What Is Home? (II), 2019

What Is Home? (II) – 2nd variable edition of What is Home?
Artist’s book/scroll
Paper, silk, Chinese ink, mixed media
Closed dimensions: 12″ x 3″ x 3″
Open dimensions: 12″ x 180″ x 1″

The scroll, What Is Home?, is an artist’s book intended to be handled and read as any other book you may encounter. Hidden symbolism, the use of architectural references, and the materiality of this piece references the domestic and the idea of home. The narrative in this piece documents a lifetime of child domestic violence and family dysfunction–a subject known to many who have grown up in Asian American households but remains yet an uncommon subject of Western research.

In this second variable edition, additional elements of symbolism have been added: the mulberry motif and bamboo dowel rods (both representing filial piety in Chinese symbolism); pink decorative spacers between the images, which contain excerpts from the Analects for Women; and the plum flower, a symbol of beauty and purity, often associated to women.  One of the first flowers to appear after the cold of winter, the plum blossom represents perseverance and virtue in Confucian beliefs.  It is often embroidered or woven as patterns and imagery on women’s clothing, and a woman’s beauty, fragility, virtue, and elegance may be compared to that of plum blossoms.

Sister scholars Song Ruohua and Song Ruozhao believed in the ideals of Confucian filial piety and wrote The Analects for Women (after Confucius’ Analects), instructing women on how to embrace their inferiority and teach their daughters well: “Daughters remain behind in the women’s quarters and should not be allowed to go out very often. … Teach them sewing, cooking, and etiquette. … Don’t allow them to be indulged, lest they throw tantrums to get their own way; don’t allow them to defy authority, lest they become rude and haughty; don’t allow them to sing songs, lest they become dissolute; and don’t allow them to go on outings, lest some scandal spoil their good names…” In this, readers are privy to the fact that filial piety is not necessarily a structural element of patriarchal society enforced by men, but in fact it is frequently taught and enforced by women.

2021 Evelyn Wong