What if Women Ruled the World? — A Project Initiated by Judy Chicago
List of Realized Works:
Lei Yan & Sun Guojuan, Planting Marijuana, performance, 2002
Lei Yan, What if They were Women and What if the Long March was a Women’s Rights Movement” photography, 2002
Sun Guojuan, Following You, installation, 2002
Huang Ru, Me, Us, film screening project, 2002
Li Shurui, Seeing Mountains, Seeing Water, installation at Lugu Lake, 2002
Pan Xuan, Panweinizhi, installation/performance, 2002
Wu Weihe, Going Home, performance, 2002
Fu Liya, Water Asking, performance, 2002
Guo Fenyi, What if Women Ruled the World? color ink on paper, 2002
Huang Yin, Gender – Sex/Difference, photography installation, 2002
Su Yabi, The World will be More Beautiful, performance, 2002
Zhang Lun, Tea with Judy Chicago and Mosuo People, performance, 2002
Sasha Su-Ling Welland, Dialogue with Ding Ling, documentary film, 2002
Xu Sa, Women in the Era of Economy Series, oil painting, 2002
Ding Jie,Non-art Activities, performance, 2002
Proposals were also submitted by Cai Jin, Chen Mingming, Chen Yu, Fang He, Feng Jiali, He Chengyao, Li Hong, Li Rui, Li Yuying, Ma Yanling, Mu Zi, Qiu Yanli, Tao Xiaoyi, Xiao Xiaolan, Zeng Hui, Zhang Qiongfei, Zhang Xin, Zhang Yingzi, Zhao Biqin
July 24 Preparation for Exhibition at Lugu Lake
While part of the curatorial team carring out their event in Lijiang, the “red detachment of women” continued advancing toward Lugu Lake. The events of the day on this important front were as follows:
Morning. Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman met with Lisa Horikawa and Mei Guang to organize a strategic meeting with the female artists. They mapped out an agenda with the hope of organizing the Lugu Lake project.
15:00-18:00.Judy Chicago, Lisa Horikawa and Mei Guang had a meeting with several artists including Shen Yu, Fu Liya, Huang Ying, Sun Guojuan, Lei Yan, Song Yaping, and Su Ru Ya. Shen Yu, director of the Nanjing Women’s Art Center, shared her concern with Judy Chicago about discrepancies between her initial intention and the final form of the Lugu Lake project. Shen asked whether the change from selecting twelve artists as per the original plan to including every proposal, and the plan to install the proposals in the form of prayer flags, had been decided solely by the curatorial team or by Chicago herself. Chicago answered that all decisions had been made after thorough discussions with the curatorial team. The artist brigade addressed the lack of communication with the curatorial crew, which moved camp to Lijiang that morning.
Wang Jin and the Chief Curator Lu Jie carried out a conversation on this work afterwards, followed by an interview with the film crew.
They had no time to dwell upon this point, and quickly moved on to confirm a few things needing to be checked with the curatorial team:
1. Indoor space was needed to exhibit all the proposals, as well as for installing works brought over by Chicago.
2. The site of this proposal exhibition needed to be accessible from the community.
3. With this exhibition site as a focal point, participating artists could carry out their performance and installation works in the surrounding area.
Lisa touched base with Lu Jie and Qiu Zhijie who were coordinating events in Lijiang. Lu Jie said the so-called “community spaces” with which the Long March had grown familiar in other cities might be difficult to find in Lugu Lake, and that it might be more feasible to carry out the exhibition out on the lakeshore. In any case, he stressed the importance following the Long March approach and finalizing the details on-site.
Evening. Lisa Horikawa and Mei Guang visited two exhibition sites that had just been completed by the curatorial crew: the Indoctrination exhibition at Jiangwutang Military School and an exhibition of photography works by Li Tianbing and Li Jicheng at the Upriver Art Club Gallery. Workshops with schoolchildren were conducted on the day of the opening. The space still held the energy of the curatorial crew, which had just moved to the next site in Lijiang.
July 25 Lijiang, Yunnan Province
Judy Chicago, Curatorial Discussion with Long March
Lisa Horikawa accompanied Judy Chicago from Kunming to Lijiang. Friend of the Long March Megan Connolly also arrived from Beijing. Lu Jie went to the airport to meet the group.
As soon as they entered the hall, Yang Yibo, assistant mayor of the Lijiang Special Region for Women’s Affairs, greeted them dressed in native costume. When Chicago learned that Yang had risen to her position through a civil service examination, she grew very interested in China and its ruling party. As the descendant of Russian Jewish intellectuals, Chicago was interested in the reformation of Russia and China. During the meeting, Yang eagerly sang a Long March song for Chicago, quickly turning the two from strangers into friends. Chicago presented a copy of her autobiography to Yang after first asking Lu Jie if such a gesture was appropriate. Yang’s response after flipping through the book was “How avant-garde!”
Judy Chicago was unable to relax, as thoughts of the upcoming event at Lugu Lake and discussions with the Chinese female artists had made her less than at peace. Chicago needed to return to her barracks for a strategic meeting with Lu Jie and Qiu Zhijie, meeting the latter for the first time. After a heated discussion in Kunming with the participating female artists, she was anxious and eager to begin planning the events in Lugu Lake as soon as possible. While Chicago had done tremendous research on the historical background of Lugu Lake and the Mosuo culture, the specifics of its location remained unclear to her and to rest of the curatorial team, except for Lu Jie who had visited the place. Lu Jie described the site to everyone by drawing a map of Lugu Lake. At the same time, he explained to Chicago that they would not be able to decide upon the details of the exhibition until they actually got to the site. He asked for her understanding, explaining that this was part of the Long March methodology.
The original curatorial plan was to select twelve female Chinese artists to participate alongside Chicago in the If Women Ruled the World exhibition. Their proposals would be exhibited at Lugu Lake, and the works themselves would be realized later, in a museum. Lu Jie and Qiu Zhijie began to doubt their authority, as men, to pick twelve artists, and recommended to Chicago that the limit of twelve artists be removed and the proposal exhibition opened to the more than thirty artists who offered submissions, with the proposals to be printed on Tibetan-style prayer flags. This plan won Chicago’s consent, and she quickly began making such a flag for her own work. Afterwards, some artists expressed their discontent that they could only display proposals at Lugu Lake, and their sincere hope that they could actually realize works on-site. Lu Jie and Qiu Zhijie decided to forgo their curatorial prerogative and allow all those artists who had submitted proposals and wanted to realize works to do so. Thus, a plan emerged from the meetings in Kunming. Nonetheless, the number and quality of the works, along with the non-artistic worries they brought, had made Chicago feel pressured.
At this point, Chicago and Lisa reported the concerns expressed by some participating artists back in Kunming to the two curators. The curators were stunned. Apparently, at the meeting with the female artists held the night before Chicago arrived in Kunming, none of these concerns had been mentioned. At this point, everyone reconfirmed the importance of communication while working in a cross-cultural and cross-gender environment. To make sure that each party was updated with every piece of information, they went over the list of participating artists and their projects one by one.
Chicago then opened up a package, which had not been opened until now. Unraveled were twelve beautiful flags, each bearing a question written in Chinese and English following the proposition of “What if Women Ruled the World?” and the sub-propositions of:
1. Would God be Female?
2. Would Men and Women be Equal?
3. Would Sexual Freedom Prevail?
4. Would there be Jealousy?
5. Would there be Equal Parenting?
6. Would Children Go Hungry?
7. Would Old Women Be Revered?
8. Would Buildings Resemble Wombs?
9. Would there be Private Property?
10. Would there be War?
Lu Jie, though taken by the beauty of the flags, expressed his concern about their high visibility, stemming from their large size and vivid colors. In the end, he promised to Chicago that he would make sure to find a way to present them by implementing a Long March approach. The meeting ended on a good note.
July 27 Lugu Lake
The troops split into two divisions and traveled the dangerous road to Lugu Lake. After eight hours on bumpy roads with steep elevation, the crews arrived, tired and cold.
Come evening, Judy Chicago met with the female Chinese artists for a strategic planning session. Aside from the artists whom Chicago had already met in Kunming, there were others who had come directly from Beijing and Chongqing, numbering fourteen altogether. Chicago and the curatorial crew found the new barracks space to be perfect for creating “A House for Chinese Women,” the planned center of the exhibition at Lugu Lake. Each artist expressed her concerns, and their desire to arrive at the barracks the following morning at 10:00 to start installing. Chicago reminded everyone of the important task ahead: through this project, they were to demonstrate how women could collaborate and that the world ruled by women is indeed a peaceful and creative one.
July 28 Lugu Lake
Morning. The weather turned foggy and many of the troops, including Judy Chicago, grew sick from fatigue and lack of nutrition. At 09:00, the curatorial crew started to transform the barracks into “A House for Chinese Women.” Donald Woodman and Shen Meng worked together installing Chicago’s twelve flags, each posing a question related to the concept “If Women Ruled the World.” Each flag bore a question written in Chinese with an illustration on the back. The flags were installed diagonally in the entrance to the barracks with the questions facing outward, welcoming visitors and sparking interest. The proposals from thirty-three artists from all areas of China were installed on the walls outside each room, creating a home for Chinese women and their art. The brigade of female artists arrived at noon for another struggle session. Chicago remained in her barracks resting while Lu Jie met with the artists.
The participating Chinese women artists submitted a list of three terms for the Lugu Lake project:
1. The name and concept, “A House for Chinese Women,” should be changed to “A Dialogue with Judy Chicago at Lugu Lake.”
2. Participants shall hold all copyrights to the works they realize at Lugu Lake.
3. A written agreement on the two points above shall be signed by both parties.
Lu Jie agreed to the terms, but the struggle goes on. Chicago entered the struggle session for fifteen minutes, making the point that she was here to work with the artists collectively, encourage them, and create art. Chicago was disappointed when a few of the artists implied that her work overpowered the works by the Chinese artists. The curatorial crew and brigade of artists were touched by her comments and decided to work together. Six women artists would work at another location to carry out their performances and installations while the rest would install their work in the barracks under the title “A Dialogue with Judy Chicago at Lugu Lake.”
Exhibition at “Qidi Shanzhuang”
Local audiences viewing the exhibition
Several members of the artist brigade installed their work in the barracks near Chicago’s flags. Kunming-based artist Sun Guojian realized her installation work Following You.
Sun Guyuan’s work “Going Along with You” in Qidi Shanzhuang.
Lei Yan, another Kunming-based artist, installs her photographic works If They Were Men and If the Long March Were a Women’s Art Movement. Lei Yan’s work consisted of two black-and-white photographs: one with the male leaders of the Long March dressed as Red Army guards with ponytails added onto their heads ; another with famous female Red Army guards followed by a brigade of women soldiers. In each photo, Lei Yan is in the frame dressed as a tourist taking photos of the Red Army guards.
Beijing-based artist Xu Sa (Sasa) installed six works depicting different scenes addressing sex, love and modern life.
Huang Ying of Chongqing installed her photographs of writings and drawings she observed on the walls in female restrooms around that city. She hung the photos outside the bathroom in the barracks. Chicago met with each artist for a constructive criticism session after the works were installed. Chicago singled out Huang Ying for lack of research, and for presenting a work from a male point of view rather than truly addressing the topic, “If Women Ruled the World.”
At dusk, Chongqing-based artist Pang Xuan installed her work Pan Wei Ne Zhi near the lake. Nine-hundred red paper boats were arranged in the shape of a Mosuo pictographic symbol representing January 1, the luckiest day of the year. Mosuo people did not traditionally use Chinese characters so Pang Xuan used this concept to create the symbol for the most fortunate day in the Mosuo language. As the sun was setting, the troops gathered around the structure and placed one candle in each of paper boats. Unfortunately, supplies ran out and the group had to make due with the conditions. Due to the torrential downpour, the candles would not stay lit, leaving the troops frustrated and fatigued. Luckily, the troops persisted and marched forward. They ultimately succeeded, and the bright symbol could be seen for miles.
Chongqing-based artist Huang Ru created an outdoor movie theatre in the courtyard of the hotel where she was living. The title of her project was A Story of His Hometown. She showed two films free of charge by projecting them onto a white bed sheet pinned to a wall of the complex. She selected a Hong Kong film from the 1980s, in which the heroine is confident, strong, and unafraid. She also showed Sister Jiang, an underground film from the 1960s. Sister Jiang is a biographical film about the real “Sister Zhang,” a radical woman in the underground circle who challenged Chinese policy and was killed in 1949. Due to bad weather conditions, the turnout was less than expected. Still, several people sat in the cold watching the films with interest. After viewing the films, the troops, including deputy commander Qiu Zhijie, sat by the fire to dry off, feasted on barbecue, and marched two kilometers back to the barracks in the cold, rainy night.
Huang Ru’s carries out her film screening project, “Me, Us, in the rain. For this project, the artist has chosen a group of films with each depicting different types and roles of women
July 29 Lugu Lake
Donald Woodman was possessed during the evening by the goddess of Lugu Lake. At 04:00, Lu Jie and Qiu Zhijie rushed to Woodman’s aid. Due to lack of oxygen, Woodman laid unconscious for thirty minutes. A local shaman was called in, the troops performed massage and acupuncture, and finally Woodman woke up. The locals were convinced that the goddess of Lugu Lake had been watching him during the past few days, and had decided to take him due to his good looks. Chicago remarked, “This place is powerful.”
Morning. After the evening run-in with local ghosts, Woodman was exhausted and Chicago was still recovering from her illness. During the afternoon Chicago and Woodman visited a local village and interviewed Mosuo women of several generations. Chicago was shocked to learn that Mosuo people over the age of thirty are totally illiterate. She realized that this society is a tourist trap; women are not the real rulers here. Women own land, but they are also the hardest working people in each village. Women cook and clean all day while the men rest. In the evenings the men appear to present the traditional courting dance.
Afternoon. Chongqing-based artist Li Shurui installed her work in the lake. Her concept had three parts: when first looking at water and mountain, they look like water and mountain. When looked at more closely, water and mountain are no longer water and mountain. Finally, when looked at further, the water and mountain reemerge as water and mountain. Li Shurui erected twenty tents made of white mosquito net fabric in a horizontal row on the water. The effect was romantic, peaceful, and balanced.
Evening. Performances by Fu Liya, Song Yanping and Su Ru Ya were held at 18:00. After resting, Chicago trekked to the performance site where the three artists were preparing their works. Inner Mongolian artist Su Ru Ya placed rose petals in the lake water near a boat. The boat is one place where Mosuo women bring the men they select for intercourse. Song Yanping stood in a boat spreading petals along the water. The petals drifted off slowly into the distance.
Fu Liya invited a seventy year-old local Mosuo woman to sit on the ground with Chicago. There were two local Mosuo men dressed as mermaids. Fu Liya posed the question “If Women Ruled the World” to the men and women who attended the opening of Liu Hong’s exhibition on July 19, collecting answers in a glass jar. She now threw the glass jar into the lake, yelling out to the gods the question “What if women ruled the world?” and sending the male mermaids to run into the water and fetch the bottle. They deliver the bottle to the Mosuo women and Chicago. Each selected a response from a man and a woman providing the answer to the question.
Meanwhile Song Yanping had erected a structure made of wood. She had filled white embroidered bags with sand and rice. Below each bag, she lit a small fire. After poking holes into each bag, the contents fell to the ground, extinguishing the fire. Chicago was moved by her work and gave her advice on how to strengthen her installation.
Evening tea ceremony
Chongqing-based artist Zhang Lun invited Judy Chicago to pour tea for fifty local Mosuo. After entering the local museum, which was filled with Mosuo performing the fire dance courting ritual, Chicago entered a small tearoom. The smoke was overwhelming and she entered hesitantly. Suddenly, Mosuo people begin lining up to register for the tea ceremony. At the entrance, each one of them was asked to complete a form with their age, sex, and answers to questions such as “do you wish people from other ethnic groups would also carry out the ‘roving marriage’ custom?” and “what is your dream?” After twelve people were served, Chicago left, exhausted from a long day. Zhang Lun was disappointed but continued the ceremony with Mosuo people pouring tea on their own. During the critique, Chicago told Zhang Lun that she enjoyed the work and found her painting, used as the backdrop of the tearoom, to be especially strong. Nonetheless, Chicago was a bit disappointed that the artist created forms for the Mosuo people to complete without knowing they could not read.
July 30, Lugu Lake
Chicago and Woodman planned to leave Lugu Lake early, but due to flooded roads, they were stuck there for the morning. During an early morning dialogue with Lu Jie and Qiu Zhijie, Chicago confessed her disappointment with many of the artists. She was hoping to have more interactive dialogue and debate, but the artists did not engage her efforts. Although this was the case, she felt that she had learned a lot and had grown from the project, and that the same could be said of the participating artists.
The weather cleared for a moment as Chicago and Woodman began the 8-hour trek back to Lijiang, with accompany of Lu Jie and some other members. Qiu Zhijie and others attended the performance on the lakeshore by Wu Weihe and her husband. They had created two burial platforms with a seven-color pattern based on Mosuo custom, placing two sculptures of babies on each platform, setting each figure on fire, and placing each platform on the lake. Her response to Chicago’s call is that if women ruled the world, it would be filled with the kind gaze of a mother. In Mosuo funerary custom, a dead person is covered in white clothes like a newly born baby, symbolizing a return to the place from which they originally came. The juxtaposition between fire and cold water, the white cloth covering the baby sculptures and the colorful base created a sense of mystical tension. The curatorial crew and troops spend the day compiling reports from the road in preparation for the long trek back to Lijiang.
“Qu Guangci” opened the ballot box for the “New Model Long Marcher” for the first time. Cameraman Shen Xiaomin was the winner.
July 31, Lugu Lake – Lijiang
The Long Marchers left Lugu Lake early in the afternoon and got back in early evening. Because they would be holding a Long March exhibition at Muwangfu Guesthouse the following evening, the marchers set down their luggage and went immediately to inspect the space. It was located in a bar on the second floor of Muwangfu, and had a bourgeois-bohemian feel to it. The group decided immediately that this was the perfect spot for tomorrow’s exhibition. They measured the corner of the room in which sat the television, making sure it was suitable for projecting a video installation work. After everyone had offered their opinions, Qiu Zhijie grabbed a marker and some paper and made six large posters to be hung throughout the old town. The rest of the marchers took to writing the details of the exhibition on the back of Long March postcards, turning them into invitations, keeping themselves busy late into the night. Qiu Zhijie stayed up through the morning putting the final touches on his “Microsoft Windows-Dongba Version,” while the other marchers slept.
That night, Lu Jie and his family ate a candlelight dinner with Chicago and her husband. Beside the canal and beneath a willow tree, he conducted an hour-long extemporaneous interview. They talked of art, and when dinner was finished, said farewell in the rain. So much rain had fallen that the bridges and stones were nearly submerged.