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.
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.
16 October 2013 – Printmaking graduates from the Royal College of Art will show for a second year at auction house Christie’sMultiplied editions art fair. This year RCA graduates will feature in the main body of the event.
Echo Morgan, Catriona Leahy, Frank Leauver, Nicola Thomas and Marianne Keating are among the Printmaking graduates, who will exhibit work exploring new perspectives and applications of the medium, addressing issues including displacement, materiality, social engagement, dissemination and personal narratives. The portfolio, Transference2013, which included work by most of the graduates will also be on view.
Director of Multiplied, Murray Macaulay, described RCA work as, ‘the tension in print-orientated techniques between ideas of art and reproduction; the hi-tech and traditional; multiplicity and the limited edition and art versus industrial.’
RCA Printmaking 2013 graduates offered fresh approaches to printmaking, expanding the form and function of printmaking, publishing and editioning: Nicola Thomas’ black on black etchings evoked the provocative era of Film Noir, reflecting deeper issues of race and class division. Echo Morgan’s elaborate performances included components of print, video and objects to inform and visualise her potent personal narratives. Marianne Keating’s site-specific projects resulted in numerous responses from communities, taking the form of enlarged text-based print and projected pieces.
Multiplied, now in its fourth year, is an annual fair showcasing the very best contemporary art in editions by leading artists and new talent. This year’s exhibition will feature 42 exhibitors and institutions from around the world. For further details, click here.
Two Editions of Balls of Steel sold from this exhibition, very delighted this piece of work that combined fragility and strength went to good homes!Also sold one framed Be the Inside of the Vase screen print from Transference box set.
15 min presentation for my final exam at Royal College of Art
I borrowed the gesture and name of Changing face?? which is an ancient Chinese dramatic art that is part of the Sichuan opera. Performers wear vividly coloured masks, typically depicting well known characters from the opera, which they change from one face to another almost instantaneously with the swipe of a fan, a movement of the head, or wave of the hand.
However, My changing face is a slower act, through the mediums of live spoken words, film projection and showing photographies from previous performances. I invite you to share my performative journey of last two year.
All the fragments act as a mechanical reproduction circle based on my Buddism philosophy of Samsara.
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.
Three Cannon Balls (traditional dish from Chengdu, China) My head and two heads are covered by glutinous rice that sculptured as balls, There are three bows of sauce: soybean powder, Chinese red sugar and sesame seeds. Each sauce is labelled by me: soybean powder: Culture Heritage, Chinese red sugar: Communism education, and sesame seeds: Westernization. Audients are invited to dress me with choice of those three sauces.
It matters not the height; if an immortal resides in a mountain it becomes famous.
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It matters not the depth; if a dragon lives in a body of water it becomes magical.
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This is a crude house; only I appreciate its fragrance.
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Moss ascends the steps, turning them green,
grass’ color enters the blinds, turning them blue.
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In talk and laughter there are scholars with profound knowledge,
and among those coming andgoing there are no illiterate men.
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One can play the lute and read the golden scriptures.
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There is no string or wind instruments to confuse the ear,
and no desk paper work to strain the body.
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It’s Zhu Ge’s thatched house in Nanyang; it’s Zi Yun’s gazebo in West Shu.
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Confucius says, “What crudeness is there?”
As Minister of Rites at the imperial court, Liu Yu Xi (772 – 842 C.E.) took part in the Yong Zhen Reform, which attempted to limit the power of the palace eunuchs and the provincial governors. When the Reform failed he was demoted to be a mere county administrative officer out in one of the provinces.Upon seeing that he continued to openly espouse the Reform Movement, the county head placed Liu’s living quarters in the crudest little house with only one room, contrary to existing remuneration regulations for his rank, which called for three chambers and three living rooms. Unbowed, Liu wrote this piece and had it inscribed in stone and erected outside the little house.
The Royal Standard in collaboration with Drawing Paper and Liverpool Biennial present a one-day experimental event exploring the relationship between sound, performance and drawing. It will screening my films:
My birth name is Xie Rong. A family name from my granny Xie and a given name from my mum; both of whom eventually divorced. I felt, I carried two single mothers on my shoulders. I am Rong ‘?’ the confederate rose, I grew up in tears. In 2000 I began to use the name ‘Echo’ to write articles for newspapers.
Echo Morgan was born in London in 2004. I gave birth to myself, I created this cute, stylish image for me to completely escape from Xie Rong’s life. Life without political suppression and family boundaries, it became light and pretty. But the name “Echo Morgan” was from my marriage which ended in 2011, I am revisiting my roots as Xie Rong.