I like to say, I am the daughter of the ocean, I like to say that I grew up in the sea … but that’s a lie, I can’t swim and I am terrified of water. I first saw the sea when I was 11 years old, my dad took me to Hainan, it was the only time I traveled with him, growing up with my single mum, she described him as: “The Sailor! He is drifting in the yellow river.” For many years this metaphor painted a vibrant and romantic image of my never-homed father. He used to say he won’t become my burden and he will die young, at 60 years old he will jump off a cliff and hug the ocean. My father did die at 60 years old, not by the cliff, not in the sea but in an empty flat, alone, starving, and frozen to death.
The Chinese word “Sea” constructed in three parts: water, human, and mother. It’s a word about bodies. bodies of humans, bodies of nature. Bodies of individuals and social emotions.
2019, I traveled to Sydney and South Korea, and Finland to perform about the Sea. I collected personal stories and collaborate with local musicians, Subjects spread crossed: family, loss, grief, migration, border and climate crisis.
Just like the sea itself, so close to everyone’s life, deep in everyone’s memory. Even for someone like me who doesn’t even swim.
Xie Rong appropriates contemporary of Chineseness, and tropes of Chinoiserie and femininity in order to subvert them. Utilising her own body as material, she often works with text written on her skin using red lipstick, black Chinese ink, white ‘ink’ made from jasmine tea, or her own breast milk after giving birth to her second child. She mines her own experiences of childhood, family, marriage and motherhood – and those of her female ancestors – juxtaposing English narration with Chinese traditional folk song to play with her complex hybrid identity. Her work explores the territory of translation: between two languages, between gesture and stillness, between her Chinese past and English present, between performance and image. Xie Rong studied at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute High School before moving to London, where she gained a BA in Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins and an MA in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art. Her work has been seen in the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Sweden, Egypt, Germany, Australia and Korea, Finland, Mexico and Iran . She won 40 under 40 perspective art award in 2017 and the China Arts Now Award 2019. Since 2011, She has been collaborating with photographer Jamie Baker on photographic interventions within her performance work.
Xie Rong, a Chinese-born contemporary artist, specializes in performance and video art. Her work, born from a hybrid complex self-awareness, balances between tradition and modernity. The artist tells about the personal, translating her stories into the language of performance, recites texts in English, and sings traditional Chinese songs. Xie Rong uses the technique of homage and silence, indicating his presence, powerful and fragile at the same time. The artist uses her influence on the public, involving the audience in her own performance.
Xie Rong’s narrative is based on her family history. In her works, she shares memories of her childhood in the city of Chengdu in the Sichuan region, talks about her relatives and the ancestors of her family. The personal memories that the artist explores are based on the deep traditions of a complex Chinese society undergoing ideological, political, economic and social changes.
Xie Rong analyzes the stereotypes associated with China, fights against them and opposes them. He paints his body with classical Chinese cultural symbols, mimicking either blue-and-white porcelain or classical Chinese landscapes and calligraphy, giving new meaning to traditional Chinese painting. With her art, she “translates” traditional classical Chinese art into modern language, adapting it to modern Western perception.
Xie Rong’s work is influenced by Western performance artists of the 1960s and 70s. In those years, performance included an exploration of the capabilities of the human body, a test of physical and mental endurance and stamina. Shi Rong, using voice, body, symbolic images and personal texts, examines the relationship between such human manifestations as cruelty, beauty, vulnerability, trying to understand how all this together affects the formation of self-awareness and the feeling of one’s own body. Shows traditional Chinese art through a modern view from the side – from Europe, using both sound and traditional Chinese symbols – for example, a goldfish, concepts from Chinese philosophy.
Often, Xie Rong invites the audience to take an active part in her performances, drawing strength from the vulnerable position in which the audience finds themselves and the discomfort experienced by the participants in the show. The emotions of the audience are intertwined with the feelings of the artist, which allows her to build a certain model of relationships, which is a holistic performance.
The creative cycle of actions of the artist and the audience, the inextricable link between the past and the future, between traditional cultural baggage and contemporary art echoes the principle of Buddhist samsara: the cycle of birth and death, growth and decay, death and rebirth.
Xie Rong (1983) was born in Chengdu, China. She attended art school in Sichuan, where she studied classical drawing and calligraphy, at the age of 19 she left to continue her studies in London, where she received her first academic degree in graphic design from the Central Saint Martins College of Art (CSM) and the second academic degree in art from the Royal College of Art. Lives and works in London and Surrey. Participated in solo and group exhibitions in Hong Kong, Australia, China, Sweden, Germany and England. Her husband, photographer Jamie Baker, helps her in her work.
Xie Rong. “The place where I yearn is day and night.” Ramat Gan Museum of Russian and Far Eastern Art. From November 11, 2021 – May 2022 Exhibition curated by Adiya Porat
Harbinger – create a physical and digital exhibition about marginalised communities dealing with the climate crisis in line with COP26 which is on the 1st -12th November 2021.
The exhibition also showcases the stories of artists and how they and their art have been affected, as a result. These stories are married with recorded interviews with a leading dermatologist consultant explaining the effects of chemical treatments on the hair and skin, and parallel recorded interviews with soil scientists from renowned international universities showing the effects of chemical treatments on the soil, wildlife, plants, and the effect as these chemicals make their way down through the earth to the water table. This is an integral part of the exhibition and a curatorial decision to marry the emotional and scientific elements to powerfully show the impact on marginalised women’s skin and hair and the impact on the earth’s skin.
There will be photographic examples of biodiversity due to hair chemical treatments being invested within the soil. Finally, archival materials showcasing historical evidence of the creation of mass chemical treatments because of profit from white cis man-made industries.
Conversation with Duan Ying Mei about my performance art as part of her exhibition in Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
The performative Body
Photos by Jamie Baker
1.Little Red Flower
‘My earliest performative act was put my hand at 90 degree angle whenever I need to speak.’ In this performance, I reflected on my childhood communist education by covering my body with branded red lipsticks.
2.Be the Inside of the Vase
Through brutal personal history I addressed sexually political statements from my mother: ‘Don’t be a vase, pretty but empty inside, be the inside of the vase!’
3.Balls of steel
Come to tingle my rusty bell, I will sing for you, I will tell you a story… 5hours spontaneous storytelling performance.
4.Three Cannon Balls
A head, two fists covered by sticky rich balls. Three sauce labeled aside: brown sugar/communist education, soya powder/culture heritage, sesame seeds/western education. Audiences were invited to dress me with a chose of sauce.
5.Mountain and Water
Faced with the failure of the human order, learned men sought permanence within … the mountains to find a sanctuary from the chaos of dynastic collapse.
家 (Jia) means Home, also my mother’s middle name. She was born 1957, her life story meets every changing political event in modern Chinese history.
From age 4-7, I lived in a boarding communist nursery. June 1989, I was not able to go home for one month . Teacher gave all the students one little red flower a day as an emotional comfort. During this performance, I slapped myself… until the Chinese characters fell into powder.
8.Painting until it becomes marble 10days after my mother in law’s death, I painted a picture with my hair. Sorrow and grief transformed into lines and splashes, recorded my profound feeling of loss.
9.Part of a Lighthouse
Faced painted Chinese character “光” : Light. 12 words were should out.12 ropes threw from 12 spaces, dragged between audiences, I built a light house inside the museum.
10.Story of the Stone
For all the people that suffered in domestic violence, for all the women that were forced into a mad house, for all the children that were victims of elder abuse … I was buried inside 3tones of stones up to my rib cage, audience are invited to remove them.
Lawn Are an Ecological Disaster, Are you surprised?
This year I have been researcher on the history of Lawn. Reflecting on the social and environmental impacts of Lawns, family roots, man occupied space, collective memories, native species beyond human centred perspectives. How visionary plans for the city can be sustainable for generations to come.
Portrait 爱LOVE is made from layers of wild flowers and weeds from our lawn. The character written across my face reads: Love. If the lawn is a symbol of status and a sign of pride and unity in the community, I truly wish our love for a manicured lawn can be more inclusive by allowing it to grew higher and more wild.
Film: TianFu Lawn: Keep off the Grass In early 90s, my father’s business was declining. He borrowed money from his friends and family to invest in properties. A trusted the contact in the government, shared a secret business opportunity. Chengdu is redesigning its city centre on Ren Min south road, where the imperial city was demolished during the Cultural Revolution. My father can invest in one real estate and turn it into a shop front. This seems to be a golden opportunity to change his life, he dreamed excitedly the future customers spending fortune on his merchandise in the middle of this heavenly city centre. One year later, the reality was unexpected and cruel. This city centre square that many people was waiting for was 88000 square meters of lawn. Lawn does not grow well in China so for the next 24years, “Keep Off the Grass” has become a symbol for a civilised city. Together with ground-breaking urban modernisation, our motherland has transformed from mountains and water, villages and gardens to forests of irons and concretes decorated by manicured and not so evergreen turf patches.
XieRong’s wild lawn & neighbour’s manicured lawn, Surrey England
TianFu Square in1980, ChengDu China
XieRong’s father in TianFu Square, 1991, ChengDu China
Human 人 -Little white flower
Live performance @ilminmuseumofart? @jamiebakerphotography
1997, I was 14years old. I had my first article published on national newspaper. I passionately wrote my grief for the death of DengXiaoPing. Sorrow is a strange thing when you see everyone around you was crying, tv channel was playing funeral songs, over over again, all newspapers were filed with condolences … people were in black and wore white paper flowers, it affect you, It makes you sad, our school decided to stop classes for three days instead we were setting in the classroom watching documentaries about Deng’s achievement and folding hundreds of thousands white paper flowers. We then decorated them around the classrooms, hallway, and every trees around the school.
Yesterday was PR China’s 70 years birthday. The entire nation was celebrating its victory and power. My cousin woke up 6am in the morning to watch the rising flag ceremony at the city square in my hometown ChengDu. All her classmates were in uniforms, standing in the rain, national flag painted on their little face, shined with bright smiles. On TV, I watched the replay of the whole parade. The familiar pride, smiles, absolute perfection, millions of people in one voice, millions of steps in uniformed movement. The patriotism was in the air and deep in people’s blood. .
Five demands, no one less. The message from Hongkong is loud and serious, one 18years old protester was shot on the chest right next his heart … watching them online, they have nothing but a brave heart. 269 people were arrested on the national day, 178 male, 91 female. age from 12-71. Aiweiwei posted the number this morning.
My heart and thoughts goes to Hongkong. It’s not about Hongkong independence! They have shown the real hope for democracy and real strength of dignity! Once were so precious to the true Chinese identity and still so important to our world peace and humanity.
Human 人- Prisoners 囚
When I was 3years old, a disable old man bought me a rocking horse. He told me the first English word I knew: “ White “. He was my grandfather. One of the most intelligent man I have never get to know. Grandpa Yong, speaks five languages. That made him one the main target in the culture revolution. A Slave to Western Culture. The red guards broken his legs and he died of depression in early 90s.
I whitened my face, while telling the story, I applied two brush strokes with finger: two line joined at the top splits down the bottom, like a standing man, read: 人 Ren, : Human. Black ink covered my mouth, silenced me.
Live performance at Ilmin Museum of Art
Part of PAN Asia performance festival
Photo by Jamie Baker
Waves of arrests in Hongkong. “Police have rounded up children as young as 12 years old on suspicion of unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons or rioting, often based solely on the color of their clothing and objects in their bags. Of the 1,596 people arrested since protests began in June, 464 were students, including 207 this month. “ – Los Angeles Times.
Families began to warn me, what to say and what not to post ; Friends are divided over opinions…
The laughter reminds me of those flowers,
Quietly open for me in every corner of my life,
I thought I would always be by her side,
Today we have left, searching in different parts of the world.
How are they?
Are they still there?
They have been blown away by the wind and scattered around the horizon.
Yoko Ono “Peace is Power” exhibition @yokoonoofficial
Heavy heart following the live-stream of Hongkong Protest. Don’t know where the passion will leads the land … reading brutal comments from opposite viewers. Only finding peace in Patti Smith’s words :
a mourning wreath
nothing but grief
nothing but blooms
cascading as dust
nothing but hatred
and the terrible cost
At the other side of the water
Chinese song from 1975
Verdant green grass, Misty white fog
There is someone at the other side of the water, I wish to drift down steam, to meet up with my closed one. However, there is dangerous swamp awaits and the journey far and long. I wish to force the wave and push up searching for her direction. far away vaguely I see her standing right there: in the center of the water.
An old man was interviewed to tell his story about the Great Escape. Vast numbers of mainlanders fled to #Hongkong illegally by swam cross the “XiangJiang” river which divided the broader from mainland and Hongkong. During the 1950-1970 it also define the opposition between capitalism and socialism. He was 14years old, swam, ran and hide for months, together with his mother they swam crossed the XiangJiang river. The rain was heavy… a big flood is on its way, the mother and son grabbed hold of a tree, mother pushed him to climbed up, suddenly many voices shouted from the tree. “push him down, it’s full here!” In the dark light they realized there were hundreds of people also in the water, many try to grab his legs and pull him down. The mother begged:”please let him stay, I lost my husband and other son in the water already! He is only 14! He needs to stay alive, pull him up please!” People did, helped her to hold him up, she used her body to support him … for hours, she stood in the water… the rain gets heavier, waves crashed in, dragged her into the dark. After that storm, many baby floated up but he never found hers.
The Chinese word “Sea” constructed in three parts: water, human and mother.
It’s a word about bodies. body of human, body of water. body of individual and collective history.
We all remember little #AlanKurdi that three-year-old Syrian boy drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. We all saw photo of two bodies in one red t-shirt. Face down, died but together. The Salvadoran migrant #OscarMartinezRamirez and his 23months old daughter, who #drownedwhile trying to cross the Rio Grande in Matamoros.
Human history is a record of #migration; migration is search for #home.
Photo by @annakucera.au Curated by @alexieglass
家- HongKong on my mind
家 (Jia) means Home, Family and Country. But most dearly It’s my mother’s middle name. My mother’s early life meets every changing political event in modern China.
My mother was born in 1957, two years after the birth of her brother, my mum is the seventh daughter in the family. Her arrival had broken my great-granny’s dream for more grandsons so my mum was the “bad luck”. Her childhood was during The Three Years of Natural Disasters. She remembered she was always starving.
During those year 1957, 1962, 1972 and 1979 marked the four major booms in illegal emigration to Hong Kong, as mainlanders had suffered greatly from the Cultural Revolution, which included vast famine. According to research and my investigations, about two million people flooded into Hong Kong as illegal immigrants, often with great personal loss, and more people died on their way or were caught and repatriated.
There are many touching footages shown when some of the mainland Chinese illegal immigrants hide in the mountains, the local Hongkong citizen brought food and clothes to help, they even surrounded the deportation vans and threw food into the vans… eventually that group of illegal immigrants stayed in HongKong! The wave of illegal emigration also prompted the mainland authorities to rethink their economic policy, scholars said. Late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who was said to blame extreme leftist policies for the mass escape, launched the “reform and opening up” policy and endorsed the development of Shenzhen – a key hub for illegal migration – into a special economic zone in the late 1970s … .
2017, together with my mother and my boys I had my first Solo exhibition in HongKong, the local Art Hongkong Magazine kindly made this cover of me. Same year HongKong Perspective awarded me the “40 under 40 Art price .” .
My heart is with all the Hongkonger on the street protest today! For your strength and bravery! Please stay safe.The world is watching and celebrating the solidarity with you! ❤️ .
Photo by Photo by Jamie Baker
Pearl of the Orient ?? By Luo Da You
Little river convolutedly flows to the south
Drifting to Hong Kong to take a look
Pearl of the Orient, my love
Your elegant demeanor and romanticism are still the same?
The harbor of curve moon
The color of night is deep, and the light and the fire are sparkling and bright
Pearl of Orient doesn’t sleep all night
Keep the promise of vicissitudes of life
Have let the sea wind blow for five thousand years
As if each tear speaks about your dignity… ?
1997, I heard this song for the first time and sang it passionately in the People’s square with millions of ChengDu citizens to celebrate the return of Hongkong to our motherland. I was 14, like the rest of the mainland China girls I thought I was free and Hongkong is coming home!
It has been hard few days following up the news and watching the story turned darker… reading the papers in both Chinese and English with completely different narratives that painted opposite sense of realities … ( most of mainland Chinese won’t even know what happened in Hongkong because all the news are consorted and removed, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are blocked ). The more I look into the situation the more I questioning my life grew up in 80’s China and recall my recent memories when I visited my Chinese artist friends who are live in fears and under oppressions. All the unfair legal cases that happened to the people I knew and cared … It is easy for one to conclude that China has no #humanrights but it is heartbreaking to gradually realized that yourself! Because it is still where all my family are live and where my roots are deeply buried and a home where I wish my children will keep loving! ?
EVENING SNACK AND FINAL DISCUSSION. Festival ends with joint early evening snacks and discussion about the festival themes and performances. The discussion is moderated by Marika Räty (Arts Promotion Centre Finland)
In a year of Instagramming dangerously, 52 artists respond to critical issues across the broader Asia region.
The mainstream media keeps us in a constant state of emergency where the word ‘crisis’ is used daily and ‘breaking news’ is a permanent banner across our screens. The real emergencies we should be facing are often disguised behind biased rhetoric or consciously omitted altogether: Climate change! Severe economic inequality! Decay of democracy! Brexit! Trump! The alt-right!
52 ARTISTS 52 ACTIONS sets out to address the real and daunting trials of everyday life across contemporary Asia. Each of the 52 artists includes a statement about their work, which often reads as a compelling, heartbreaking memoir in miniature, giving deep insights into cultural traditions.
Echo Morgan – cover artist – says this:
I was sent away at the age of four after my parents’ divorce to board at a much-hated, strict communist kindergarten. There I was shaped into a ‘xiao hong hua’, a little red flower, obedient and pliant. This early communist education and China’s economic boom is deeply embodied in my roots. They still strongly control my thoughts and behaviour.
Other highlights include:
– Kyungah Ham’s Korean Mona Lisas
– Deborah Kelly’s crowd-sourced feminist wisdom as print-at-home stickers and posters
– Heman Chong’s list of 198 forms of non-violent action
– Chim Pom’s oversized jigsaw puzzle, Find the C*&R!!!, in response to Japan becoming increasingly strict about nudity even though Asia’s largest red-light district, Kabukicho, is in Shinjuku, Tokyo
– The Mulka Project’s mission to sustain and protect Yolngu cultural knowledge in north-east Arnhem Land under the leadership of community elders.
52 ARTISTS 52 ACTIONS champions small acts of disobedience undertaken live and online by 52 artists from 31 countries across Asia, addressing important concerns locally and globally.
From historical revisionism in the Philippines to micro-celebrities in Bangladesh, military abuse in Myanmar to rising sea levels in Indonesia, visibility for LGBTQI+ people of colour to contemporary Indigeneity, the artists tackle critical issues with determination, innovation and humour. Each week, the work of a different artist is presented in a unique context, spanning a year of new artistic practice across the region.
Exploring the role of activism and protest throughout, the focus is on art-as-action that has the power to raise awareness and invoke change. With striking images and bold, graphic design, 52 ARTISTS 52 ACTIONS is an encyclopaedia of creative responses to political and social issues facing contemporary Asia.
Following her intense performance of Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece (as Echo Morgan) at the Peace Is Power exhibition in Leipzig (April 2019), the amazing artist Xie Rong performed another of Ono’s works at the museum’s retrospective of Yoko’s career. Although Yoko’s Painting Until It Becomes Marble is an actual painting rather than a conceptual one, Rong performed a live interpretation of Yoko’s work. Immersing herself in paint and becoming a part of the actual work is an integral aspect of Xie Rong’s art. She applied her own method to Yoko’s static painting, and the result was stunning.
Yoko’s original work is a black and white ink drawing which is an accordion style fold-out. It was first shown during her first solo art exhibition Paintings and Drawings by Yoko Ono, at Fluxus founder George Maciunas’ AG Gallery in New York City. Painting Until It Becomes Marble came with Yoko’s instruction that visitors were to “cut their favorite parts until the whole thing is gone”. It was also shown at MoMA in 2015 as part of Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971.
Xie Rong’s live interpretation of Yoko’s painting was stunning. Yoko’s original painting actually has some ‘movement’ in its accordion folded shape. Rong took it to a new level, breathing new life into the piece. Reverently and ceremoniously, the artist stood quietly in the huge empty space with extremely high floor-to-ceiling windows emitting a background of pure light. Dressed all in white, Xie Rong stood with two bowls at her feet, one filled with Chinese black ink and the other with pure blue pigment powder. The artist combed the ink through her long black hair, saturating it and began to paint on a very large canvas on the floor.
Rong’s barefooted dance began – at first light and graceful like a ballerina, then more intensely, furiously jumping as her drenched hair splattered paint in all directions and on herself. ‘Jack the Dripper’ (Jackson Pollack) has fierce competition! The chaotic calligraphy continued with her head to the floor, making brush strokes. Kneeling with her head down on the canvas, submitting to the work in reverence, she made thicker strokes and swirls. Covered in ink, her white clothing and skin took on the characteristics of the actual artwork.
“An amazing aspect of the performance was the sound! This heavenly space is where they displayed Yoko’s cricket cages. I sang this song and told the story about losing my mother in law two weeks ago. And I invited audiences to rise the painting with me! But the paper dropped and become a cloud!”
at Yoko Ono: Peace Is Power exhibition @mdbkleipzig in Leipzig Germany
May 11, 2019.
Watch the performance videos:
Story of the Stone
This work by Xie Rong is inspired by three of Yoko Ono’s works; Three Mounds, Riverbed and Rising (lyrics).
Xie Rong: “I wish to create a piece to bring illumination and sound into the darkness. To connect all the rooms into the main hall, create movement of audiences. From 9:30 Andreas played music create tension and atmosphere. 10pm, Me, in a mirror suit, walking into the main hall. I stood inside a rope light, silent, I will sing “Olive Tree” then I walk off to collect all the ropes, I shout out to each floor and balcony, drag ropes between people. Creating spider web collection between the three museum floors and four exhibition rooms.” … …
MdbK Leipzig, Yoko Ono “PEACE is POWER”, Eröffnung, Performance “Cut Piece”, Echo Morgan
Cut piece ✂️
Last night, I performed my “One Woman Show”. It is a title that borrowed from Yoko Ono’s MoMA’s exhibition in 2015. It was my 5th performance piece that responded to Yoko’s work.
This morning, tiredly woke up from sore muscles. I watched the video of Theresa May’s resign speech. Her usually steely demeanour collapsed, her voice cracking with emotion, she said:” The second female prime minister but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill-will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.” Suddenly, it reminded me of the aloneness and vulnerability I experienced before, during and after the “Cut Piece”. It’s a historical piece, I had exception and preparation for it. But it was still very challenging for me and the audiences.
1.The stage was high, because there were hundreds of audiences.
2.I was programmed into an opening timeline which the mayor and museum director were waiting to give a speech.
3.A daughter came with her mother,shaking, her mother encouraged :” Do it! Do it!” she cut small piece of my shirt “yes!” Her mother shouted loudly with proud!
4.A man walked up brutally took my bra and swung in the air! Whole room cheered!
5. As soon as my bra was off, two women jumped in front the queue. Quickly, collaboratively, tightly, they swaddled me together like a new born baby.
6. A woman gently removed my underpants, Later watching the footage I realised she was sobbing.
7. An elder woman ran close to the stage after my underpants was removed. She stood apart her legs, lifted up her long skirt, cut a small piece of fabric, she faced the audiences, like a warrior. She turned around and covered my crotch. She then held her both hands bowed me like a Buddha.
8. The second day, she waited for me in the museum and wanted to check if I was ok, she never heard about the original Cut piece so she was deeply sadden and dramatised by the action and process.
9. Dinner, one of curator call me the best actress, others angry:” You shouldn’t be allowed to cut your own hair to end the show! Because it’s Yoko’s work !
10. The sound was a sculpture and movement was a drawing!
I had a wonderful chat with artist Echo Morgan about her performance. Yoko requested that Cut Piece be performed at the opening of her Peace Is Power exhibition in Leipzig. Over time this masterpiece – performed many times by Yoko and by other artists – has become legendary. Echo Morgan was approached by the museum to be the performer, as they were interested in bringing her own art to the museum at a later date.
Photo: Alexander Schmidt
MdbK Leipzig, Yoko Ono “PEACE is POWER”, Eröffnung, Performance “Cut Piece”, Echo Morgan
“I made a promise to myself not to participate in other artist’s work; not to react someone else’s performance…When Alfred Weidinger, the director of the Museum of Fine arts Leipzig approached me with the idea of performing Yokos Cut Piece. I fall into deep thoughts.
Cut Piece was first performed by Yoko Ono on July 20, 1964 at Yamaichi Hall, Kyoto, Japan. The artist entered the stage in her best dress, sat in a traditional sitting position, and invited the audience to cut pieces of her clothing with scissors and take the piece with them.
I met Yoko in 2009 at a design boutique in Notting-hill gate, Feathers, where I have worked throughout my study years in London. I helped her chose few outfits: jackets and shirts and 5 hats. While packing the clothes, I said to her: My husband gave me a piece of broken vase in 2003, he said it was from your live performance in Tate Modern and you invited the audiences to put the vase back together in 2013, we got married in 2004 and we have been cherish that piece of vase and really look forward to rebuilding it with her. Yoko smiled and asked me for pen and paper. She wrote down: Dear Luke and Echo, I give you a sun. Love, Yoko Ono. She even drew a smiley sun.
2011, I separated with Luke, went to the Royal College of Art and became a performance artist. Same year, I did a performance: I Buried My Loss, together with many sentimental letters and photos I left the note from Yoko and her piece of vase behind. The only thing I kept was his surname: Morgan.
As a pioneer in conceptual and performance art, Yoko’s work has moved and influenced many people. Including myself! I do feel deeply honoured to be approached to perform her Cut Piece at the opening of YOKO ONO PEACE IS POWER at MdbKLepizig. So, for one time only I will break my own promise, this is my tribute and love for Yoko’s art and life I do believe it is a fate that I have to take this offer. There for, I would like to take this opportunity and mark this performance as my last performance under the name Echo Morgan.
There was some controversy over having an established young artist in her own rite (who happened to be Asian) perform the piece, as some thought that her resemblance to Yoko would make her seem like an imitator. However, after the curators met with Echo (a Chinese artist based in London) they realized her deep understanding and determination to do this work, and agreed that she was perfect for the piece.
Cut Piece (Yoko Ono, Grapefruit 1964)
Performer sits on stage with a pair of scissors placed in front of her and asks the audience to come up on the stage, one by one, and cut a portion of her clothing (anywhere they like) and take it. The performer, however, does not have to be a woman.
Echo told me that her experience was surreal. She was haunted by the large size of the room (1,000 seats which were all filled, as was the standing room) and a live stream to 9,000 visitors in the gallery.
The circumstances (beyond Echo’s control) were more like a grand theatrical staging. Echo did not realize that the museum had the event programmed as a 90-minute performance, as the director and the mayor were to give speeches at the end. She was now on a schedule that she could not control and was worried when some aggressive participants cut large chunks of her clothing early on, speeding the piece along too quickly.
Echo ceremoniously approached the stage, sitting side-legged in the same way that Yoko had done, remaining motionless. She made the announcement, “Take the scissors. Cut a small piece of my clothes, One at a time. Take it with you. It is a gift.” She added, “My body is the scar of my mind.” paraphrasing Yoko’s song “O’Wind” from the album Fly (1971).
Although this stipulation was not in the original instruction, Yoko had always worn her best clothing for each performance – usually sacrificing a black dress from the London shop Biba. Echo wore formal designer attire; a white Dolce & Gabbana shirt, a black Prada skirt, a black Armani jacket and Chanel shoes.
Echo told me that she added the detail of black tights and high heels as a feminist statement (Charlotte Moorman had worn a ball gown during her several performances of Cut Piece). The artist’s shoes were removed by two participants, each of whom took one shoe and promised to bring them back again in 100 years (a reference to Yoko’s Promise Piece, which had originally inspired Echo’s performance).
Echo was completely absorbed in the moment, enjoying the sound of the cutting and of people’s footsteps echoing from the floorboards in the large hall. She was startled when man cut her bra and waved it around triumphantly, provoking opposing reactions – cheers and gasps of anger – from the large crowd viewing the live stream. But she knew that she was relatively safe amongst so many viewers. Other cutters were more hesitant, and most were less aggressive than she expected.
The cutters were also greatly affected. Most women were stunned by the performance and participated in a motherly, protective manner. When Echo’s bra was removed, two women wrapped the artist’s naked torso in two scarves – swaddling her like a baby. The director signaled that this would be a beautiful note on which to end the performance, but Echo decided to remove the scarf and continue. When all of the artist’s clothing was finally cut away, a woman made a grand gesture by cutting off a large piece of her own skirt, placing it across Echo’s lap, clasping her hands and bowing down to the artist as though she were a deity (the essence of Yoko’s intent of Cut Piece – the selflessness of Buddha*).
A most touching detail devised by Echo was at the end of the performance. When completely naked, she picked up the scissors and cut a piece of her own hair and left it on the stage before standing up and walking away. “It is a gesture of returning her a promise that I lost.”The intent was “To leave a part of me, after nothing was left of me, – my DNA – for her in return for that piece of vase that I had lost.” (Promise Piece). The artist asked Yoko’s long-time curator Jon Hendricks for permission to do this, which he gave wholeheartedly, knowing that Yoko would appreciate this addition. But of course, this ‘edit’ provoked a big reaction amongst the German art crowd. However, it was a poignant gesture that Yoko would certainly love – with its subtle reference to Hair Peace (1969).
Concerned museum patrons approached Echo the following day, asking if she was OK. This was her final performance as Echo Morgan. She will use her name Xie Rong from this point forward.
Yoko Ono and I in 2009, Notting Hill Gate, Feathers Boutique
I made a promise to myself not to participate in other artist’s work; not to react someone els’s performance after a heartfelt and inspiring conversation with John Court in Beijing. When Alfred Weidinger, the director of the Museum of Fine arts Leipzig approached me with the idea of performing Yoko’s Cut Piece. I fall into deep thoughts.
Cut Piece was first performed by YokoOno on July 20, 1964 at Yamaichi Hall, Kyoto, Japan. The artist entered the stage in her best dress, sat in a traditional sitting position, and invited the audience to cut pieces of her clothing with scissors and take the piece with them.
I met Yoko in 2009, at a design boutique in Notting-hill gate. Feathers, where I have worked throughout my study years in London. I helped her chose few outfits: jackets and shirts and 5 hats. While packing the clothes, I said to her: My husband gave me a piece of broken vase in 2003, he said it was from your live performance in Tate Modern and you invited the audiences to put the vase back together in 2013, we got married in 2004 and we have been cherish that piece of vase and really look forward to rebuilding it with her. Yoko smiled and asked me for pen and paper. She wrote down: Dear Luke and Echo, I give you a sun. Love, Yoko Ono. She even drew a smiley sun.
2011, I separated with Luke, went to the Royal College of Art and became a performance artist. Same year, I did a performance: I Buried My Loss, together with many sentimental letters and photos I left the note from Yoko and her piece of vase behind. The only thing I kept was his surname: Morgan.
As a pioneer in conceptual and performance art, Yoko’s work has moved and influenced many people. Including myself! I do feel deeply honoured to be approached to perform her Cut Piece at the opening of YOKO ONO. PEACE is POWER at @mdbkleipzig So for one time only I will break my own promise, this is my tribute and love for Yoko’s art and life. I do believe it is a fate that I have to take this offer. There for, I would like to take this opportunity and mark this performance as my last performance under the name Echo Morgan.
With Yoko’s best friend, the Curator of Yoko Ono exhibition: Jon Hendricks after performed Cut Piece, 3rd of April 2019
Unfortunately, Yoko didn’t come to the Opening and the only day she could visited the exhibition Peace is Power in Leipzig was on my mother in law’s funeral …
I am proud for doing this piece! It’s my way to return that piece of vase (PromisePiece) to her.
Xie Rong x Echo Morgan – After her divorce in the UK, a petite Sichuan girl started her five-years performance art journey.
Art China · Meng Yuan | 2016-11-03 17:20
The first “Beijing·Live” International Performance Art Festival was held from October 15th to 23rd, 2016. More than 30 performance artists from 13 countries presented performance art works at the Danish Cultural Center. Echo Morgan performed her new work, My Father and My Son. The Art China reporter interviewed the artist Xie Rong and had a new understanding of her behavior.
1. You were a designer at the beginning. What is the opportunity for you to switch to behavioral art creation?
Yes, I was in college at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. I belonged to the University of the Arts in London. When I was in school, I found that the boundaries between design and art were very vague. The graduation thesis at the time was influenced by Hélène Cixous’s theory of “negative writing”. In the book “Medusa’s Laughter,” she wrote: “Women must write about herself: must write a woman and bring a woman to writing… a woman must put herself in the text – bring her story back In the world and in history – through her own actions.”
My graduation thesis is “The Symbol of Negative Writing and Identity”, and I wrote an autobiography “Xie Rong and the Thirsty Devil”. In the autobiography, I combed my family history into the “three steps”: the root of the school, the school of death and the school of dreams. This is a turning point in my spirit and a turning point in art.
Xie Rong’s paper self-made book
I am a very emotional person. From small to large, I can feel the impact on my body and emotions around me. I like performance and like to speak, but I didn’t find a suitable channel to send it out. Body writing made me open my voice. I realized that my voice and my story are powerful. I used to think that this is just my personal experience. I think art is not personal but public. Everyone can feel and Experience, so I feel too personal to become very narrow. But after reading the book of Xisu, I found that it was not. When I put my body in the big age, I suddenly had power. I found the art of performance art and the sheep to express myself.
Xie Rong’s paper self-made book
2. What is the first performance art work?
In fact, this starts from the fact that I stopped writing for two years. When I was 21, I married an Irishman. After seven years, I separated. Later, I met my father to commit suicide. The two worlds collapsed at the same time, causing me to collapse. I have not created any works for two years. From 2011 I entered the Royal College of Art and followed Nigel Rolfe to study performance art.
“Send Book” was created in 2011 by artists during performances
“Book” was created in 2011. The artist is barefoot and uses ink to wash his hair.
My first performance art work was “Send a Book,” which was created in 2011. I was studying printmaking and learned that the world’s first prints were made with women’s hair instead of silk. So I went back to the woman’s body and painted it with ink on her hair. The painting was very abstract and it was an understanding of my own hair. I spent five hours creating an eleven-meter abstract scroll that represents my eleven years with my ex-husband. After bathing, the water washed the paint off the hair, and the ink was painted all over the body. At that moment, I felt that I was born again. Many of my works draw on the works of predecessors and need to think about how to turn them into their own artistic language. I feel that my cultural background is very important.
Xie Rong is painting with his hair
“Send Book” was created in 2011. The artist paints on a long roll of eleven meters.
3. This time, “My Father and My Son,” I used an object like a ball, which seems to appear in your previous work.
The object was woven from bamboo strips and covered with more than 80 sheets of rice paper. The shape is not very precise. It is made up of two parts, like a lantern, uterus, breast, testicles, planet, silkworm cocoons, eggs, nests, and so on. It also appeared in my four-hour behavioral work, Be the Inside of the Vase, in 2012. The image at the time was more precise and it was a vase.
Bamboo and rice paper woven objects
Objects appearing in “My Father and My Son”
At that time, the museum did not allow me to ignite the vase. I stood in the whole body with Meilan Zhuju, and asked the audience to throw a water polo to break the vase. The story of my father and me has puzzled me for so many years, and I hope to break it. The audience broke the lantern with 150 water polo. The water polo lost its light in 5 minutes and washed off the blue and white porcelain patterns and pigments on my body.
Xie Rong painted part of the bamboo on his body
Xie Rong’s 2012 performance art work “Being the Inner of the Vase”, which also appeared similar objects
One of the water polo players was very hard when they lost it. It hit my eyes and it hurts. The dark circles are like pandas for two weeks. This is a kind of violence. It is a retrospective of the cold violence I felt when I was a child. My mother has a face to face. I am not allowed to talk about their divorce. It is a mental imprisonment for me. At the time, an editor wrote a commentary and said that it was very repugnant to this kind of violence, and he did not know how to become a party to violence. She feels that the artist appears in a fragile and weak image, using his own vulnerability to make the audience become weaker, and the artist controls the mood of the audience.
The audience threw the water polo to the artist, the water polo broke the rice paper, and washed off the paint on the artist.
4. You just mentioned that there is a water polo that hits your eyes. Does it mean that there are many sudden and random factors in the performance of performance art?
Yes, there was an unexpected situation in the performance art performance of “My Father and My Son”. After my father died, I really wanted to burn the lanterns that were not allowed to be lit before. Originally, the fire was very beautiful when I was experimenting the previous day. The ashes floated up and slowly fell. At that time, it should be the end of my performance art. On the second day of the official performance, I found that the paste completely prevented me from burning the lantern. I used to use the pvc adhesive that was very flammable in the UK.
After the flames are gathered, leave scars and holes
Everyone saw it at the time. Some people gave me a lighter. Many people who had heard my thoughts wondered how I would continue to the next step, and most of the audience didn’t know that this momentum was not my original idea. I found that I liked this kind of burning way. The flame burned up, and soon the flames went out again. It was both arrogant and subtle. Curator JonasStampe said that this is the sorrow of people. You want him to drift with the wind in a big fire, but it is always lingering. This is the most real emotion and life of man.
Later, when I was communicating with a Swedish artist, he felt that the most striking thing about performance art was that while the audience was thinking, the artist was thinking about the direction of performance. This is also the place where performance art is different from step-by-step stage play. It is a real situation on the scene, rather than step by step according to the script. When I wanted to burn this lantern and burned it, during this time, everyone had a lot of ideas and removed all the factors of the stage and performance.
5. You said that you haven’t thought about how to explain this work with your mother after returning to the UK. Is it afraid that the mother can’t accept the nude or do you say a lot of personal family scars in the work?
I think that for performance artists, the body is no longer naked, but a carrier of art. In fact, this is more about my mother’s face. My mother is a soldier. My father is a little punk. It is a waver in the rivers and lakes. She wants to use her love to save a fallen soul. At that time, the mother’s family did not agree with them. After quarreling with the family, the mother rushed out of the house and suffered a car accident causing the uterus to shift, leaving a scar on the lower back. In “Inner of the Vase”, I set up a canal with a water polo. The shape is a map of China. It has nothing to do with politics. It is the shape of the scar on my mother’s lower back.
The canal of Chinese land graphics is the scar of the mother
After the performance art performance
The behavior I did at the time was not only showing my own pain, but also showing my mother’s pain. When I told my mother about this behavior, she was very angry and said, “I have been divorced for 30 years, and even my best friend has not told me. I don’t want others to see my jokes because the Chinese believe that the ugliness cannot be promoted. You made a work, the whole world knows about me and your father, and the whole world knows your growth experience.”
But I think it’s actually like being happy to write in the novel “Good Women in China”. “The custom of China is to face, but the face is also part of your body. It hurts your own heart and hurts your face. “”
6. You used a very calm tone to tell the story in “My Father and My Son”. What does the power of language and narrative mean for your performance art?
My mentor, Nigel Rolfe, and I said that when you are most powerful, when you are silent, you need to learn to control your own voice. When doing the act, I am now reminding myself to come. The professor also told me to remove the personal feelings, because the story is already very personal, there is no need to go to lyrics, and the lyrics will look very artificial. Speaking very peacefully, then it is a story, emotions are something that others have to experience, not what you emphasize.
7. Why do you insist on doing performance art?
Let me take a picture of my film based on my work in 2013. At that time, I talked about my father’s experience. His life represented the experience of people of that era going to sea to do business. He accumulated a lot of wealth, but he died in a car accident and killed many innocent people. Then he was sentenced to jail and imprisoned, and his family was ruined to redeem his freedom. After he was released from prison, his life was declining. His life represents a lot of tragic people. I received letters from audiences around the world, and I told them the tragic story of their personal privacy. I have found a medium that allows me to express myself and put my personal stories in the big age and resonate with people.
It is very fortunate to be a performance artist. You can use your work to record your own changes and record your life. When I performed the performance of “The Inner of the Vase”, I had a very young body. At that time, I was talking about the relationship between my daughter and my father. The image is in line with the image of a very small girl. This time, “My Father and My Son,” I am already a mother who has given birth to a child. My image is a daughter and a mother. I think that when I am old, I have to do a corresponding behavioral work. It is wrinkles all over the body, and the feeling of a ceramic to the last time after the time splits.