Part of Confucian teaching on an ordered world is respect for your elders, both in age and position, respect for the order of the group. At the turn of the 20th century young artists were challenging this way of organising society. To do this they promoted the rights of the lowest member of Confucian society, the girl. Liu Haisu’s Girl in a fox fur shocked audiences by depicting a confident modern young woman.
Across the sea in Japan, artists were also challenging tradition. Yorozu in his Nude Beauty, embraced individualism.
Alison Carroll visits Amanda Heng in her Singaporean studio and talks with her about how she uses ‘touch’ between women in her family as a way to challenge the patriarchal aspects of Confucian tradition.
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Interviewees in this episode
Amanda Heng – Singapore
Amanda Heng is feted in her home city of Singapore, one of the best known artists of South East Asia, and has shown her work internationally for a number of decades. Born in 1951, her work of performance, installation and photography has focused on the inner experience of the individual, particularly women, in a complex urban but basically Confucian patriarchal society like Singapore’s. She was a founder of the seminal Artists Village in the early 1988, and has been involved with collaborations with artists and non-artists, run workshops and been involved with community throughout her life.
Questions raised in this episode
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Liu Haisu in China and Tetsugoro Yorozu in Japan challenged traditional values through their confronting subject matter. They embraced the western concept of the individual, western art making techniques and chose as their subject matter the lowest most insignificant member of their society at the time – women.
In the contemporary world of your life, what traditional values might you challenge in your art and how would you go about it? What techniques might you use that are different and shocking? If your challenging subject matter is the most insignificant member of our society – what might you depict?
New Culture Movement
Green Sun or Sōsaku-hanga
Amanda Heng wanted to create a new dialogue within her culture. She did not want to eradicate or ignore her culture but rather, from within it, critique the position of women. She focussed her lens on herself, her mother and touch. She speaks of finding a new language, as much for her own understanding as others.
It is difficult to critique from within. If you were to take this stance in your own art work, what might you critique and how might you go about it?
Traditional Chinese family structure
Critique from within and the concept of hegemony