Rituals + Process
Vicki's British nationality and Chinese culture has provided the inspiration for this collection. Many significant events in her childhood emerged from the stand-off between her Chinese heritage and her diametrically opposed Western upbringing. Born in Yorkshire to Chinese parents, Vicki’s dual identity resulted in some interesting conversations in the playground and although she learnt to keep quiet about the bird phlegm soup, it was harder to escape the rather attention-grabbing sacrificial chickens. On the flip side, Sunday dim sum was a delicious treat for which she would gladly forsake another BMX play date with her Spiderman impersonating neighbour.
It is these Chinese customs that have provided the inspiration for this collection, Rituals and Process. Each piece tells an individual story: whether a regular custom that peppered Vicki’s childhood or a single event that unnerves her to this day. Using illustrations and collaged images, Vicki explores her experience of the crossover between Eastern traditions and Western sensibilities.
A great number of Chinese believe that having fish in the home brings good fortune to its occupants. Eager to ensure optimum luck, Vicki's mother followed the basic rules governingthe required number and their carefully positioning around the house. Unfortunately, there were no available guidelines on the best breeds and it was with morbid horror that the Fongs watched one particular malevolent fish kill all it's co-habitants. It took several expensive trips to the pet store to get the formula right.
April 1st 1999 will remain vivid in Vicki's mind forever. As a keen follower of the principles of Feng Shui, Vicki's mother had carefully selected this to be the family's most auspicious date for moving house. Rather than busy herself with packing boxes, Mrs Fong set up her table of offerings to the gods. In full public display, she chanted her prayers over the dead plucked chicken before letting off hundreds of Chinese firecrackers on the front lawn.
The Peace in that sleepy Yorkshire hamlet was instantly shattered as villagers, more accustomed to the excitement of a cow induced traffic jam, came rushing to see what was happening. Feeling that her humiliation could not be any greater, Vicki speechlessly watched her mother drive off to the local garden centre, leaving her to sweep up the scattered firecracker debris.
Once settled into their new home, Mrs Fong eschewed all conventional forms of decorating in favour of a series of bizarre objects, again symbolising her obsession and commitment to Feng Shui. Chinese coins, lucky plants, large splinters of wood and bowls of water were all placed with a great amount of consideration around the house, helping to correct the balance of the five basic elements; metal, fire, wood, earth and water.
Most British children know that swallows fly south for the winter but how many know that they use their phlegm to build their nests? Not only was Vicki familiar with this additional fact but she was also an unwilling repcipient of its supposed health-inducing properties. The Chinese have built an industry on collecting swallow phlegm so that zealous mothers may boil it into a slimy soup for their reluctant offspring.
This familiar hanging talisman traditionally adorns the interiors of many Chinese homes and cars. Made from red silk, they often incorporate lucky coins or pieces of lucky jade and are believed to be highly auspicious for their owners. However despite their widespread usage, these hanging charms have never graced the Fong household.
Knowing how much her mother involved herself in anything proclaimed to bring good fortune; their absence was slightly more puzzling. Hoping that the question would not bring an influx of red decorations to her life, Vicki tenatively asked her mother why they didn't have any. To this her mother scoffed and denounced them to be general tack that many Chinese were ever too ready to take on to find a quick fix for their woes.
Rituals and Process is brought together in a dramatic 11.5foot kimono. This installation piece illustrates many of Vicki’s stories and experiences, which have been printed directly onto the fabric. And although the kimono is generally recognised as the traditional dress of the Japanese, the garment actually originated from China. In her book ‘Kimono; fashioning culture’, Liza Dalby states that ‘the history of the Japanese garments in the kimono genealogy does not begin until the seventh century, when the nascent Japanese imperial court adopted styles of robes and court clothing from the Chinese.’
So by taking an item that is ultimately Chinese despite subsequent translation, Vicki has come full circle with her cultural legacy. By recollecting the Chinese beliefs that were imposed on her, Vicki has closed some of the distance that she would try put between them and herself; fearful of how the Western environment around her would react. By using her own aesthetics to translate these memories into vividly illustrated pieces, Vicki has been able to laugh at the inherent humour of these stories, celebrate the warmth of her family life and finally embrace her heritage.