The Doormat Series // Pakistani textile, Hmong textile, Taiwanese textile, Korean textile, Amis textile, Upcycled Doormats, recycled Thread, Single Channel Video // 2019 ongoing // Tiffany Singh India New Zealand // Jui-Pin Chang Taiwan // Min-Young Her Korea New Zealand

It is common for people to draw on culturally embedded stereotypes, even in much of the sociological feminist and men’s studies literature, it is implicitly assumed that home life remains a woman’s domain.  The Doormat Series challenges the functionality of the doormat whilst playfully using textiles to press against a male-dominated culture that has traditionally perpetuated women’s craft as being docile, uncreative and apolitical.  This suite of works in collaboration with Hmong and Pakistani refugees in Bangkok promotes social enterprise that allows vulnerable communities of women to establish ethical livelihood opportunities, thereby strengthening their ability to take care of themselves and their families. The embroidery works express identity and amplify their voice by applying childhood inheritances of pattern and technique within contemporary art narratives allowing matriarchal memories resurface in new and provocative ways. Singh, Chang and Her then respond to the pieces produced inside women-led cottage industry by embellishing the doormats by hand with thoughtfully applied machine generated quotes taken from interviews with women artists, about what it means to make art as women. The application of machine embroidery amplifies how industrialisation has changed the process of textile production leading to a loss of culture in many communities, as hands are replaced by machines and generational knowledge is lost. This work was documented in situ at Bangkok1899 for Singh’s Pink Period exhibition to pose the question for the participants who were given the choice of whether or not to walk all over our women’s work. This simple action was documented to create the moving image component.



Shit or Fermented Bean Paste
I wanted to change the interaction viewers have with the mat form and give a nod to the underwear material that was used to form the base. The two embroidered hole cutouts act both as leg holes and eye holes. Are these to be worn down or up? The phrase below it is an idiom my mum would say whenever we missed the point of an argument. The full phrase translates to “how do you not know if it’s shit or fermented bean paste until you eat it?”. The absurdities bigots and ignorant people continue espousing constantly brings this phrase to mind. I bring together the anger I held on behalf of my mother who had to deal with archaic cultural expectations, racism, and sexism while working and raising a family in Aotearoa.

Bound By Endless Household Chores
This quote is lifted from a conversation with the Hmong women refugee community in Thailand. The image is significant as it is not the traditional cross stitch motifs of the Hmong women but rather a birds eye view of the village she left behind. A pictorial version of the landscape and memory of home paired with the words of her new reality as most of the women are alone with their children in Thailand.

Women’s Observation Of Life
This work is an intimate conversation of the links between embroidery and generationality. The central part of the work is part of a child's cot blanket the artist wrapped her child in when she fled her country of origin. It is a story of hope, loss and a homage to the memory fabrics immortalise and how they stitch us together. The work is made up of many layers, some partially obstructed by large flowers as a commentary of the many existences she has lived within this one lifetime and how she has felt like she has constantly had to start and find the place to grow in a new place each time. 

Advection, Migration
A block print on calico referencing the East Asian technique that spawned an innovation that when adapted in the West transformed society by becoming movable-type printing. Subverted by the hand stitched words that speak to the physical and metaphysical connections between land, rivers, heritage, and the relationship to the body. So that they become intertwined through embroidery as the mat itself is hand knotted in upcycled lingerie fabric. 

The Challenges Are Different From The Past
The challenges are different from the past is a contemporary work that addresses the implications of the border. As a complex matter to resolve all the refugee communities have been affected by the determination of a border. The intention of the artist was to bring attention to the new challenges faced by the borders defined today. But also acknowledge the historic border that created Pakistan and how the barriers women faced encouraged them to document their histories and identities through embroidery. This work references the “Ralli” (or rilli, rilly, rallee or rehli) quilt. Derived from the local word ralanna meaning to mix or connect. Rallis are traditionally made in the southern provinces of Pakistan including Sindh, Baluchistan, and in the Cholistan desert on the southern border of Punjab as well as in the adjoining states of Gujarat, India. 

What Does It Mean To Make Art As Women
This work encapsulates the social practice inquiry that delved into how societal expectations, family obligations and being classified as a minority voice within the power structure of the art world affects and informs the work of women artists.  The key question that led to the suite of works being constructed around different women’s communities answering this poignant question.

Art Is A Space To Have Control Of Our Story
This quote came from a conversation from the Pakistani Community where one woman stated that women’s art is women's talk and how it is a powerful construction of identity. It is a place to explore and construct and also review the many facets of our changing identities. For many women participation in the arts is often limited by societally imposed gender roles. She also said “I am like my soft material that can speak loudly. This work speaks to the social impact that can be created through art making and the platform it can offer enabling women to be empowered through the arts and take part in a process to restore their voice and sense of power. 

Equality Remains Central
In honour of Margaret Shui, the late founder and director of Taiwan's Bamboo Curtain Studio residency program and Bamboo Culture International's cultural exchange research and facilitation division. She used these two platforms to advance art and culture as vital components for creating a civil society and global understanding. This interchangeable quote was lifted from an interview with her in Taiwan in 2019 when she spoke to us about the relationship between the lifting of martial law and the development of women's art in Taiwan. One of the most respected cultural figures in Taiwan Margaret's unwavering vision and the way she manifested her convictions will be remembered in the hearts of artists and supporters of the arts. Her passing in 2021 is a huge loss to the international art community.

Creation Is A Vital Part Of Who We Are
This quote is lifted from a conversation with the Pakistani refugee community in Thailand. As a refugee in Thailand it is illegal to work. So women work from home making textile pieces as a means of income and sustainability. For them embroidery is a relationship between the cycle of life or the survival within it and maintaining links to their culture and the value of their family traditions they can pass on.

The Hind Legs Of An Elephant // English // Thai
According to the Thai proverb, women are the hind legs of the elephant. The front legs provide leadership and direction, but strength and stability are at the hind legs. This work articulates the  debate on the actuality of sexual politics in Thai Society. The pattern of the power relationship uniquely for Thai society is that the women or Hind leg will put themselves in the rear position but in doing so, the Hind leg becomes the drive to move forward.

Women’s Practice Carries The Spirit Of The Ancestors
This work explores kinship, family and cultural identity as well as concerns around femininity and social construction. Women's practice is often connected to notions of folk art, traditional practice that closely relates to being passed knowledge from the ancestors. The traditional Hmong motif of generations sits upon a ground of traditional Taiwanese domestic print. Speaking to the lineage of women's knowledge and the role domesticity plays in handing this down.

Exploring Cultural Contribution
This work tackles the reality around women narratives that are largely missing from art institutions and museums and looks at the vital contribution women make. All the women interviewed felt as though they were kept from having the same creative autonomy as men. This suite of works is a testament to the resilient women we worked with, who have harnessed personal experience amongst universal situations with experimental spirit, who trusted us to form new work to blend craft and fine art into one. 

Creation Is A Vital Part Of Who We Are
This quote is lifted from a conversation with the Pakistani refugee community in Thailand. As a refugee in Thailand it is illegal to work. So women work from home making textile pieces as a means of income and sustainability. For them embroidery is a relationship between the cycle of life or the survival within it and maintaining links to their culture and the value of their family traditions they can pass on.

The chosen quotes are excerpts from interviews with women artists that took place during Singh’s research and development phase at the Taipei Artist Village in collaboration with the Taiwan Women's Association funded by Creative New Zealand in 2019.