As BB readers know, there's an interesting culture surrounding Betel nut, a popular stimulant in some Asian countries. Often, the stuff is sold from streetside booths by scantily-clad young girls. My pal Annamarie Ho has created an art installation/performance piece commenting on this "sexually provocative sales style." The work, titled Binlang Shi Shr (Betelnut Girls), will be on display at part of the Entrapment show at the Amelie A. Wallace Gallery at SUNY College at Old Westbury in New York. The show opens tomorrow, September 20, and closes October 21. The image here is from a series of digital prints Annamarie created for the show.
I've built a booth inside the gallery and, during the opening and closing, I'll have a scantily-clad girl selling betelnut stickers to viewers. There's also an accompanying video with footage of actual betelnut girls in Taiwan and prints of Taiwanese models in some pretty kitschy scenarios.
And from the show program:
Ho simulates a vending stand of the sort that becomes, in effect, a free-standing display case, where the "betelnut beauties" function as commodified mannequins. She includes an example of the accompanying neon business signs often phrased to sound like the names of love hotels in East Asia. In Binlang Shi Shr (Betelnut Girls), Ho not only expresses a concern over the "entrapment" of women in sexual-economic exploitation, but also exoticizes this selling process, as an actor hired for the performance interacts with viewers like a betelnut girl. Ho assumes her role as a stand owner who monitors the girl's behavior. Bringing this simulating experience of betelnut girls to the space of the art gallery, Ho also raises a larger issue of what's being sold in contemporary commercial galleries, as she uses the actor and the performance piece as a means to sell her installation.