Drawing on her volatile personal history as a child growing up in China, Echo Morgan, whose real name Xie Rong, creates devastatingly emotional performance art. One piece titled Be the Inside of the Vase performed in 2012 at The Royal College of Art in London was based on a conflicting childhood memory. Her mother would tell her “Don’t be a vase, pretty but empty inside, be the inside, be the quality!” while her father would say, “Women should be like vase, smooth, decorative and empty inside!” Beginning with this memory, Morgan pulls the audience deep into her personal history and psyche.
The performance is intended to elicit deviance from the audience seen in the fun colored balloons she provides, the drinks in their hand (although probably provided by the venue), and her slow participant-induced undressing. This dark eroticism is present in Morgan’s relationship with her father, at one point even stating “I used to believe that one day…that one day, he would come back, that one day he would rape me.” The audience’s encouragement to undress her at their will is similar to Yoko Ono’s 1965 performance Cut Piece in which Ono placed a pair of scissors in front of her and asked the audience to come forward one-at-a-time to cut off pieces of her clothing. Near the end of the performance a man gets overzealous and begins to cut off large chunks, exposing her nearly-naked body and clearly making Ono unsettled. Both pieces bring the natural deviance within humans to the surface forcing them to address their typically interior feelings in a very public context.
Break the Vase begins as a piece about Morgan’s mother and her advice to be “like the inside,” but as the performance is executed it becomes clear that her father is an inescapable character in the narrative. The audience is a metaphor for his persistent abuse towards both Morgan and her mother, but Morgan herself, in the vase, may also be a symbol of him. Morgan’s head sticks out the top of the vase just enough to be struck by the onslaught of balloons, an event that appears to be a strange beheading ritual. From the perspective of the father being both the abuser and the abused, Morgan has cleverly placed him in a fantasy hell of self-inflicted torture.
During Cultural Revolution red guards cut off Buddha heads from the temple to destroy the tradition, religion and history. My father’s antique passion is collecting jade and Buddha head. Bankrupted and lonely, he brushes his jade days and night. Outdoor flea market, where people are looking for things used, interesting and cheap.
Performance by Echo Morgan, 17. 09 . 2013 @ Sumarria Lunn Gallery, Live Performance: 1 Hours
waxed huddha head and bodysuit, tight rope, toothbrushes, 10 min film projection on loop @Sumarria Lunn Gallery, 17.09.2013.
At the Closing evening of Tightrope, I performed the final part of my performance: Brushing Jade: Father’s Jade. I wore a waxed Buddha head and bodysuit, my body was covered with green clay and audiences were invited to brush the clay off my body. A film of me brushing jade and my father was projected at the background wall.
Scaffolding, safety net,waxed buddha head, brush, body
@Sumarria Lunn Gallery, 05.09.2013
At the private view of Tightrope, I performed the first part of my performance: Brushing Jade: Jade Buddha I wore a waxed buddha head, stood silently inside a scaffolding structure. My body was covered with green clay, left audience wondering what will happen in the second part of the Brushing Jade performance. Please come and join me on the 17th of September to complete my Brushing Jade performance as a whole.
Live Performance, 4 hours @Royal College of Art 25.04.2012
Clay, body paint, Chinese tissue paper, willow sculpture, audio
In China, people give a life size Vase as a gift for the opening of a new building, a new business. 25th of April 2012, At the opening of the new Dyson building I transformed my body into a blue and white porcelain vase. My body drifted inside the fresh and empty space, I breath with this new landmark of the Royal College of Art. Story began with my father’s attempt to commit suicide. The performance revealed my uneasy childhood and difficult relationship with my father. I was still and silent whilst my voice revealed the narrative using a pre-recorded audiotape.