Object: Untitled (Red masks)
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|Title||Untitled (Red masks)|
Tan, Yuk King (artist), 1998, New Zealand
|Medium summary||fabric tassels on wax and plastic masks|
|Materials||wax, plastic, thread|
x 10000mm (Length)
|Credit line||Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds|
|Registration number||1999-0012-1/A-K to K-K|
Untitled (Red Masks) is series of plastic and wax masks covered with red fabric tassels. The tassels cover the surface of each mask and then fall to the floor where the threads pool in uneven piles. The eleven masks in Yuk King Tan's sculpture consist of representations of symbolic animals from the Chinese calendar, an 'alien' mask, and a wax mask of the artist's face.
A mass-produced culture
Tan's masks and red tassels are made from the materials of mass-produced Chinese culture available in Asian supermarkets and food stores around the country. In Tan's hands the mass-produced merchandise becomes a sign of the effects of cultural migration and resettlement. The flow of consumer goods is a sign of a mobile global economy, while the sometimes strange juxtapositions of cheaply produced items points to the complexity of identity in the contemporary world.
Although she was born in Australia, Tan regards herself as a Chinese New Zealander. She has described her own identity as 'not quite, not sure'. Untitled (Red Masks) puts the artist into the picture through the wax mask of her own face. Masks both hide and reveal facial features, and Untitled (Red Masks) makes the most of this dual purpose to talk about stereotypes of 'alien' cultures within mainstream society. The prominence of facial features in Untitled (Red Masks) also makes reference to now-discredited ideas of race and the notion that difference and identity are represented in features like skin colour or the shape of a nose or lips. In this line-up of different faces, Tan asks, who is the alien?
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