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Idées Vagues, Images Claires

On rural Chinese costume jewelry, and eerily quiet portraits.

By Anne Ishii

I take for granted the fact that a diaspora can mean home is anywhere. It’s easiest for me to think of international artists who call New York home, but I recently saw works by two Swiss women of Chinese extraction, and thought a big up was in order.

Claire Vague is the alias and project-name of Jiajia Zhang. The alias is derived from Jean-Luc Godard’s “La Chinoise,” where spray-painted on a wall is the phrase, “Il faut confronter des idées vagues avec des images claires.” The project is a traveling group show, the latest of which took place in Soho a few weeks ago.

Zhang’s art performs an interesting re-appropriation of the artifact. She takes familiar pieces of rural Chinese costume jewelry and repositions it for Westerners, for example. She also designs clothing and has produced a marvelous eponymous book which reads as a borrowed manifesto.

Ann Woo is a photographer from Honk Kong currently living in Zurich. I fell in love with her portraits, which have a glassy and mysterious quality. They remind me of how pregnant a staged portrait can be. Laura Palmer’s high school portrait easily comes to mind.