“In order to fully forget you must fully remember…”- Trinh T. Minh-ha

The inherited patriarchal ideals that has been naturalized and amplified by many generations of sexually oppressed women in China urges me to make work about the domestication of female bodies. Using found objects I recreate fragments of domestic spaces that recall the feelings of comfort yet restraint. With the repetition and stacking of children's chairs, I communicate the interrelation of collective memories. Casting traditional Chinese sandalwood soap and glass as genitals, I work to subvert the idea of purity and internal cleaning. Creating grotesque porcelain masses scaled to my body, I bring attention to the abject and undesired bodies. 

As I to dig deep into my subconscious, my behaviors, and what is perceived to be expressions of my free will, I see that I was never in control. I have indefinitely inherited many patriarchal ideals that have been forced onto many generations of women before me. These ideals teach me to identify with the passive beauty that needs to be saved, to offer my femininity as product and my virginity as currency. They teach me to identify with the passive sexuality of the innocent virgin or the nurturing mother. As this hegemonic model of femininity acts as an omnipresent system of control, we are forced to regulate our own bodies out of fear. As we submit to the patriarchal ideals of female identities, we have become participants in the creation of this ideal. We suffer as victims, but we are also inflicting the pain. As the values that we embody become the shackle that enslaves our bodies, how do we unbind the restraints that have shaped my mother’s generation, the many generations before, and that continues to shadow on many young women in my generation? Digging into my mother’s past, unraveling her deepest fears and angers, I am hoping for more than a voice, but to unbind the bodies and release the life within.

Chi Jinmei

2016