the stiletto project


The seal or “zhang”: it stamps on paper, on silk the power to name oneself and objects. Part of the male scholar’s studio, red against the black ink of brush; sometimes poetic, sometimes aggressive.


The black stiletto shoe: cute or dangerous? Symbol of women’s power or uncomfortable bondage? The Stiletto Project is about possession, re-purposing and memory.


Thirteen young women, students at Galaxy Modeling, founded by my collaborator Chen Juanhong, walked, sat and lay on the traditional scholar’s desk, performing with their male classmates, their complex relationship to their shoes. They were wearing Chen’s evening wear collection.


Chen Juanhong herself then took the desk, wearing a pair of stilettos whose heels were carved into tiny seals. She stamped photos contributed by everyone involved in the project, of things in our lives we would like to re-see: What do we do with memories? do we put them away, “close” 封 them? or do we “open” 開 them again and again?


Can we really control the re-purposing of memory? Many long-standing interests flow together for me in this project: The desk as a scene of power and play; in China, the political power of the act of sealing 盖章; the skills of calligraphy and painting and theirrelation to the performing body; the tradition of bound-foot women in China contrasting with flamenco dancing, where stamping women provide the percussion and lead the band.


This project was carried out in 2008, while I was in residence at the Rad Gate Gallery in Beijing. Chen Juanhong, China’s first supermodel, joined the project in fall 2007. We rehearsed with her wonderful students for two months, making a video and photographic record of the process. On July 1, 2008 we had this performance.


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Still photos: Angela Zito, Jane Dyer, Chen Juanhong
Video director: Yang Rui
Cameramen: Li Qiang and Li Wan