Chan: Chinese Foot Binding
Project info

- Connoted with pain and discrimination, the custom of foot-binding in late imperial China readily evokes negative images in western societies. Chinese calligraphy art, by contrast, is more likely associated with positive attributes such as abstract beauty and freedom of individual expression. These kinds of reading, however, are only one-dimensional. While foot-binding encompasses an intricate complex of rooted traditions, social functions, and aesthetic values, calligraphy practice, similarly, cannot be considered without its long history as a powerful system of strict rules and instrument of physical and moral disciplining. Through her artistic examination of both these historical phenomena, Aixia Li negotiates their cultural particularity with regard to entangled processes of cross-cultural translation and misunderstanding.

- In Li’s photographic installations (2012), a series of LED-lit wood boxes which each show one of the thirteen constitutive brush strokes of the Chinese written character chan (to bind, to weave, to tangle) used in the term for “foot-binding”, the character as a formally determined structure is decomposed and recoded into new signs of written image. The boxes lighting up in varying frequencies, there appear the portraits of thirteen formerly foot-bound women, whose faces are overlayed by the circular shapes of the repatterned character(...). (more on website: