Female artist must be beautiful; female artist must use her body

Category: performance art

Time: 29 Nov. 19.30, 2017

Duration: around 1 hour

Performed at "Trouble Diaries: A political statement" International Female Artists Exhibition,Big House Art Center, Wuhan, China

Photograph: Yu Peixiang, Chen Mengqi

Video: Zhou Xuan

Assistant: Fan Peipei, Gong Yan

At the very beginning of this performance, the audience could only watch it through a window. They saw a golden "object" moving slowly in the terrace of Big House Art Center, which is a European style building built in 1913, facing to the Yangtze River. After a while, this creature stopped in front of a table. Suddenly, it became a turning golden "butterfly" disguised by a woman! People could barely saw the face of the turning lady. Later, she put a wedding veil on her face, and entered the house.

Now the audience could see that there were 7 rolls of toilet paper bound on the body of the performer. Meanwhile, an audio was playing loudly with her movements, which was the voice from Marina Abramović when she performing “Art must be Beautiful; Artist must be Beautiful” (1975) . The artist started to give the ends of the paper to anyone around her, and let them draw the paper out. Consequently, people could see there was one different sentence on each roll of paper, written in red color with Chinese and English. Every sentence was about that specific part of her body. She walked around the whole exhibiting spaces, made many people participated in drawing out the sentences, and she also put the paper everywhere in the space. During one hour, there was still more and more paper, it seemed her body was spread everywhere endlessly...

Eventually, she went back to the starting spot, and began to bury herself with the veil, the golden wings, and the paper. Until she was completely covered, she became still like a dead. It lasted for some minutes. Gradually, the audience heard some heartbeats from the "corpse" on the ground. At the end, she stood up from the materials and removed all the ropes from her body. What's more, she got a small white paper in the shape of a "heart" on the place of her heart.

Below is the text on the paper:

This is my breast, you can touch it, but you can't have it
This is my breast, it can milk a child, but the child can't have it
This is my uterus, it can create a life, but it's my talent, not my duty
This is my hand, it can hold you, but can also push you away
This is my hand, it can do the sewing work, but can also be a clenched fist
This is my foot, it can come to you, but it can also kick you away
This is my foot, it can walk home, but it can also go out

The title of this work is adapted from “Art must be Beautiful; Artist must be Beautiful” . Must a female artist be beautiful? There are plenty of tough endeavors behind this kind of “beauty”, and countless compromises to cater to the conventional roles of the society. 

Besides the dialogue with Abramović, this work is also dedicated to another female artist who had been covered by the ashes of history, she is Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Several recent research showed that she might be the real author of “Fountain” of Marcel Duchamp, yet she didn’t receive the same respect as the male artists had in that time, at last, she dead desperately. Once when she worked as a model for a male painter, she decorated her own body into an “artwork”, so as to challenge the “creator’s position” of the painter. Must a female artist use her own body? Or actually, her body is the only thing she owns that could attract the patriarchal society?

This performance is a question, a sign, and a confrontation.