WU Ma-Li was born in Taipei, Taiwan in 1957 and graduated from the German Department of Tamkang University in 1979. From 1980 to 1982 she studied in the Sculpture Department of the University of Applied Arts Vienna in Austria. In 1986 she finished the Meisterschuer Program at the National Art Academy of Düsseldorf. Principal work of her early period utilized paper as a sculpture medium, concentrating on investigations of formal aesthetics. In 1985 she started to combine social considerations into her work. In work undertaken after 1989, she directly used socio-political content as subject matter, and utilized outright conceptual language to participate in the arena of social and political commentary. Power constructs and media hegemony became one of the major themes in her work.
In work of early 1990s, she analyzed relationships between gender and cultural forms from a feminist perspective and many of her works examine women within sex and power constructs from a collective feminist experience. She also explored the position of women in history and society from a perspective of concern for people, the land and history, in works such as: Tombstone Inscription (1997) which presents a woman’s experience of the 228 event through the calamities suffered by the family of writer RUAN Mei-Shu; Anecdotes of Hsingchuang Women (1997) which reveals connections between women’s labor and rural and urban development and Formosa Club (1998) which explored the topic of prostitution industry abolishment and further the significance of the political economics of venerating men and disrespecting women at the time when the government regulated, and at the same time looked into the influence that this group had on the country’s economic and historical development. After the late 1990’s, her work started to include audience participation, which guide the audience in deeply penetrating collective unconscious through bodily practices, and assists audience members to discover even deeper levels of awareness of their own lives that stimulate more life energy.
The female body has always been the object of male desire and gaze, and desire and gaze occupy a position of power between men and women. This work utilizes readymade objects as its medium an exquisitely gold leafed picture frame and two circular pads taken from women’s underwear and placed on seductive red flannel - to create a striking effect. This opulent image resembling a woman’s body actually stresses a woman’s self determination with regard to her body by authorizing feminine initiative in attempting to seduce the male gaze with an open and unabashed attitude. It raises a challenge to traditional ideologies of object/objectification and conventional structures of dominance/subordination between men and women. By establishing women’s position of initiative, it subverts the male assertion of authority derived from objectification of the female form.
WU Ma-Li is a pioneering Taiwanese installation artist of the 1980s with an avant-garde spirit and a critical view. With a unique approach to rearranging objects and a sharp dialectical language, she quickly established a strong personal style in her early career. On May 20, 1988, nearly 5,000 farmers protested on the streets of Taipei trying to win their rights, but the protest soon escalated into the most violent street conflict ever in Taiwan. Stunned but inspired, she started passionately devoting herself to the real world and geared her focus to contemporary social and political issues as she continued making installation art. Her work is not only about creating visual strengths when form and content are brought together at their best, but also shows macroscopic themes. Asia (1989) introspectively examines struggle and public oppression by authoritative Asian governments; Love to the Highest Point (1990) exposes the excessive sentimentality, cant and inane use of media in the political propaganda slogan ‘love to the highest point, the national flag is in our hearts’; Fake (1994) subversively mocks the authority and power mechanism of art galleries; and Gnawing Texts Reaming Words Library (1995) criticizes the male chauvinist view in the writing of history and classics as well as ideological oppression of “the other.” Wu cares also about women, politics and nationality. Bearing people, land and history in mind, she gives a critical view on gender politics and political ideologies under the family/state system in Taiwan and speaks for minorities. She at the same time proposes a set of alternative values and some experimental solutions to problems, hoping to help people act outside the patriarchal family/state. Having taken this path for years, she further moves away from binary opposition in her recent works, focusing on how art can play a role in community and the environment through a “tolerant, inter-subjective, collaborative, time-based, sense-inspired” feminine perspective and by holding community talks.
|Medium / Classification：||Mixed Media|
|Collection Unit：||Collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts|
|Contact method for authorization：||
Guide to the Use of Image Files and Data from the Online Collection Database
|Related Exhibition：||"The Pioneers" of Taiwanese Artists, 1951-1960|
|Related Work：||Witness Journalism|