Moral Tales

"Moral Tales" examines the codification of personal myths into societal mores in vernacular Chinese culture, through three "Moral Tales" about Destiny, Marriage and Industry. Framing the "Tales" are two "Morals": about the State's obligation toward its populace, conveyed through mixed media mudras, and the individual's obligations toward society, set forth in four carved wooden books. These morals and tales are drawn from my childhood in colonial Hong Kong. An "underbelly" corridor at the back of the installation space narrates visceral memories of a school-day lunch at home, through lyrical text on wall panels, a steaming pot of chicken soup, and hot rice in a simmering rice cooker.

A narrative based on her story is written in graphite on a single-bed size white sheet, and runs over a low-relief bodice set into the sheet. Red light glows through the front opening of the bodice that is tightly fastened by 30 pairs of loops and buttons. Large, vermilion words from a 10th c. manual called "Admonitions for Ladies" march down the sheet over the narrative. On a shelf below the sheet is a photograph of my aunt, with the same imperturbable smile tinged perhaps with patient irony and sadness. Two Chinese characters are embroidered on the sheet: at the top, beneath a vermilion "HUMILITY", is the character nu, Woman; at the foot, the character yuan, Plaint, referencing a classical form of poetic lament.

Each "Tale" consists of a tableau-like installation that includes day-to-day domestic items such as table, chair, wash basin, rice bowl, birdcage... set on a geometric-shaped footprint symbolic of the moral of the tale: a golden octagon symbolic of the hexagram of change beneath Destiny; a red brocade circle propitiating fullness beneath Marriage; a white rectangle of rectitude beneath Industry and its work-ethic.

Mixed media installation, dimensions variable. Wood, fabric, porcelain enamel basin, soap, paper, plastic, acrylic, leather, dictionaries, bird cage, quail egg, rice bowls, glass, brass, chicken, rice.