The afternoon of the opening ceremony, Gallery Director Wang Yi Gang, with facile interpreter Michael good-naturedly working through the difficult concepts, set up a conversation for our US-based delegates and Chinese artists and professors. We wondered where, if the two men had not been present and if we had had more than the 2+ hours allotted, the conversation would have lead. Still, Wang Yi Gang came across as an enlightened supporter of the need for women artists to work together, to understand each other and advance their work.
At first, the focus seemed to be on the differences in our cultures. The Chinese artists seemed a bit baffled by the number of our works that addressed inequality and violence against women. As with Mao's quote that formed the basis of this project, women in China are expected to contribute equally and, at times, the Chinese artists spoke as if their lives as artists were more equal to Chinese men than the situation in the US.
With further questioning, they spoke of the extreme challenge of trying to balance work and motherhood and that the work of women artists in China is seldom documented. When pressed, they could only name one Chinese woman artist who had received historical acclaim. Our activist work seemed to make them somewhat uncomfortable, but, again, we wondered if, in private, we would have a more open exchange about this.
We were asked about the diversity in our delegation - the number of young and older members from different ethnicities and backgrounds and there seemed much interest in the purpose of our organization. There did not seem to be any collectives or women-only organizations to support artists in China.
As the conversation neared to its scheduled conclusion, the conversation warmed to less formal questioning and answering and we were left with the impression that doors had opened for all of us for deeper understanding of each other and a strong curiosity about learning more.
This blog documents Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art, a cultural exchange and exhibition created by the International Caucus of the Women’s Caucus for Art and in partnership with and at the LuXun Academy of Fine Arts, located in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China from April 15-30, 2014.
Delegates of Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art will post and comment on this blog.