“Oh, Gorels!” when the then 5-year-old boy Chance was brought by his parents to befriend a kid of his opposite sex, he simply uttered so, though vaguely, to the girl in front of him. It is surprising to think how our society is able to so efficiently implant the fixed ideas differencing girl and boy, male and female already from such a young age. Spinoza explained “ to define what something is always starts from what something is not.” Already in 1959, the American psychologist Ruth Hartley pointed out that the little boy learns how not to behave before he learns how to behave in order to be masculine. For the boy, everything that is not feminine is masculine. So then, what is the girl and what is feminine?
“ Qui est la jeune fille?” ( What is the girl?) For Simone de Beauvoir, The Girl was a crucial figure in the project that would become The Other Sex. She described The Girl as in the stage between child and woman, in the transition between childhood and adulthood. The Girl is both being a girl and becoming a woman. “Becoming a woman” is de Beauvoir’s strong contribution to the foundation of feminism thoughts in which the female body is seen as a significant site of the process of becoming. De Beauvoir drew our attention to the body of The Girl as the physical transformation at this stage that paves the way for the becoming of womanhood. The body of The Girl is the source of her emotional turmoil. She feels uncertain, both proud of her body and feels awkward in it. She turns into a narcissist, a dreamer who seems to endowed with magic virtues yet she is growing anxious towards her own femininity. At the awkward age of The Girl, she tests the world with eyes and head, but also with mouth and stomach. When she feels not being loved, The Girl goes to the nature and she feels, records and observes the world passing by as she transcends and becomes the woman-to-be.
Simone de Beauvoirr’s existential insights over The Girl provide us a feminism reading of the artworks presented in this exhibition. In Wang Jiaxue’s Tired Romantic we see a young individual caught in a half-wild and half-tamed body. She stares at the world as the world reveals in her over-sized eyes and in them we can read longing, fear, hope and despair. In Wu Di’s Twin Sisters, two girls turn against us facing whatever in front of them in the dark. Tragic or hopeful? We are left in bewilderment. In Qin Qi’s Wind, a girl in restaurant worker’s uniform sinks into daydream as she takes a short pause from her daily work. Is she dreaming of her love like Cinderella dreams of her Prince Charming? For the young girl, erotic transcendence includes in the process of becoming woman. In Shen Ling’s painting we meet two seemingly quite bored young girls sitting at a richly decorated banquet table unable to be happy. Passivity is The Girl’s instrument for grasping power. A girl’s narcissism and bodily self-destroying lie not just on looking at the mirror with a blind eye (as in He Sen’s Make Up 1), she tests the world with her own body parts. The cut on the girl’s thigh in He An’s photograph screams for pain and yearns for affection. Schopenhauer sees boredom and pain as two evils of life, yet, it may as well be the calls for attention and the sources of creation.
Certainly we can not talk about femininity without the gaze from the other sex. When Yu Youhan merged two of the 20th century’s most iconic images, Mao and Monroe, into one, he has also merged two symbols that both strive for control: power and sex. While Liu Jianhua’s porcelain female body is provocative in objectifying womanhood, the fine quality China tableware also grow uncomfortable association when the work echoes an old Chinese saying: women as candy for eyes and for mouth, Yuan Yuan disguises both the intention and the motive in his painting behind the camouflage color and pattern. In Japan, pornographic films are also screened under the disguise of mosaic on women’s sex，a social moral smokescreen for justifying the industry of female body trade. I have always wanted to find a feminism reading in Yang Fudong’s body of work. There is always a strong female figure standing in the center of his creation, may it be the daughter-in-law of the family who determined to move the mountain (Moving Mountains) or the self-possessed Ms. Huang at M. Last Night” (2006) fascinated, not necessarily merely male viewers. Yang Fudong’s female image has the power to step out from the shadows of men and establish her own authority. Such power in Yu Hong’s works on glasses are transformed into eulogy for girls in nature. Beauty breathes there. Light shines there. The fragility of the glasses lands softly on the vulnerability of the girls. For Yu Hong, it has to be autobiographical. The art history’s most enigmatic gaze is disguised behind Liang Manxue’s Little Princess. Running through the historical corridor, the girl’s becoming of woman has to overcome layers of man’s gaze.
This exhibition has gathered paintings, photographs and sculpture of 12 Chinese artists from Lingling and Andrew’s collection. They all have female protagonist(s) covering the stage from the transitional girl to the woman-to-be. Each individual work addresses, to certain extent, our discussion on femininity, some reconfirm the stereotypes; others confront the social norms, one of which being the makers of these images just as the makers of the social norms implanted to femininity are still predominately men. These are enough urgent reasons for a show addressing the myth of Femininity to be opened here. Hopefully the exhibition could trigger more discussions around femininity issues both in the art world and in our society in general. Please be reminded by Simone de Beauvoir, the woman who laid the foundation for our modern times gender study: One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.
几年前，Andrew和龄龄才5岁的儿子被爸妈带到朋友家中做客，成年人习惯性地把家中同龄的小孩叫出来，让两个孩子成为朋友。“女孩呀！” 男孩子用男子汉的口气对面前的异性小朋友嘟囔着。这样的场面许多家长也一定目睹过，对于性别的固有认知就是如此有效地将男孩和女孩，男性和女性的区别早早地灌输到一个人的成长中。斯宾诺莎说：对于是什么的定义，首先是从它不是什么开始的。早在1959年，美国心理学家Ruth Hartley就提出，男孩在学习怎么成为男人的时候，首先学到的是不应该做什么，凡是不是女孩的，那就是男孩的，那么，女孩又是什么呢？
“ Qui est la jeune fille?” ( 女孩是什么？）“ 在西蒙·德·波娃的《第二性》中，女孩是一个非常关键的人物。她通过对于女孩的描述，启蒙我们对女性特质起源的认知。女孩是一个未来的女人，一个在童年与成年过渡阶段中生长的个体，她处在一个从孩子成为一个女人的中间地带。“女人是成为的”，这是德·波娃创立的女性主义理论的基础，而成为女人是从女孩对自身身体的感知开始的。在成为女人的过程中，女孩开始发育的身体成为她情感剧烈变化的宣泄地，一方面她为自己身体拥有的魔力沾沾自喜，另一方面，她又在为身体显露的女性特质开始感到惴惴不安；她的身体附着在女孩时的独立和即将成为女人的服从之间，喜悦、不安、骄傲、梦幻...她自恋着，梦幻着，用眼睛、头脑体验世界，也用唇齿、肌肤感受世界。她要去爱，也要被爱，在大自然中，感受、记录、观察，看着世界在她眼前展开，直到超越自己，成为女人。