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Apologies for Women in Veils - on 'In Touch with Visual Arts' and 'Visual Veil'

by Tang Ying Chi (translated by Phyllis Fok), 2004

Here are two exhibitions to give you an idea of how much (or how less feminist issues or other art concepts mean to the local art scene. 'In Touch with Visual Arts' was organized by the Education and Manpower Bureau with an aim to encourage audience, particularly teachers, to appreciate art from different perspectives.

The exhibition featured eight artists of different creative styles. And there were four media represented, namely photography, ink painting, painting and installation. High in quality, the art pieces are bound to benefit local art teachers onw way or the other. And with their established styles and capability, it is easy to see why these artists were chosen by the officials. But something was again neglected: the gender difference, or how art is differently interpreted by different genders. This is actually nothing new as a postmodern topic or as an educational goal. Among the eight artists, none of them are local-born females. The two speakers ot the art critique writing seminars are also males. In today's open society, women-related topics are familiar to most of us. But multi-perspective analysis takes real efforts. At least local female artists should have been present.

This exhibition shows that the organizing body is still gender-insensitive. The other exhibition in question was actually one of my own. Under the name 'Visual Veil', it was held at two locations, one being an exhibition half of the MTR, the other being a government venue.

The exhibition hall at the MTR was formally a retail outlet. Before the exhbition took place, the concept of the exhibition has been changed four times because of the 'public panic'. Artists are used to dealing with public concern, but different points of view is another thing. For instance, the exhibition included a number of images of male and female models wearing veils. Some of these images were given a minimal coverage to avoid public anxiety - all of them happened to be images of veiled males.

Although it might not be done intentionally, it showed the lack of sensitiveness towards female/gender issues. Simply put, there are a lot of people who cannot accept males wearing veils. As the one who created these images, I had no intention to judge others/other nationalities. But it was my conscious choice to relate the veiled culture to the notion of freedom and democracy. I never expected it to be considered as disrespectful to the women in the Middle East. The French government recently issued a law to ban the wearing of scarves on the head, causing the kidnapping of its people. Being an international city, Hong Kong ought to modernize its vision on art.