, with the Dai occupying the latter. Yuan’s mural also presented an interesting case of public control over minority identity: subsequently after it was unveiled, authorities covered the artwork due to pressure from the public, which criticized the inappropriate eroticization of this otherwise innocent ethnic minority tradition.95 Chen Man’s covers attempt to dispel the notion of women as carriers of hegemonic ideology. The women featured on the covers of i-D incorporate formal menswear into their ethnic costume. This interspersing of affluent business wear not only upends the perception of peripheral peoples as rural, uneducated peoples, but also provides elements of masculinity, urbanism, intelligence, and professionalism. For example, Chinese model Liu Dan (fig. 34) wears a black turtleneck under a slate grey blazer, while Xin Yuan’s (fig. 35) blue lapel is exaggeratedly oversized, flattening and concealing any indication of the body underneath. In addition, Xin also wears the traditional Chinese male dress, changpao (长袍), which lacks the side opening and form-fitting shape of the female version, qipao (旗袍). Chen Man thereby attempts to de-sexualize these otherwise feminized and frequently sexualized ethnic identities. Furthermore, the composition of the photographs, which all end well above the bust line, lessens the focus on the female anatomy. In fact, Pan Yan (fig. 31) is actually the only model featured in the series whose breasts are not cropped out of the frame or flattened by layers of oversized clothing. However, Chen compensates in this particular instance by

95

Julia Frances Andrews, Painters and Politics in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1979, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 392.


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using a completely neutral makeup palette, deemphasizing Pan’s otherwise “feminine” facial features such as arched eyebrows, lips, and eyelashes. In refurbishing their image with contemporary masculine characteristics, Chen not only projects both power and socioeconomic capability, but also projects the ethnic minority identity as a form of desirable avant-garde fashion with artistic merit and forward thinking rather than purely ethnographic documentation. This contradicts how they are stereotypically depicted as strictly in their ethnic costume or even fanaticized as nude, much like in Yuan Yunshan’s Watersplashing Festival, as if remaining unshaped and impenetrable to modern ideas; in i-D, ethnic identities are provided a sense of competency, of not just achieving the same level of civilization as the Han majority, but being more advanced and ahead of the Han majority. In effect, Chen’s Rise and Shine series incorporates ethnic minority as valid and active contributors to the social and economic infrastructure of the nation, rather than peoples whose cultural has been commercialized by the Han majority. In exaggerating the theatrical, artificial mechanisms of how the women are depicted on the covers as compared to reality, Chen avoids reinforcing ethnic hierarchies and internal orientalism by denying the viewer a “tourist” experience. With each cover, Chen Man attempts neither historically accurate nor documentative depictions; it is also not quite idealization, for she does not omit torn clothing or stray hairs. Instead, the juxtaposition of historical dress, modern technology, and fabricated elements that would rarely be seen together in real life becomes a demonstration of individualized ingenuity rather than a performance that claims accurate cultural representation. Chen does not attempt to conceal the roles of the photographer’s and stylist’s hands, which manipulated each woman beyond comprehension and at times beyond recognition. This emphasizes the identity of ethnic minority as heavily influenced by social construction by


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highlighting the powerful role of the third party in choice of presentation and defining group identity. Indeed, the way the women are stylized forms a striking parallel to the way the Chinese state controls the definitions of ethnicity, which often contradicts particular groups’ selfdesignation; this tight government control of ethnic minority’s went as far as designating official tourist sites based on whether the ethnic group had the material resources to reconstruct ritual traditions for tourist consumption.96 Furthermore, her presentation of renowned, recognized Han women in the role of the performing ethnic minority, emphasizes the transformative power of fabricated identity: primitiveness, ethnicity, and race can be distorted simply through costume, posture, and direction from third parties. Wan BaoBao (fig. 36), a famous contemporary CEO of a jewelry company, is an extremely successful self-made businesswoman. Although she is not an ethnic minority, her dark skin and angular profile, which juts out at an uncompromising angle, sharply inverts the traditional hierarchal binary between Han majority and ethnic minority. Although Wan is perhaps the most famous of all subjects featured in Chen’s Rise and Shine series, she is the only turned to be in complete profile. Chen chooses to obscure features that cause Wan to be most recognizable, which devalues Wan’s privileged status and popularity. Take for example Wan BaoBao’s skin, in which qualities of uneven darkness and moisture have been emphasized with an added glossy sheen, lending a sense of perspiration and uncleanliness. Clothed in a jet-black blazer, Wan’s silhouette is all but lost against a pitch-black backdrop. As a consequence, alluding to Wan’s occupation as a jewelry designer, her silvery white accessories shine more prominently as the main focal point. This alludes to the enduring sentiments of the ethnic identification project, for the project was not only demeaning, but often 96

Robert E. Wood, “Tourism and the State: Ethnic Options and Constructions of Otherness,” in Tourism, Ethnicity, and the State in Asian and Pacific Societies (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1997) 13.


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served to be incriminating. Wan’s profile emphasizes her distinctive features more than her identity, objectifying her person as a sculptural artifact rather than human. Moreover, its developmental plans aimed to sanitize and contain aspects of ethnic minorities that the government found to be “dangerous”: their power to pollute.97 Certain aspects of indigenous minority culture were expressed as poisonous in the act of defining them as subordinate, and in a more literal sense, Han ethnologists often referred to ethnic regions as dirty. Moreover, exaggerating the darkness in Wan’s skin rather than using corrective tools to make it lighter, offers an exception to the China’s international image as a nation that idolizes whiteness. Chen Man’s Rise and Shine explored the current limits of ethnic minority culture as harmless entertainment, performance, and exhibit, thereby addressing the problems of ethnic representation in visual culture. This rejection of social discipline deconstructs the normalized, molded, and predetermined identity as defined by the original Ethnic Identification Project. In this way, the magazine covers constitute an attempt to minimize the difference in perceived social ranking between Han majority – presented as the epitome of progress in China – and ethnic minorities, achieved by emphasizing the fallacies of the Ethnic Identification Project itself. Contrary to China’s modernizing aspirations, her Rise and Shine series emphasizes the uplifting power of individual autonomy: clothing, makeup, and hairstyles emphasize ideological, individualized transformation over technological improvement. Chen’s Rise and Shine series thus upholds China as one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world, while deliberately asserting the inclusion of various minorities in the feverish modernization of their nation.

97

Harrell, 13.


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Chapter 5 Conclusions: New Ideals for Women in Contemporary China There has been much speculation about the implications of the 1979 Open Door Policy, which introduced market reforms to a nation founded on socialist ideology. Some identify that this “collapse of communism” is being replaced by nationalism.98 However, this perspective oversimplifies nationalism as a strictly political movement and ignores the work that other social actors contribute in its creation. After the Tiananmen Incident on June 4, 1989, the Chinese Communist Party took action in reestablishing its citizens’ connection to their country, and the events leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, such as the rapid construction of contemporary landmarks and can be seen as the government choosing to reconstruct its national identity to the world. This case study of Chen Man’s fashion photography spanning over a nine-year period, which covers the Pre-Olympic and post-Olympic world, provides one account of how this national collective identity was reimagined, contested, and navigated. Within Chen’s first exposure to the internal workings of the advertising industry, she produced Vision and Skateboard Girls, both of which reveal an interest in the increasing responsibility that Photoshop has in determining the ideal female form. Nearly a decade later, she toys with the same composition, but the disparity between real and ideal appearances have become even larger. On a broader level, this reflects how market forces increasingly determined contemporary Chinese perceptions of beauty, femininity, and womanhood: magazines, media, movies, and celebrity culture. These have slowly replaced social norms previously decided by political powers and Confucian tradition. As a woman artist of the new generation living in Beijing during pre-Olympic preparations, Chen’s work offers a critical reflection on the hype

98

Partha Chatterjee, “Whose Imagined Community?” in Empire and Nation (NY: Columbia University Press, 2010), 23-37.


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surrounding China’s economic boom, rising industrial power, and prominence on the global stage. Her work responds to the rise of female buying power in China, with women under the age of thirty-five becoming a major driving force in growing luxury retail sales, the white-collar workforce, and managing the family budget.99 Meanwhile, Chen sees the potential of commercial space to push political and social boundaries. This gender-specific account of change within post-1979 China forms a counter narrative to many other contemporary Chinese artists receiving limelight today, such as Wang Guangyi and Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964), who often resent how the market has harmed the integrity of beliefs formed during Chairman Mao Zedong’s leadership, or ignore its contributions to women’s empowerment. Much like many images of women that emerge in modernizing countries, the contemporary explorations of beauty in Chen Man’s works embody the tensions and anxieties of consumerist capitalism injected in China’s economy in the twenty-first century. Indeed, women often symbolize continued tradition perceived to be under threat by accelerated social change.100 Despite many of the dreams conceptualized in China during Mao’s leadership that are now discarded in the contemporary era, Four Seasons and Five Elements demonstrated how the new ideal woman in China (young, urban, middle-class) is still burdened with the legacy of the Iron Girl Image. The artist juxtaposes the ideal woman of Revolutionary China with the idealized contemporary female. This comparison highlights how the female body has been historically used as a site to reconstruct national identity and revive economies, and the innate similarities between generations of women – how each generation is ultimately expected to live up to unrealistic standards.

99

“China’s New Purchasing Powerhouse: Women,” Forbes, Accessed March 7, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/2009/08/05/china-women-marketing-leadership-managing-retail.html. 100 Felski, 31.


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In a fashion editorial published in Vogue China, Long Live the Motherland, Chen took advantage of this concept of the woman’s body as a national and economic asset. In this series, Chen utilized the fashion model as a site for representing the nation while simultaneously critiquing gender politics. Within the photo spread, Chen navigated her perspectives on women’s empowerment through the mechanics of avant-garde fashion, a concept that pictures of women could and should test the limits of socially acceptable. In this case, Chen challenged the historical notion that women’s fashion was motivated by self-interest and could not serve a political purpose. Although some would argue that the magazine as a commercial space and corporate entity would conflict with the original rules of the ideal Chinese Communist citizen, Chen preserved clothing as an integral part of China’s cultural history. In Long Live the Motherland, fashion is conceived as a route to women’s self-sufficiency and strength, which would in turn benefit the nation economically. Chen’s eroticized models are a deliberate feminist reaction to the asexual “Iron Girl” ethos of the Mao era, which discouraged attention to the female form.101 Her motives can be interpreted as feminist because they transform preexisting patriarchal social relations and redefine sexual culture – namely, what is determined to be acceptable clothing and acceptable public behavior. In Young Pioneers, one can see a stronger critique of the government’s nation-building projects, equating them with the social engineering of children in order to emphasize the unrealistic and immoral expectations placed on the nation’s citizens. After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Chen assesses the actual results of China’s competitive spirit, a concern for its international image that seems to disregard other internal problems. In her most recent Rise and Shine, Chen confronts the homogenous ideas of China produced around the Olympic ceremony. 101

Kay Schaffer and Song Xianlin, “Unruly Spaces: Gender, Women’s Writing and Indigenous Feminism in China,” Journal of Gender Studies 16, no. 1 (March 2007), 28.


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Rise and Shine drew attention to the performative aspect of the ethnic minority identity by emphasizing the biological diversity of China rather than costume diversity. Although Chen’s representations of the ethnic minorities were fantastically imagined, it ironically came close to the real process of categorization. The minority population, which has been used by the Chinese Communist Party as an abstract idea of a nation that accepts difference, is in Chen’s perspectives a mythical identity that protects the fragility of the Chinese collective identity. However, in portraits of Han Chinese women in ethnic costume, Chen emphasizes to an international audience that the ethnicities defined within China are false, yet contribute to the aesthetic idea of China’s collective identity. Within less than a decade since the start of her career, the artist has learned to construct an aesthetic form that is perceived by some as appropriate representations of nationalism. Nonetheless, she still finds ways within a youthful industry to divulge a host of cultural and gender hierarchies formed within the country’s pursuit of a prominent global status. In her portrayals of the role that modernity has in shaping the lives of women, the fashion industry proves to provide a newfound freedom on which to exercise the definition of women’s empowerment often without the pressure of patriarchal authorship and readership. For example, it provides a site on which to make visible the bodies of women that are feared or face stigma within China: the foreign body, the naked body, the ethnic body, and the hypersexualized. However, Chen’s critical perspectives often fall upon the fashion industry itself; its homogenizing and exploitative tendencies. This gendered critique is relevant on all levels of a globalizing beauty industry, which promotes the digital manipulation of the female body to the point of departing realistic expectations of beauty.


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In exchange for a more prominent role on the international stage, China scrambled to formulate a cohesive representative image around the time of the Beijing Olympics. However, artists such as Chen took charge of creating a specifically national identity and disrupted conceptions of the idealized citizen put forth by the central government and international expectation. This thesis demonstrated how Chen Man subverted ideas of a monolithic nation identity, imposed by the government and international community, in favor of a fragmented identity.

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Figures

Fig 1. Chen Man, Untitled.

Fig 2. Chen Man, Golden Fish Goblin (金鱼精), 2004.

Fig 3. Chen Man, Skateboard Girls, 2003.

Fig 4. Chen Man, Skateboard Girls, 2003.

Fig 5. Chen Man, Skateboard Girls, 2003.


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Fig 6. Chen Man, Four Seasons – Summer, 2011.

Fig 7. Guardian of the South, Fragrant Hills, Beijing.

Fig 9. Chen Man, Five Elements – Earth, 2011.

Fig 8. Chen Man, Five Elements – Metal, 2011.


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Fig 10. Chen Man, Parisian Snow, 2005.

Fig 11. Chen Man, Erotica #3 (性之花 #3), 2004.

Fig 12. Chen Man, Monkey Face (猴年猴月), 2004.


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Fig 13. Chen Man, Lollipop Girl (棒棒糖女), 2004.

Fig 14. Chen Man, Erotica #1(性之花 #1), 2003.

Fig 15. Chen Man, Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 1, 2009. (within Vogue China)

Fig 16. Chen Man, Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 3, 2009. (within Vogue China)

(as displayed in exhibition)

(as displayed in exhibition)


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Fig 17. Ning Hao, We are proud of participating Fig 18. Wang Guangyi, Great Criticism – in the founding of our country’s Chanel, 2005. industrialization, 1954.

Fig 19. Chen Man, Long Live the Motherland – Shanghai 5, 2010.

Fig 20. Central Academy of Fine Arts, Destroy the Old World, 1967.

Fig 21. Chen Man, Long Live the Motherland – Beijing 5, 2009.

Fig 22. Ai Weiwei, June 1994, 1994.


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Fig 23. Chen Man, Young Pioneers – Three Gorges, 2008.

Fig 24. Chen Qiulin, Color Lines, 2006. Mixed media installation and single-channel video projection, 8 min 8 sec.

Fig 25. Chen Man, Young Pioneers – Chang E #1, 2008.

Fig 26. Chen Man, Young Pioneers – CCTV, 2008.

Fig 28. Wedding Headdress from Yunnan, China. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.


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Fig 27. Chen Man, Rise and Shine – Zhang Li Na, 2012.

Fig 29. Ding Yuguan, Our Country is a United and Unified MultiCultural Nation, ca. 1982.

Fig 30. Chen Man, Rise and Shine – Li Zheng, 2012.


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Fig 31. Chen Man, Rise and Shine – Pan Yan, 2012.

Fig 32. Long-horn Miao headdress.

Fig 33. Yuan Yunsheng, Water Splashing Festival – A Celebration of Life, 1979.

Fig 34. Chen Man, Rise and Shine – Liu Dan, 2012.


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Fig 35. Chen Man, Rise and Shine – Xin Yuan, 2012.

Wu

Fig 36. Chen Man, Rise and Shine – Wan Baobao, 2012.

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Appendix Interview with Chen Man Chen Man: I feel that beauty, of course, is diverse. Every race is beautiful. Moreover, in America you have hybrid races, so everyone’s impression of beauty is “natural.” Because they lack racial boundaries. Without this kind of uniform “us,” a [Chinese] love of one’s nation, this gives rise to a special kind of beauty. So what I am saying is, that kind of “beauty” ideal, should have variety, without boundaries. And then, in this way it is one type of beauty idea. But if you were to say, actually China still has a certain standard, thinking white skin, large eyes, double-eyelid is the most beautiful. But what is the reasoning behind this? Eastern requirements of beauty and Western requirements for beauty are just not the same, for example Westerners just love to tan, a little spot on the skin doesn’t matter. And then, they don’t care about being that skinny. So, my concept is that beauty should be diverse, without many restrictions. My world is diverse. (我觉 得美本来就是各种不样的。就是每个种族都是那种漂亮的美么。而且在美国有很多那种混 血,所以大家的印象就是“自然”比较是漂亮。是因为就是没有种族的界限。就是没有这 种大家,这种话,民族的这种爱,然后结合是这种样貌特别美的。所以就是说我觉得那种 “美”因该是那种多种多样的,没有界限的。然后那,这样子才是一种美。你要是说,就 是说,其实中国还是有那种标准,觉得皮肤白啊,大眼睛,双眼皮,然后就是那种瑞丽的 就是那种挺美的么。但是就是说那个。。。但是因为这个理由是什么,对吧?就是说东方 美和席访美要求挺不一样的,比如说外国人就喜欢晒太阳啊,然后那个皮肤黑啊自然有一 点斑都没关系。然后,不要那么瘦那么瘦。但是在中国皮肤就会那种皮肤特别白瘦的已经 在国外算瘦的了,你知道么?就是呢种的。嗯,所以我的那个观念就是“美“还是多种多 样的,就是不要那么局限。我们的世界就是各种各样的。) DW: (Do you think there exists any prejudices in the commercial industry?)您是否希望突破和 改变现有的商业市场或者大众的主流审美? CM: Right, it’s very obvious, for example in the cosmetics store, all of the brands, the best products are whitening. Whitening meets the aesthetic standards [of customers], who all think white is the most beautiful. “Whiteness covers a hundred ugly features,” this kind of saying. However, as one who belong to the professionals responsible for guiding everyone’s perceptions of beauty, I feel that we should still widen everyone’s ideals of beauty, and let them accept a more diverse range of beauty. Only this is healthy. (对,非常明显的, 比如说在化妆品市场所有品牌,最好买 的产品,都是美白的。就是美白的很明显的达到这个审美标准,都觉得白的才好看。“一


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白遮百丑,”这样的。 然后,但是作为我们,就是属于这种引导大家美的专业人士的话 ,就是我觉得还是去让大家的审美有更多的广泛的接受各种各样的美才是健康。) DW: How do you think your work contributes to the tendency in the market now to copy existing trends? (你觉得您的作品为这个流行 “copy”的商业艺术氛围带来的是什么?) CM: My work divides into three parts. The first is “Vision” series, that is to say that artwork, with a lot of post-production. At that stage, there were no competitors. And then, of course I am talking about artwork that set me apart from everyone, especially those who worked within the scope of natural photography, limited by natural: no digital manipulation, and then nothing that didn’t happen already, etc. With this first part, I jumped out of market standards. And then, the second part is due to the establishment of such standards, “New China” series, I photographed a lot of those girls, that is to say Chinese girls, the face of China, at the Great Wall, Tiananmen, Forbidden City, those kinds of things. But this “New China” series, that is to say, “New China” needs to know what makes China beautiful, Eastern beauty: just Chinese people, in China – what this ultimately looks like. Because, many people still imitate Western goods, Korea’s things, Japan’s things, and have a hard time understanding contemporary China’s own beauty. So, I created these works to depict China’s “beauty.” And then the third part, I basically photographed China’s traditional philosophy and culture. And then to photograph a visual fashion exposition. And then Taoism, Buddhism, these kinds of things was a job to create a change in the current fashion. For example Five Elements series, Four Heavenly Kings series, Red series, all are these new thoughts. (因为我的作品分成三个阶段。第一个阶段就是“VISION“ 系列就是你说的 那一画,就是弄了好多那个,有好多后期吗。然后呢个。。。当时那个阶段就是比较没有 的。然后呢,当然我说的就是跟别人不一样的是属于那种超出就是自然范围内的那种,就 是人们说限定的自然范围内:就是不修图,然后那个没有那个就是不能发生的事情,等等 那个范围内。然后我就是这个第一阶段就是跳出这种平常的市场标准。然后我第二个阶段 就是说取建立这种因该有的市场标准的,就比如说我的那个“中国当代“系列就拍了很多 就是说那个女孩,中国的女孩,中国的脸,在这个长城,天安门,公园,那些的。可是这 些就是说比较中国当代系列的,就是说,中国当代需要知道中国的美,东方的美。然后就 是中国人,就在中国到底是什么样的。因为,很多人还在模仿西方的东西啊,韩国东西, 日本东西啊很难知道中国当代自己的美是什么。所以我就做这个工作然后去拍那个中国的 “美。”然后第三个阶段我就基本上就是把这个中国传统的这个哲学文化,然后就是把它 进行了一个那个就是视觉时尚的阐述。 然后那个,比如说道家呀,佛教啊,这些东西都 进行一个就是时尚转变的用图像里边去阐述的这样一个工作。比如说像五行系列,四大天 王系列,红系列,都是这样中新思想。)


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DW: You’ve said before that your inspiration comes from Michael Jackson, do you have any new inspirations? Such as, books you have read or drawings?(您说过,您的灵感源泉是 Michael Jackson,您现在有新的灵感来源么?比如,读书,或者画画?哪些理论影响了您?) CM: Let me put it this way, Michael Jackson actually embodies a mix of things, because he is not really white or black, isn’t a child or an adult, isn’t really male or female. He isn’t a person or a ghost. He just represents such a mix of things, that all get represented upon his body. So, he was very popular in America, and then popular around the world, because he represented the future. He was of mixed race, represented this kind of culture. You can globalize, you can be mixed race, but you have to have roots, my source, my roots are of course “from China,” so that's the way it is. (是这样的,就是说那个 Michael Jackson 就是其实他是一种混合了的一 种体现,因为也既不白人也不黑人,既不小孩也不大人,既不男人也不女人。然后就是他 既不人也不鬼。然后他就是有很多混合的那种现象在他一个人的身上体现。所以呢,他就 是在美国然后就特别流行然后在全世界特别流行,因为 他代表就是未来。就是这种混合 ,这种文化。但是要建立在,就是说你自身的你的出生地,成长经历,就是说你的立足点 在哪。就是,你可以全球,你可以混合,但是就是说,你得有根,就是我的来源,我的根 当然是“from China,”所以就是这样的。) DW: (How does negative criticism influence your work?)负面的批评对您的创作有什么影响 ? CM: It’s like this. I very much welcome…that is to say I have heard those kinds of constructive criticisms, that let me see things from other’s perspectives. Moreover, others’ critiques of me is a form of communication – this communication is the most important, regardless if it is good or bad. That is to say, it is stronger than those who do not say anything at all. So, you have to look at it from this way. If it’s criticism with good intentions, I really like it. If it is someone in a bad mood saying a few words, because the internet is full of these people, that is to say they criticize everything. But actually, it is their problem, they probably have a hard life, etc. I can understand that, because everyone has their happy moments. So, these things I can view objectively. (嗯, 是这样。我非常喜欢就是说。。。我有那种就是比较真诚的批评,就是说能让我从另外一 个角度看自己。而且别人对你批评的话,就是对你有一个沟通-这个沟通是最重要的,是 高于人家说你好话还是说你坏话。就是说比那种就是说不跟你说话还强。所以,就是说, 这个东西要怎么看. 所以就是善意的批评的话,我会非常高兴。如果就是自己的情绪不好 就是说几句,因为网上有很多这样的人,就是说他什么都对批评上去。其实就是他的问题 ,他可能生活不太如意,等等。这个我都能理解,因为每个人都有不高兴的时候。所以, 这些我都能看的比较客观。)


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DW: 您现最近的灵感的方式是什么?是画速写么? What are your recent inspirations? How do you record your daily inspirations? Do you keep a sketchbook? CM: I always draw, because always and am now creating traditional Chinese painting. A long time ago, I just specialized in traditional Chinese painting, those kinds of very traditional and very “fashion[able]” and right now “feminine” kinds… no sketchbook, I just draw traditional Chinese paintings directly onto the paper. (我经常画画,因为我就画国画就是我现在一直在 创作国画。然后那个,我以前就是画国的,就是特别中国传统的和特别“fashion”的那 种,就是我就是呢种特别传统的和呢种现在和“feminine”结合的那种。。。没有速写本 我就话的重点画就国画就在那种国画纸上画。) DW: Who do you try to appeal to? Do you try to change viewers' perceptions and values? 您希望作品能迎合某些群体吗?你试图改变观众的看法和价值观吗? CM: You have to look at each particular situation. (分看什么情况,因为比如说想那个。。。 你看我的国画。) DW: So, do you prefer photographing males or females? (你本身喜欢拍男生还是女生?) CM: Because photographing females have more requirements. Magazine covers still predominantly feature female celebrities, so there are more females to photograph in general. I am also ok with photographing males, but I prefer photographing women, because I am also a woman, so in photographing women I can better fulfill their wishes. (因为拍女性的需要比较多 么。杂志的封面还是明星啊都是女性比较多,所以就拍女的比较多。我拍男的也行,但是 拍女的为主吧,因为我自己也是女的所以拍女的能满足女人的要求。) DW: Who do you try to appeal to? Do you try to change viewers' perceptions and values? (你试 图改变观众的看法和价值观吗?) CM: Absolutely not. Because my pictures won’t go anywhere…pictures are for eyes to see, they are an object that requires initiating. They will not actively initiate themselves. If you want to see them then see them, if you don’t want to see them then do not look. So, I am not forcing you, you know? So if they influence you, in a good way, that that is good. If they did not impress, I do not care either way. Because I let things happen on their own, to be put there. If there are people who look, then look. If they have feelings then they have feelings. If they don’t, they don’t. (没


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有没有没有没有没有没有。因为我的照片就是不会去就是。。。照片就是为眼去看的嘛, 就是它还是一个被动的对象。它不会跟你发生任何主动的关系。就是,你要看你就看,你 要不看,你就不看。所以我就没逼你,知道么?所以就是说,它要是影响他了,是好印象 ,就挺好的。如果是没有影响,我也无所谓。因为我还是让它自然发生的,就摆在那。要 是有人看就看。要是他有感觉就有感觉。要是没有就没有。就这样的。) DW: When you do a photoshoot, how much do you have a hand in styling, versus what a stylist or makeup artist does? (当你拍摄的时侯,如何与造型师或化妆师协作,您主要都做一些什 么?) CM: It’s like this, in China because the industry is still pretty young, it’s not as mature as foreign countries, for example, “stylist,” props, that kind of thing. But makeup we are pretty well versed in, etc. So sometimes I really just need someone to help me, to give me suggestions. Of course, I really wish to find a good collaborator, but because we are a young industry, this kind of person is rare, not like other countries. Moreover, these kinds of people within the country, their position does not receive the most respect. If you want work as a graphic designer, a lot of people who work as a graphic designer work for free. Because they feel that what you do does not deserve a price. This is so depressing. On the contrary, we belong to those very young industries, so this is pretty normal. So it’s only a matter of time before this line of work is considered by everyone as important. (是这样的,在中国因为是比较年轻的市场,他没有国 外那么成熟的,比如说“stylist”道具,什么但是化妆我们还是挺成熟,等等。所以有时 候就需要这个圣师去参与,出意见。所以就是说,当然我特别希望找到好的合作者,但是 因为是这样我们是一年轻的市场。这样的人不是特别多,不像国外是的。而且这样的人就 是因为在国内他们的地位也不特别受尊重。你想平面设计这种工作是吧,就这么长时间了 平面设计在很多很多行业里就是算白送的。因为他觉得你看这种东西是没有价格的。就是 这种非常可悲的吧。 反而我们是属于一种非常年轻的市场,所以就是说这样的现象也是 正常的。所以随着时间的成长就是说慢慢的所谓的这种思想工作就会被人家重视。) DW: Why does it say that you were born in Beijing on your website, yet born in Mongolia in your book? Which do you prefer to identify more with? (为什么你的网站说您在北京出生的, 可是你的书里说出生在内蒙古?哪一个更认同呢?) CM: It’s like this, I was born in Inner Mongolia, and then grew up in Beijing. My mother and father had me during their relocation there during China’s Reeducation Program. After having me, they returned to Beijing. You know? During the Cultural Revolution, many people from that generation that live in town, get sent to the countryside. Actually, I was never in Mongolia for


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long. After I was born we directly moved to Beijing. So I am not really familiar with that area. But I feel that I am one of those who do not divide people into geographical location, because I do not divide, world boundaries, because like air and water, we now have the internet, with more deeper understandings about this, like we all are living on the earth, we are citizens of the world, with none of those separations, as it should be. (是这样的,我是在内蒙出生的然后在北京长 大的。因为我妈,我爸是在下乡的时候,在他们下乡的地方生了我。然后生过我之后在回 到了北京。你知道么?就是文化大革命有很多呢种他们那一代人不在城里呆着,全都去农 村,去种地去. 其实我基本都没在内蒙呆过。我一出生就到北京了。所以我对那边不是特 别的熟。但是我觉得我是有不分地域的人,因为我不太分那种,就是界限,因为像空气像 水,我们现在有网络了更加深刻的理解到这一点,就是我们都是生活在地球上,我们是地 球公民,就是没有那些分别,因该是。) DW: What kind of theory has influenced your work? Have you read any theory? 那些理论影响 你呢? CM: If it concerns humanity, ancient philosophies and cultures all effect me, I feel that they are very important to me. For example, Buddhism, Daoism, because in China there are a lot who connect with these. But, I believe in other countries, for example Christianity, Islamic, etc all are good as well. Of course there are bad ones, I am just talking about these. But to have a way to understand yourself, your source, those kinds of theories I feel are very important, at least to me. (有关于人类古代哲学文化的东西都会影响我,我觉得对于我来说特别重要。但是只是在 生活方方面面都会体现出来的。比如说像佛教啊,道教啊,因为在中国么对这种接触比较 多。但是我相信就是说在国外的那种比如说基督教,伊斯兰教,等等都是有好的。就是, 当然有坏的,就是说这种。但是就是说比较一种方法知道自己说来源的那个一些理论我觉 得还是对于对我来说比较重要的。) DW: Do you have any future pursuits?目前您有新的追求方向吗? CM: I do not have any plans, no goals, just where I am is where I happen to be. I am still attentive to Chinese traditional culture and related things, world languages and this kind of thing. This is my research direction, for the most part. (我这样,我没有什么计划,没有什么追求, 就是说我做那就算哪。然后呢,我还是比较关注与中国传统文化类的这么样和这种世界, 世界的语言所结合的这个方面。这个是我主要研究的方向。)


Fabricating Nationalism  

Contemporary Artist Chen Man Challenges the Idealized Woman in China of 2003-2012 An honors thesis written by Danielle Wu advised by Kristi...

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