Monday, 3 March 2014

Labay Eyong and Voices of Sex

Sitting Duck

(ImageDaily Mail, UK)

Magazine editor Dasha Zhukova had little alternative but apologized on what was read on this photograph, knowing little prior to the release of shutters that the reactions were beyond stylistic measures. Bjarne Melgaard – the designer of the chair, perhaps benefits the most on the trial by public opinion. The storm of criticism has overshadowed Melgaard’s work on one score, that is, the work itself adds little to the original statement by Allen Jones in 1969.

This chair, like any unoccupied throne, is better left unseated no matter how strong the temptation. One could say that the power of this “artwork” – for lack of a better word, is when this hot seat is vacant and waiting to be filled in. In other words, it is a booby trap in disguise. With this frame of mind, no matter who suggested the posture, Zhukova had herself to blame. 

Beasts of Burden

Controversy aside, the image with overt sexualization does not shed much light on the subject of female sexuality, not least from the woman’s point of view. For this reason, I would rather indulge on the prickly sidekick from “Consumer you; Consumer me” – a work by Labay Eyong (林介文) that was shown recently at the City Hall.

Image 1 (The artist posed for “Consumer you; Consumer me”. Photographer unknown)

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

On our agenda of female sexuality, it would be wise as a start to leave the platform for the artist to relay her story. “Consumer products are actually part of ourselves [sic]. When people consume, they are actually consuming themselves at the same time. It might be a simple merchandise, but it nonetheless has its origin from nature – that is, paper rolls originate from trees and our houses originate from earth.”#1

Made with toilet paper rolls, the work as a piece of goods on the much discussed topic of consumer society is noted. One might be more engaged by her bemusing expressions and the exaggerated boobies (if you agree to the funny appearance) popped out from her garment – something that tantalizes men and possesses women all the same. It is the duality of significations of the work that captivates me.

Just as most men would fantasize on full-bosomed female, women would almost do anything to have their bust reshaped. From Eyong’s absorbing expressions, one can detect yearnings marred with trepidations that pester her. There is an intrinsic readiness in us to consume and be consumed, a tug-of-war that both sexes are born to play.

Labay Eyong, Consumer you; Consumer me, 2013
Toilet Tissue Roll, Linen Thread, Paper Tape and photographs.

The toilet paper knitting was made by Eyong on the spot at 
the previous exhibition venue in Shenzhen.

(PhotographRoHsuan Chen)
No title – Knitting by the artist.

Labay Eyong is a Seedig – an aboriginal people of Taiwan, who still keeps their own language and ways of life. Knitting has a strong presence among the people and it is the medium many of the artist’s projects are related to. The above photograph is taken from a book entitled Tminun Pdsum (dowry in Seedig), written by the artist on knitting, culture and sexuality.

Sampling Voices

On the course of sexuality expressed by women in art, I am also drawn by the photographic experiments by the Canadian media artist Teresa Ascencao, one of which is attached for observation. Under the series of “Text and Tongue”, images are accompanied by writings as integrated expressions. Together they form part of the visual poems that unfold the language of the female body and desires by women themselves. Explanation is superfluous at this juncture.

Teresa Ascencao


Water Dream: 

“Once the water was filled, he insisted he help me disrobe from behind. I felt his entrancement as he slowly slipped my clothing down my body. One I got in, the tub melded tightly around my body and suctioned me to its bottom. I could not move. I was trying to masturbate, but kept getting interrupted. I finally got up to lock the door. Most of the water was now all over the floor tiles. The water took its time disappearing down the drain.”#2

Wangechi Mutu

Indurated Ulcers of the Cervix, 2004, Glitter, ink, 
collage on found medical illustration paper, 45.7x32.4cm.

Coming full circle and back to the premises of sex and racial issues, Mutu’s works are loaded with layers much more complex on femininity than it would simply be celebrated or violated. Trained as an anthropologist and artist, Mutu never shuns away from the historicism of slavery and blackness, especially considering her country of origin in Kenya.

Crowned with black diamond dust – itself a troubled signifier, the collaged portraiture is both a goddess and a contorted monster to observe. Upon examination, she is the embodiment of sexual stereotypes that crosses the boundaries of skin colours and thrives through times represented by Victorian-esque anatomy and contemporary pornography. Affirmative on the title, she is constantly haunted by sex and disease that never wilts.

As Mutu puts it, “Females carry the masks, language and nuances of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed on the female body.”#3, Sundial would leave the artist’s words on the above series as conclusion:

 “As you walked into the space, you met with a series of collages, including Histology of the Different Classes of Uterine Tumors, in which age-old medical illustrations are resuscitated through new faces, and in Bedroom Masks, in which postcards of traditional African masks are combined with images of black women in porn to emphasize their fetishisation and the conflation of these stereotypes.”#4

#1  Exhibition Programme, Hong Kong

#2  Extract from Teresa Ascencao’s official website.

#3  Saatchi Gallery website

#4  Extract from her official website – regarding her exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art. Unlike the average cool-inspiring layout of artists, you might find it fun to navigate.

“Consumer you; Consumer me” was part of the exhibits in Crossroads – Another Dimension 
(A cross-strait four regions artistic exchange project 2013) 
at the Low Block, Hong Kong City Hall
18 Jan 2014 – 13 Feb 2014

Partial and incomplete counterpoints to

“Labay Eyong and Voices of Sex” at here.

林介文與性的話語      〈中文摘要〉


雜誌編輯Dasha Zhukova因自己的坐照而引發的廻響,遠遠超乎她的時尚觸覺;在不得已的情況下,道歉是唯一選擇。在這次輿論公審裡,相片中的椅子設計者Bjarne Melgaard也許是最大嬴家。老實說,針對Zhukova的批評完全蓋過Melgaard的作品 - 就是說,這椅子比對Allen Jones在一九六九年的原創委實了無新意。

儼如一尊被空置的寶座,不管誘惑是多大,這坐椅還是讓它留空為妙。在找不到更貼切的詞彙下 - 這藝術品發揮最大的能量或許是這個懸空的狀態,一個默默等待著物主的感覺。換句話說,它是一只穿了華衣的陷阱。從這個角度思索,無論是誰提出這主意,Zhukova也百辭莫辯,只能怪自己了。



未切入女性性別研究這課題筆者還是知情識趣地將第一發言權留給林本人。“消費品實質是我們的一部份。當人們消費時,他們亦同時在消耗自己。那怕是一件平凡的商品,它的來源往往是取於大自然 - 即是說,衛生紙乃源自林木,我們的居所則源自大地。”

作品以卷筒衛生紙編織成商品,再而引伸消費型社會的廣泛論點是清晰的。對於她營造曖昧的表情及誇張的奶子,令人著迷之處挺實在 這不只令男人想入非非,女人亦同樣受觸動。這是作品所含的二元意義,讒惑筆者之所在。



遊走於藝壇女性所表達對兩性研究的脈絡,加拿大跨媒體藝術人Teresa Ascencao的實驗照片亦發人深省。在“Text and Tongue - 文字與舌頭”的系列裡,影像和文字短打昇華到另一層次。兩者融會形成視覺詩賦,解讀女性身體語言及慾望符號。強行在此繼續辨析實在有點無謂。(有關《水之夢 - Water Dream》的慾欲自主性,請讀者參閱原文。)

走筆至此回歸到性與種族的課題,Wangechi Mutu的作品層次既複雜又互為牽引,在女性研究的著墨亦非簡單的褒獎或貶斥可概括。她的人類學及藝術背景足以對奴隸制度及黑人的歷史相對論述來個迎頭痛擊。誠然,這個定位可追溯到她與自己的出生地 肯亞有關。

說到上載的拼貼肖像,主角頭頂佩戴黑鑽砂 - 象徵著傷困的符號;而她同時是女神及妖魔的混合載體。細看下,一方面她標誌著的性典範跳出膚色界限;另一方面,她亦從維多利亞式解剖圖及當代色情照中跨越時空,頤養生息。在題為《子宮頸的硬塊》裡,這肖像卻無時無刻地受到不萎的慾望和疾病所困擾。


“甫進入展覽廳,你碰到一系列的剪貼作品,包括《History of the Different Classes of Uterine Tumors – 子宮瘤的分類歷史》;在裡面,陳舊過時的醫學插圖經改頭換面後而得以復甦;在《Bedroom Masks – 睡房的掩飾》系列中,名信片裡的黑妞配上傳統的非洲面譜,這些影像泛濫著色情用以賣弄自身的戀物慾和相關技倆的伸延。

交叉口.異空間 - 兩岸四地藝術交流計劃2013其中之一的展品。

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