Betelnut girl art installation on NYC street

In certain Asian countries, Betelnut is a popular stimulant sold by scantily-clad young girls in streetside booths. A couple years ago, artist Annamarie Ho recreated a Betel nut booth as a gallery installation commenting on this "sexually provocative sales style" in which, it would seem, customers are buying interaction with the salesperson as much as they're paying for the Betelnut. For the next two weekends, Annamarie is reviving the piece, Binlang Xi Shi (Betelnut Girls), but this time in the more unpredictable location of a New York City storefront. I'm sure the Betelnut Girl will have some, er, interesting interactions with the passers-by. Betelnut project page (, Binlang Xi Shi (

Previously on BB:
• Lots of Betelnut posts


  1. don’t forget that it’s popular in certain american territories, too. *cough*northernmarianaislands*cough* *cough**cough*

  2. Betelnut girl has plans within plans….

    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

    It is by the juice of Safu that thoughts acquire speed,

    the lips acquire stains the stains become a warning.

    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

    the spice must flow

  3. A marketing scheme any American agency would envy: use sex to sell betelnuts, betelnuts stain teeth black so no woman except betelnut girls will pay attention to you.

  4. I discovered these back in 2001 when I was in Taiwan teaching English. I had never heard of this before I went there.

    There was a road through the town I lived in (Toufen) that was lined with the glass booths. I suppose it must have been the road most trucks took through town. My fiancee and myself referred to it as “Hoochie Mama Boulevard”, but it was certainly an interesting sight to behold! The girls were usually more scantily clad than the one in the picture, too.

  5. I’m over Asian female artists who use over-sexualized Asian female tropes to stage their art. I’m talking about that girl who f*cked hundreds of men, fake mail order brides, this betelnut girl. It’s art because you put it behind a glass wall? It makes me “think” about the plight of women in the third world? Or maybe, I say to your face, ‘Wow that really sucks/is amazing that this happens in Asia!’ but I think secretly, ‘Man is that girl sure am pretty’ (as the title of this post suggests) or more accurately, ‘I am inadvertently but delightfully aroused by this image and all it implies, and it continues my fantasy/fetishizing of Asian women everywhere, whether or not I am simultaneously questioning my culpability in its damaging effects.’

  6. @Joanna #11 – I see what you’re saying, but I’d expect that that’s the exact sort of reaction they’re trying to provoke in the viewer. It is somewhat exploitative, but I think it’s trying to make a point about the exploitative nature of it all. One of the actual Betelnut vendors in the video on the site says, “the more skin I show, the more I sell, but the more fights I have with my husband.”

    Though there’s probably some people who get off on the idea of a woman doing anything (witness those Israeli army photographs a few weeks ago), there are also a lot of people interested in the sociological implications of such a business model. BoingBoing has a lot higher proportion of the latter than most sites – that’s one of the reason I like it so much.

  7. didn’t this originate in Spain? i remember seeing some tv special involving a girl who lived in a small glass house. it was a similar concept, but i don’t know about the advertising part. needless to say, she has many fans, many old fans.

  8. Just wanted to mention that my girlfriend and I went to this installation tonight, so here’s a mini-review:

    To be honest, I mostly went for the betelnuts itself. I purchased one of these dinky boxes they’re selling for 10 bucks thinking it would be filled with them…but they’re just an additional art piece with a signed and numbered card inside by the artist. they’re gaudy, and look like a card box made out of the back pages of the Village Voice. the betelnut itself is a buck for a bundle, which i think might be a ripoff? not sure really.

    I had a slight fascination with the substance as a mild stimulant but never bothered ordering some online. something was fishy about it. are they even legal in this country?

    either way, my girlfriend and I bought some and chomped on them. there was a very mild (underline mild) effect, streetlights seemed a little brighter/fuzzier, and the effect co-mingled nicely with a cigarette (another mild stimulant).

    the taste was earthy and neither palatable nor vile. i bought some extra to take home because i doubt I’ll come across these again.

    as for the *ART* [thunderous horn sounds] part, it’s honestly thinly realized at best. The girl is behind glass and can barely hear you. She shuffles awkwardly out in her racy outfit and hands you your purchase, and cutely describes how to consume it. there was a NY Post guy hanging around interviewing people about it, I talked to him a little bit but he seemed as clueless as the betelnut girl and was digging to find the relevance. this was a simple sale of goods. no one seemed too engaged by it. the betelnut girl herself could barely put the bundles together, and when i bought five on my way out she actually looked disappointed at having to make more.

    if anything, this reminded me of videogame convention “booth-babes.”

    not a bad way to make a buck, though. it would’ve been nice if the artist herself was there to engage us more in her piece.

    (sorry for the long post)

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