Myth of Sanctification: Politics, Body Aesthetics, and Nationalist Dominion

24th August — 4th September, 2019 

Venue:  NexUs Culture Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal

Curators:  Feng-yi CHU | Ashmina RANJIT

 

Poster design: Siddhanta Pudasaini | Photo credit: Sean Wang  &  Mekh Limbu

[中文] In classical theories of social science, religion is often regarded as the opposite of modernity. Not only Max Weber draws on the idea of “disenchantment” to describe the cultural rationalization and devaluation of religion in the modern era, but theorists like Larry Shiner and Émile Durkheim also adopt the concept of “secularization”, arguing that religion has been loosing its power on the political, economic, and cultural realms in modern societies. These descriptions are not entirely true, since one can easily find many counter examples of how religions and pre-modern traditions still exercise their significant influence on collective politics and individual behaviors nowadays—not only in developing regions, such as South Asia, Central Asia, and Arabian Peninsula, but also in relatively developed countries, such as the America and South Korea, particularly when the enormous obstacles to gender equality and LGBT rights posed by religious fundamentalists and conservatives are concerned.

            Indeed, the role of religion in the contemporary world is shifting, but its ancient technique of “bio-politics” (in Foucault’s notion) has been well preserved under the cover of the disguised renouncement of religion—the technique of “sanctification.” Being defined as a process of making holy, sacred, blessed, and purified, this idea inevitably involves a dualistic structure. When one object, one idea, or one category of human beings is deemed as sacred, pure, auspicious, and superior, there are always counter parts considered as sinful, cursed, inauspicious, and inferior. With this dualistic division, the operation of sanctification determines what should be praised and what should be despised; what should be worshiped and what should be condemned; whom should be honored and whom should be exploited. It is a technique of politics, a technique of governance and management, a technique of dominance, a technique of exploitation. It forges and shapes a society’s evaluative system, aesthetic, and morality at the macro level, and it also determines an individual’s belief, value, and identity at the micro level. 

            Four artists from three different regions, with their own life experiences and observations, lay their focus on the idea of sanctification and create three series of art works. The work of Taiwanese artist, Jui-lan Yao, titled "#MyPeriodMyPride Movement," documents the home-made pad workshop that was held at NexUs Culture Nepal during the artist's stay. Yao's another work, titled as “Cleanness is Next to Godliness” (video), with interviewing sound installation, "Voice of Divinity," made by Nepali artist, Siddhanta Pudasaini, compares the different concepts of cleanness and uncleanness constructed in the two societies. By juxtaposing the video images of religious worship and people’s interpretations of menstruation, the work explores the intricate relationship between individual’s body (embodied as human blood and voice) and patriarchal domination. The two artists problematize the myth of purity and impurity imposed on social image of women’s menstruation, denouncing period taboo as a social technique to govern and to oppress women. "Pakistani artist, Tehreem Hassan, creates a series of works of visual images, named “Body vs. Choices.” Her works discuss how a specific form of body aesthetic is constructed to sanctify a particular body form and thus stigmatize others, and how this operation can cause influences over individuals’ self-identities. The work of Taiwanese photographer, Sean Wang, takes nationalist identity as the main subject. Titled as “The Holy Mountain of Taiwan - Chapter 1: ROC,” his work explores how the Chinese nationalism in Taiwan sanctify the landscopes in the Chinese continent, in order to construct the sublime sentiment for Chinese identity. Here, sanctification of landscopes serves as the technique of establishing and promoting Chinese nationalist ideology in the society. 

            Through the works of the four artists, this exhibition aims to disclose the ancient bio-politics operation of sanctification and stigmatization. By doing so, the exhibition also prompts audience for a further deliberation and reflection on the social evaluative system and the political aesthetic structure that she or he has been long informed and immersing within.  

(This exhibition is supported by Ministry of Culture of Taiwan)

Artists

 

Jui-lan YAO姚睿蘭 / 628duck@gmail.com

Born in Tainan, Taiwan, Yao is a Taipei-based artist. Her background roots in Chinese painting, new media art and relational art. With these diverse elements, she is focus on the relationship between individuals and social authorities. She has been exchanged one year in Beaux-Art de Bourges (France, 2013), residency artist in STUPIN.org (Taipei, 2017), and NexUs Culture Nepal (Kathmandu, 2019). She is also the member of Openlab.Taipei.

"Cleanness is Next to Godliness" / Single channel video, 10'56", 2019

Since I was a kid, I have been repeatedly taught, “Don’t touch things that many people touch. These things are unclean. Wash your hand after you touch them.”  In Taiwan when we worship, we put palms together or use incense. Touching god’s statue is extremely forbidden. For this reason, I was amazed when seeing the different way of worship in Nepal (people constantly touching statues to express their devotion). Yet at the same time, there is also “untouchable” taboo on women’s menstruation. My work addresses and raises questions concerning these two subjects. 

"#MyPeriodMyPride Movement" / Document print for a hand-made pad workshop, 120 x 50 cm, 2019

Workshop participants: Almost Invisible | Ashmina Ranjit | Yao, Jui-Lan | Tehreem Hassan | Ankita Shrestha | Aaradhana Rayamajhi | Achel Tamang | Asmita Shahi  | Bidhi Mandal | Chu, Feng-Yi | Jeshika Shahi | Khushi Giri | Palpasa Suwa l Reezma Dangol | Rojina Chaulagain | Simran Shrestha | Sukrita Karkee | Shristi Pulami | Sabina Paudel | Sarita Dangol | Sachin Shrestha | Wang Sean

On the issue of menstruation taboo, I collaborated with Almost Invisible in organizing a two-days handmade-pad workshop. By holding lectures, workshop, participatory art, we tended to promote #MyPeriodMyPride Movement. The work uses art design as a method to “de-stigmatize” the menstruation taboo, to give new image for Nepali feminist movements carried out by young women, and to construct new feminist identity. 

Light crimson for young.

Apple green for vitality.

 

Siddhanta PUDASAINI / scorpiosiddhanta@gmail.com

Born and raised in a hindu family, I always witnessed the rituals my parents followed where a list of things are considered to be pure and auspicious - having a strong belief and faith attached to them. Every month, for few days, my mother avoided touching all the male members of my family and also abstain from daily religious rituals. This made me curious about this practice and question it's notion.

"Voice of Divinity" / Sound installation, 3 min, 2019

My work examines the hindu patriarchal narrative on purity and impurity of a mensurating body. It aims to examine and problematize the social value system and turn audience into a witness to reflect, and further deliberate.

 

Tehreem HASSAN tehreemhassan94@gmail.com

Tehreem HASSAN is a communication designer and artist from Pakistan. Her work usually takes inspiration from the impact of injustices directed towards women because of patriarchy. As a believer of symbolism and semiotics her work focuses on deconstruction of symbols used in everyday life. Moreover, she aspires to bridge the differences between different mediums of expression and to let medium itself become a message loud enough to bring and impact.

"Body vs. Choices" / Illustration prints,  42 x 29.7 cm, 2019

As a believer of symbolism and semiotics, my work primarily revolves around deconstruction of day to day experiences to scratch out the veiled realities. Since as long as the time exists, we have been accustomed to stay estranged towards our own bodies and as a result, our very own flesh and bones refuse to become our home. I have tried to explore the presence and absence of our bodies in the larger sociopolitical context as well in the most personal of experiences. The question of having an agency on our own body is suppressed to the extent that our bodies are pit against the idea of choice itself. My work attempts to unfold the place of resistance in order to reclaim our own body and bodily experiences in the larger patriarchal society. It further undertakes the mundane and oft-ignored elements from our daily lives to visualize the never ending struggle that has been forced upon us our fate..

 

Sean WANG / 汪正翔 / bossashouter@gmail.com

Sean Wang, a Taipei native, holds both a BA and MA in History from the National Taiwan University. He later received his MFA education in photography from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Sean spends his time traveling between Bitan and Taipei and actively engages with photography and criticism..

"The Holy Mountain of Taiwan—Chapter 1: R.O.C" / One framed picture (40 x100 cm) and one installation

As a believer of symbolism and semiotics, my work primarily revolves around deconstruction of day to day experiences to scratch out the veiled realities. Since as long as the time exists, we have been accustomed to stay estranged towards our own bodies and as a result, our very own flesh and bones refuse to become our home. I have tried to explore the presence and absence of our bodies in the larger sociopolitical context as well in the most personal of experiences. The question of having an agency on our own body is suppressed to the extent that our bodies are pit against the idea of choice itself. My work attempts to unfold the place of resistance in order to reclaim our own body and bodily experiences in the larger patriarchal society. It further undertakes the mundane and oft-ignored elements from our daily lives to visualize the never ending struggle that has been forced upon us our fate..