When Trinh T. Minh-ha published her significant text Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminismin 1989, some of the turbulent and transformative events of the world’s recent history were yet to happen, such as the end of the Cold War, the so-called East Asian Miracle, and the aggressive global expansion of identitarianism. But Minh-ha had already proposed a non-dualistic affirmation of women by stating: “The idea of two illusorily separated identities, one ethnic, the other woman (or more precisely female), again, partakes in the Euro-American system of dualistic reasoning and its age-old divide-and-conquer tactics.”[i] And her criticism of the paradigms of Western academic discourses reads as radical and prophetic in today’s milieu of sociopolitical divisions.
Inspired by Minh-ha’s belief in the empowerment of writing and storytelling, the exhibition concept of Neither Black / Red / Yellow Nor Woman departs from an imaginary encounter between three Asian women artists: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (1951–1982), Pan Yuliang (1895–1977), and Trinh T. Minh-ha (b. 1952) in Paris sometime in 1979, and is informed by their works and archives. The stories of Yuliang, Theresa, and Minh-ha are exceptional stories about women who search for their voices as artists and struggle with their identity-impasse, while navigating through various cultural, geographical, and historical contexts. We question whether we could venture to say we are also Yuliang, Theresa, or Minh-ha, and whether there could have been empathy and resonance regardless of our different personal trajectories, cultural identifications, ideological positions, and understandings of gender.
The current crisis of identitarian politics manifests the antagonistic dichotomy that haunts our relationship with the past, present, and future, where life is often imagined in opposition and conflict. By retracing the transnational journeys of various female protagonists through the postcolonial memories before and after World War II and the regional chaos induced by ideological camps of the Cold War, we are able to see the reemergence of contradictory histories through the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc as paradoxes beyond the East/West divide. In view of curiosity and reflection, we envision the exhibition as a conversation that merges “them” with “us,” to speak in proximity with one another, and to form polyphony of cross-border storytellers. By juxtaposing historical materials with fictional constructs, we speculate beyond the categorization of gender and culture. Artists featured in this exhibition share a fluid state of mind and a diasporic mode of living and working. They respond to our questions with their own choices of conceptual personae and explore new dimensions of subjectivity and interrelation.
Neither Black / Red / Yellow Nor Woman is the first act of a trilogy that will unfold in the future with multiple chapters in different institutions and geographies. The second act, The Mythic Being of Us, is inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin’s proposal to revive the collective usage of pronouns; humanistic portraits of woman poets, writers, filmmakers, activists, whistle-blowers, witches, gurus, ghosts, hackers, workers, and housewives will permeate the exhibition.The third act, Not a Manifesto but a Wish List, embraces solidarity while celebrating differences. A series of encounters will take place in performances and durational settings as in a theater or a parade, where poets, musicians, choreographers, and opera performers, among many others, are invited to take over the stage.