Liu Jianhua: Color Ceramic Series-Obsessive Memories
Ceramic Sculpture 2000, 40 x 31 x 30 cm, LJH25
In the contemporary installation art piece, Obsessive Memories, Liu Jianhua uses female sexuality to draw a comparison between the consumption of women and the consumption of material goods.
The Body: The artist reveals the materialization of the female body by eroticizing it, thus making it an image of male desire. The body is positioned in a way that is very revealing—where one’s eyes instantly are drawn to the bare legs. Not only the bare legs, but also the positioning of the legs, present an alluring image to the viewer. The image seeks to arouse male, or the consumer’s, desire and sexual fantasy. The body appears with neither head nor arms to accentuate the projected submission of the female to the male viewers, or the consumer’s, sexual desires. In this way, Jianhua makes the female body a commodity by using female sexuality as an image of desire for the viewer. Not only this, but the artist makes the commodity of the female body seem easily attainable because the passivity the female body suggests through not having arms nor legs. Thus, the female body visually implies instant submission or gratification–where the male or consumer desire could be easily satisfied through attainment of the commodity.
Cheong-sam: The cheong-sam shapes the female body, sexualizing it further, thus furthering its desire of consumption by male viewers [or consumers]. The cheong-sam appears tight-fitting, short, and embellished with intricate patterns and beautiful colors. The cheong-sam looks as if it is riding up because of the body’s position on the couch, making it more revealing than it already would have been. The traditional cheong-sam was a symbol of concealment and femininity. The modern, revealing cheong-sam depicted in this image, however, conflicts with the garment’s traditional symbolic value by making it an object of erotic, sexual fantasy. In this way, Jianhua uses the cheong-sam to highlight both the issue of sexualizing females as a means of consumption, as well as a means to accentuate the female’s eroticism.
The Sofa: Lastly, the consumption of the sexualized female body is once again hinted at with the female body presented on a sofa. The sofa appears to be a Western commodity because it exhibits neither traditional Chinese cloth (silk) nor intricate embellishments. As a piece of furniture, the sofa represents a place of leisure and relaxation—an object that males yearn for at the end of a hard workday. Thus, Jianhua makes an image of desire to consume both the sofa and the sexualized female body, thus materializing the female body.
In sum, Jianhua’s installation piece uses female sexuality to arouse desire in men, and make the female body an object of consumption—much like a sofa. The inviting image creates a “rape” of the female body. It consumes the female in a state in which it has control neither of their mind nor body [shown by the woman being armless and headless.] Through this imagery, Jianhua draws a disturbing comparison between the rape of this woman and the metaphorical rape of China by capitalism—where the introduction of desire for material objects, through capitalism, has assaulted and degraded the moral and ethical values of the country.
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