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About My Tiger Cage Series

This work is composed of two things: one is the cage, made out of old elm wood; the other is a tiger, sewn out of cotton fabric. Together there are twelve cages in this piece, and each cage contains a tiger.

Cloth tigers are one of the most common folk toys in China, as well as one of the most widely known folk arts. In addition to toy cloth tigers, there are still several other practical cloth tigers, such as tiger shoes, tiger hats, tiger pillow etc. It is widely recognized as a traditional image. Folk art forms are numerous: wood engravings, new-year paintings, paper-cuts, kites, etc. I chose to use only the cloth tiger as representative of these forms to use this point to discuss the embarrassing condition facing folk art and traditional culture today to arouse peoples recognition of good things left by the forefathers of contemporary culture so these things have a vivid life.

I made the cages into prison wagons. From these cages emanates a feeling of imprisonment through the rough, massive solid oak cages made of old elm. This form contrasts with the cages gorgeous, colorful, and lovely fat round cloth tiger. If you look closely, you will find that the size of the cage just fits the cloth tigers body, however the lovely ears and naughty tail stick out. Cloth Tigers ever happiness and spirit at this time are quite comical! My heart is deeply hurt by this bondage. I do not think that all of this bondage is from the outside, but is more a bondage from "cloth tiger" itself. What I want to emphasize is that our folk arts and other traditional culture, which have been passed down through hundreds of years to todays society, make us have to face the awkward reality that countless "exquisite beyond compare" traditions have gradually evolved into something that we both want to move past and yet keep at the same time! Folk art, like the setting sun, wanes.

For generations, Chinese people have respected Confucius and Mencius thoughts, and The Middle Way. Let us learn to use our hand more diligently than we are using our brains. Folk arts inheritage has high requirements to handicraft. Craftsmen must have the perseverance of the iron pestle grinding into a mortar. With today's "blundering heart, who can calmly research folk art? Who will keep alive these historical traditions or who will modernize traditional crafts to fit into todays society?

I am very certain it's not only a culture subject, and even if it is, it is a question formed under the ideas of our nation, a big problem! What can I do? I am hopeful that these works can make people think.

Zheng Xuewu

Written in Beijing Huantie Art Zone Studio, June 6, 2008

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