Death of a Butterfly
Galerie Bob Gysin is pleased to present ‘Death of a Butterfly’ Teresa Chen’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery.
In her works, the artist frequently deals with the human body – often with her own– and perceptions of ambivalence, which she primarily expresses through representations of mortality. In her photo series ‘Withering’ and ‘Captured’, Chen recorded withering plants and spider nets containing dead insects: morbid, potentially repulsive situations were transformed to aesthetically beautiful pictures.
In her latest works, Teresa Chen addresses her own origin, similar to the photographic series entitled ‘Dream of a Non-Blonde’ or the collaborative installation ‘The Yellow Peril’. Being a so-called “ABC” (American Born Chinese), who is now Swiss citizen and resident, she used Giacomo Puccini’s opera ‘Madama Butterfly’ as the starting point for the exhibition ‘Death of a Butterfly” in order to critically examine how Asian women are represented in European society and history. In ‘Madama Butterfly’, Puccini continued the trend of exoticism popular in late 19th century Europe: Madama Butterfly, a young Japanese geisha “marries” an American naval officer stationed in her home country Japan and waits in vain for the officer’s return after his departure. However, when he finally returns to Nagasaki, it is not for her but to take their child with him to America. In despair Madama Butterfly stabs herself to death. 'Madama Butterfly' is one of the world’s most popular operas and is also regularly staged at the Zurich Opera House, most recently in the 2012/2013 season.
Various black-and-white photographs which depict Madama Butterfly from the world premiere at La Scala in Milan (1904), the MET in New York (1907) and Zurich Opera House productions (1937, 1945, 1954) are re-used in Teresa Chen’s new works. The artist pins dead butterflies – commonly associated with butterfly collections – to prominent spots on the photos and thus establishes a link to her self-portraits. Pictures of ‘bleeding’ butterflies then again refer to Madama Butterfly’s quote: ‘Dicon ch’oltre mare se cade in man dell’uom, ogni farfalla da uno spillo è trafitta ed in tavola infinita!’ (They say in your country; If a butterfly is caught be man, He’ll pierce its heart with a needle, And then leave it to perish!).
In the exhibition ‘Death of a Butterfly’, Teresa Chen connects her body oriented work with themes related to her origin as well as the transient nature of photography.