MisplacedWomen?

The International Women’s Day contribution by Tan Tan

In Gent, Performances on March 16, 2019 at 12:56 pm

A Pink River, the International Women’s Day contribution by Tan Tan is a story (as she says) —about a “misplaced woman” who comes from China and currently lives in Belgium, who attempts to find her place as a foreign woman despite all the stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings.

This poetic performance has been created in direct response to the “MISPLACED WOMEN?”: “Score 1 – Unpacking a Bag of Your Own”, delegated performance by Tanja Ostojić (ongoing since 2009). Tan Tan was initially supposed to realise it in China in the frame of “Trouble Diaries, a political statement” at Big House, Wuhan, China (2017–18), an exhibition that was curated by Dermis Leon, in which Ostojić took part. As Ostojić was not able to travel to China, Tan Tan has been delegated to interpret her “Misplaced Women?” performance in the public space. 

Tan Tan who is doing her PhD in Belgium, decided to build in her perspective on stereotypes from the Westerners towards Chinese, exposing her vulnerable status as a foreign Asian woman living in this developed but closed society. And so she has finally chosen to perform it in Gent in the feminist context of the annual manifestation against sexism on The International Women’s Day, as she was particularly curious about reception of her performance in the context of this woman’s rights event. Would they embrace someone from different perspective to join their struggle? Here is what she has done and how she reflected a pone it. 

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

_________________________________

A Pink River
60 min performance by Tan Tan
March 8, 2018, Stadshal, Gent, Belgium
Duration: 1 hour

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

At 7 pm, on March 8, 2018, I arrived to the central plaza of Gent with my large suitcase that I normally use for international travels. After several days of rain, there was a splendid sunset but also fierce wind running around the city. In half an hour, the biggest annual manifestation against sexism in this city would start from under the roof of a pavilion of the city hall.

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

I started unpacking my suitcase near one of the pavilions gates. First I took out a tablecloth and put it on the floor, then I placed many of my stuff on it, such as toiletries, cosmetics, candles and some Chinese convenience foods. More and more people came and passed by me, most of them were women, including socialist activists, feminist fighters, and lesbians. In front of them, I started to put some make-up on my face, as if I was in my bedroom. After that, I ate some Chinese pickles with a toast, and then put on my pyjamas. I slept for a while with a panda toy in my arms, with all the messy stuff around me. 

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

At about 7.30 pm, the square was already full of people, holding diverse slogans and flags for women’s rights. On the stage, the leader of the manifestation began her speech that was to encourage people to do actions together. So I “woke up” to the loud sound, and started to draw out a piece of very long narrow pink cloth out of my suitcase. I unfolded it, and placed it on the ground. Soon, the people were surprised to find out  that an Asian woman was spreading a seemingly endless piece of cloth in the middle of the crowd, which compulsively divided them into two sides. Some women actually helped me in a friendly manner to spread the cloth. After a long way squeezing among the people, I set the “end” of the cloth somewhere near the stage, so the cloth kind of resembled a “red carpet”.

Right after, I ran back to the suitcase, took out some flashy clothes and put them on, to begin a “cat walk”. I wore some traditional Chinese clothes between others, and lifted a Chinese lantern over my head, with a background music of the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show”. I walked several times back and forth, and gradually removed layers of clothes, until just few kind of “sexy” summer clothes left on my body. 

During the performance, some people noticed that there was a hand written text along side of the pink cloth, while majority kept focused on the speeches going on on the stage. This is the text I wrote on the cloth for this occasion:

I’m a woman
I’m made in China
But I’m not cheap

I’m a woman
I like shopping
But I’m not a commodity

I’m a woman
I work like man
But I don’t get the same (pay*)

I’m a woman 
I sleep with man
But I deserve my own place

After a while, the crowd departed for the parade, left me standing on the pink “carpet” with some balloons in my hand. The same place which was fully packed became completely empty. Only the wind was still turning around. Suddenly, I punched the balloons one by one. And the sounds of bursted out balloons spread all over the square. 

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

Then, I removed another layer of my clothes and ended up in a nightgown. With a gust of wind, I lifted the cloth that flied in the sky like a running river! I tried to hold and move this “pink river” until it made a circle surrounding the staff packing the rest of the stage from the manifestation. However, they just pushed the cloth aside from them, continuing their job, as if nothing strange was happening…  

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

At the end, I reeled the cloth on my body and turned it into clothes. Afterwards, l lay down along my stuff on the table-cloth again, as if I was buried by the “pink river”.

Tan Tan: “A Pink River”, Stadshal, Gent. A 2018 “Misplaced Women?” contribution. Photo: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa

It is a story about a “misplaced woman” who comes from China and currently lives in Belgium, who attempts to find her place as a foreign woman despite all the stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings. Sometimes, she has a drive to disguise herself like a model in a fashion show, to act different roles that she is expected to be… She tries very hard to coexist with the people here, and to join their struggles but she somehow fails again and again… It seems she even can’t understand what they are fighting for… The only thing she could do is to live like a flowing river, dancing, singing, across the world, as it seems to be the most suitable manifestation of her existence and journey of life.

Performance and text by: Tan Tan
Photography: Okky Oki, Sara De Vuyst, Sallisa Rosa, Tan Tan
Video:  Lennart Soberon
Assistance and light: Cathy
Contribution by Tan Tan has been edited and first published by Tanja Ostojić on the “Misplaced Women?” Blog 2018/19

(*) editorial comment

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Tan Tan is an artist and curator who currently lives and works in China and Belgium. Her oeuvre so far includes experimental film/video art, as well as intermedia works that combine performance, music, sound and image. She took part in numerous exhibitions and film festivals internationally. Urban spaces, social intervention, and spiritual healing are the core topics concerned in her work. 

In the international context, she has been often asked about her “Chinese identity” or “female features” in her work, but she doesn’t really want to answer to those questions. She prefers to live freely worldwide and to practice whatever kind of art she wants. However in regard to her current stay in Europe, she has a records of several visa refusals, as she has been suspected for her migratory tendencies.

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