After Olympia Chun Hua Catherine Dong

September 3, 2013 - May 1, 2014

Chun Hua Catherine Dong, After Olympia (2011). Image credit: Hua Jin

Every Fall the Blackwood Gallery commissions an artist to produce a work for the Bernie Miller Lightbox, a billboard sized (268.0 cm x 176.5 cm, 108" x 72") venue installed on the outside of the William Davis Building (formerly known as South Building) where the two wings of the building meet at the end of "Five Minute Walk". The commissioned work stays throughout the school year. In the summer, the Lightbox displays the original work by Bernie Miller, Five Minute Mirror (2001), which inaugurated the site.

Curatorial Statement

This photograph documents a three hour durational performance where the artist cleansed a white male subject’s body with rubbing alcohol before meticulously licking his whole body. The title references Edouard Manet’s infamous painting Olympia (1863) and by extension the history of Western European Art and the tradition of objectifying the female body in paint. The artist comments on power relations as she subverts the original painting’s gendered composition. Dong stands in as an authoritative, medical figure instead of the black female ‘Negress’ archetype in the referenced 19th century painting. In addition, a submissive, languid, white male body replaces the confrontational courtesan that the painting was named after. Dong marks the subject’s body with her saliva, leaving a trace of herself and her dominance over the male figure. The tables are turned, at least temporarily. The licks literally embody language, they claim language and thereby control. Their measured sensuality is empowered and empowering.

The presentation of After Olympia on this billboard is part of the exhibition Red Blue Green ≠ White on view from September 18 to December 1, 2013 at the Blackwood Gallery (Kaneff Centre) and the e|gallery (CCT Building).

Artist Biography

Chun Hua Catherine Dong is a Chinese-born performance artist living in Canada. She graduated from Emily Carr University of Arts + Design and holds an MFA from Concordia University. She has performed internationally in venues such as the Kaunas Biennial, the International Festival and Conference for Live Art and Performance Studies, and M:ST. Her research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Concordia University and the British Columbia Arts Council.


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Installation Views

Photo credit: Toni Hafkenscheid