Tianzhen (Zona) Chen

What is the value of art?

This research focuses on the value of art from a Chinese feminist viewpoint. Studying art has significant financial costs, especially for international students. However, I have invested in an art education with hope for a different type of return, including life experience and self-exploration. My perspective reflects not only lived experience from my homeland, but also five years residency in Aotearoa (New Zealand).

My research explores the value of an art practice through several standpoints, including: art as therapy, art as social action, art as personal reinvention and art as knowledge. Research into the fields of feminist art, performance art and conceptual art has deeply influenced my work and brought about many positive changes. I find inspiration in the female practitioners that come before me, especially the Guerrilla Girls and their declaration ‘Female by birth, feminist by choice!'

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My work deals with difficulties experienced by female artists from a Chinese feminist standpoint. I am particularly interested in unpacking obstacles that occur because of pressures caused by sexual inequality, stereotyping and sexual objectification. Female artists must deal with, not only the tribulations of art making, but also with their social status, i.e., many women in China are victims of gender discrimination and prejudice. 

I believe now is the time to inspire young Chinese women to think about being stronger and more independent.Therefore, my work includes references to Chinese culture with these elements helping me to present my ideas, particularly the role of Chinese women in contemporary Chinese society. My artworks include my body in order to present ideas, emotions and personal experiences in a direct, efficient and dynamic way. I anticipate that my intended audience will be able to experience their own emotions through my artworks.

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