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
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.
Galerie Huitis currently exhibiting the debut solo show in Hong Kong of the Chinese multi-disciplinary artistÂ Xie Rong, otherwise known asÂ Echo Morgan. Rong was born in the southwest province of ChengDu, China in 1983 and has lived and worked in London since the age of nineteen. Within her work, Rong oscillates between the role ofÂ performer, filmmaker, director and artistic narrator, operating across the intersection of a variety of mediums including painting,Â performance, film, prints, publications, short stories andÂ audio works. The current exhibition, entitledÂ å®¶Home, consists of an extension of the core thematic and aesthetic preoccupations Rong has explored in her previous work, predominantly the use of her personal prismatic and textured family experience as a reflection ofÂ the political, ideological and philosophical complexities and transformations of Chinese society…
A Broader Reflection of the Female Working Class Experience
The second dominating project within the exhibition is Rong’s sequel to I am a Brush, from which the exhibition takes it’s name – Home. The piece is comprised of an original performance, a video work and the parchment retaining the traces of Rong’s performative presence. Homeis reminiscent of Rong’s previous performance pieces including Be the Inside of the Vase (2012) and Little Red Flower (2012). The correlation can be seen within two avenues. Firstly the use of the narration of her own troubled childhood and relationship with her parents (particularly her father) and by extension the society within which she was raised. Secondly, the process of transforming her body into symbols, be it the Chinese national flag, blue and white porcelain, Chinese landscape painting or in the case of Home a more monochromatic reflection of the contradictions between her cultural identity. In this sense, in Home, Rong projects a more overt reflection of her cultural juxtapositions and her attempts to reconcile her socialized political and gender conforming upbringing with her intellectual and political confliction through her international exposure. However, arguably this is a somewhat superficial reading as, in my opinion, „Home“ projects a broader reflection of the female working class experience of both east and west. In this respect, despite in the obvious cultural nuances, which are not to be diminished of critical importance, in actual fact the core narrative characteristics and anecdotes are largely a global tale of subjugation and a struggle for the psychologically, physically and financially oppressed to overcome.
Ultimately, Rong’s debut Hong Kong exhibition depicts a strong foundational voice and aesthetic. Although there are notable influences from prior body art practice and both Eastern and Western cultural and artistic iconography – a large degree of indebtedness to Yoko Ono, Yves Klein and Carolee Schneemann, for example – Rong’s appropriation and assimilation of both cultural narratives is what makes her work particularly interesting from a critical perspective but also as an illustration of the interconnected and mutating cultural psyche’s of an internationalist ‘millennial’ practitioner….
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.