Echo Morgan is the English name of Xie Rong, a Chengdu-born, London-based, multi-disciplinary artist whose work is underpinned by a dark family story. She works with stereotypes of ‘Chineseness’ and femininity in order to subvert them. Morgan has written texts on her skin using red lipstick, black Chinese ink, white ‘ink’ made from jasmine tea, and her own breast milk after giving birth to her second child. She has played with tropes of Chinoiserie, painting her naked body to resemble blue and white porcelain, and then inviting the audience to violently wash the patterns away by hurling water-filled balloons at her. Her work mines her own experiences of childhood, family, marriage and motherhood – and those of her female ancestors. She is a story-teller.
Juxtaposing English narration with Chinese traditional songs, Morgan plays with her complex hybrid identity and her difficult childhood. She explores the territory of translation: between two languages, between gesture and stillness, between her Chinese past and English present, between performance and image.
Scaffolding, open frame industrial monitors, films
2meter x 2meter
Royal College of Art Show RCA2013
A Pai Fang ?? is a traditional style of Chinese arch,
a historically popular monument that celebrates important family members and achievements. The most famous are “Virgin Pai Fangs” which memorialise the chastity of wives who never remarried after the death of their husbands.
Family Tree stands a new kind of Pai Fang, a multimedia monumental arch constructed by skeletal scaffolding poles. Eight open-frame industrial monitors hang on the structure on multiple planes, showing films, some sound tracked, some not, whose 3D construction offers the viewer multi-layered experiences of family in imagery, interviews and my own reminiscences. A new memorial.
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.
People always say that I have balls. I am a tiny Chinese girl, hair doesn’t even grow much on me. But apparently I have balls. Big heavy balls. The empire of china cut off the male servant’s balls so he remains the only man in the Forbidding City; Priest cut off the choir boy’s balls so they have better sweeter voice. My balls are my thoughts, my balls are my emotions, my balls are my baggage of memory, my ball are filled with air, my balls are light as feather… Ball of steel… Come to tingle my rusty bell, I will sing for you, I will tell you a story…
Performance by Echo Morgan
Photography by Jamie Baker
The performance ‘Be the Inside of the Vase’ was divided into two parts.
The first 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. In the second performance the story moved towards my relationship with my mother. Through my rather brutal personal history I addressed sexually political statements such as: from my father: “Women should be like vase, smooth, decorative and empty inside! ” From my mother: “ Don’t be a vase, pretty but empty inside, be the inside, be the quality!” From myself: “This is my voice, my story, my childhood, I am not a vase! .”
A land not mine, still forever memorable, the waters of its ocean chill and fresh. Sand on the bottom whiter than chalk, and the air drunk, like wine, late sun lays bare the rosy limbs of the pinetrees. Sunset in the ethereal waves: I can not tell if the day is ending, or the world, or if the secret of secrets is inside me again.