China Institute | 104 Washington Street
New York, New York, August 20, 2014—Artist Prune Nourry brings her army of Terracotta Daughters—108 life-size sculptures of young Chinese girls—to New York’s China Institute from September 11 through October 4 as part of the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)’s acclaimed fall arts festival Crossing the Line. This will be the army’s only U.S. show before Nourry returns them to China, burying them until 2030 in an undisclosed location.
To create the Terracotta Daughters project, the French-born and Brooklyn-based Nourry uprooted to China for a year and a half, working with local Xi’an artisans who specialize in creating terracotta soldier copies. Emulating their style and the ancient techniques of the Chinese Terracotta Warriors, Prune sculpted eight life-size Terracotta Daughters,each modeled after a real Chinese orphan dressed in school uniform.
The craftsmen became a part of the next step, using Nourry’s eight original molds interchangeably—per her instructions—to create an army of 108 life-size Terracotta Daughters. One craftsman, Xian Feng, was invited to individually personalize each face and make every daughter unique (as was done with the ancient soldiers). He then signed them, becoming an artist himself.
Feng will travel to New York and join Nourry for the show’s opening, which will also include multi-media artworks and a 21-minute video introduction to the full feature documentary Nourry directed, entitled Terracotta Daughters. A feature-length film on the project is scheduled to be completed in 2015.
The Story Behind the Terracotta Daughters
Terracotta Daughters is a natural continuation of Nourry’s career-long exploration of gender and human selection. Reflecting on gender preference and the demographic imbalance in China, her work began in 2012 with research at the University of Xi’an—also the location of the Terracotta Warriors. Discovered in March 1974 by farmers digging a well, the more than 8,000 warriors date back to 210 BC. Inspired by her research, Prune created an army of her own: the Terracotta Daughters, modeled on eight orphan Chinese girls she met through the non-profit The Children of Madaifu, which was founded in 1999 by Marcel Roux, former Vice-President of Doctors Without Borders (M.S.F).
Nourry’s Terracotta Daughters world tour is financed through the sale of her art. Prior to New York, the daughters were exhibited in Shanghai, Paris and Zurich—and will end in Mexico before going back to China. Through the creation of the Terracotta Daughters and the sale of its 8 original sculptures, Nourry is also supporting the education of the girls on which they were based for a minimum of three years. Each girl will also receive a 30 cm artist proof of Prune’s Mini Terracotta Daughter.
Interactive Exhibition: Imbalance Series
As an interactive piece of the exhibition, Nourry is creating a bridge between the exhibition and New York’s Chinatown. From September 13 to October 4, the artist is collaborating with a Chinese foot massage parlor (Rio Grande at 179A Grand Street between Centre Market Pl & Mulberry street, 10am-9pm daily) where she will hide artworks of her Imbalance series in the middle of real acupuncture posters and fish aquariums. Prune’s Imbalance work includes reinterpreted tools used to balance body flow, such as acupuncture needles and suction cups. She uses them in a way so they seem threatening or suggest illness. Inspired by Chinese philosophies coming from Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, Nourry points at the demographic and environmental imbalance China is facing. The first 200 visitors will get a free massage on September 13. The artist will be present.
About Prune Nourry
Born in Paris, Prune Nourry is currently based in New York City with a residency at The Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn. With a degree in wood sculpture from the École Boulle (Paris), Prune explores bioethics through sculpture, her main medium, as well as video, photography and performance. Her work focuses on the issue of human selection through science—and how artificial procreation leads us towards an artificial evolution of mankind and the consequences it entails. Through research, interviews with scientists, specialists in the field and collaborations with local artisans, Prune’s process is participatory. Her sculptures, sometimes monumental, ephemeral pieces, are the object of in situ performances where she documents the reactions of the audience. The remnants and artworks inspired by these performances are then exhibited in installations.
Terracotta Daughters marks Nourry’s return to FIAF’s Crossing the Line festival after presenting her installation and performance Spermbar at the 2011 edition of the festival.
About Crossing the Line 2014
Crossing the Line is the French Institute Alliance Française’s (FIAF) annual fall festival, presenting interdisciplinary works and performances in New York. The festival explores the dialogue between artist and public, and examines how artists help re-imagine the world as critical thinkers and catalysts for social evolution. Crossing the Line is initiated and produced by FIAF in partnership with leading cultural institutions. The festival’s eighth edition takes place this year from September 8–October 20, 2014.
Since its inauguration in 2007, Crossing the Line has cultivated an increasingly large and diverse following, and received numerous accolades in the press. The festival has been voted “Best of 2009,” “Best of 2010,” “Best of 2012," and “Best of 2013” by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York, Artforum, and Frieze, with performances earning an Obie and several Bessie awards. The New York Times states, “For terrifically unusual, unpredictable, unnameable performance, we’ve come to expect a lot from … the curators of the French Institute Alliance Française’s interdisciplinary festival,” and The New Yorker says, “This interdisciplinary festival, focused but not exclusively devoted to contemporary French culture, goes from strength to strength.” For more information, visit fiaf.org/ctl.
About China Institute
Founded in 1926, China Institute is the oldest bicultural organization in America devoted exclusively to China. The Institute advances a deeper understanding of China through programs in education, culture, business and art in the belief that cross-cultural understanding strengthens our global community. www.chinainstitute.org
About the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)
The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is New York’s premiere French cultural and language center. FIAF's mission is to create and offer New Yorkers innovative and unique programs in education and the arts that explore the evolving diversity and richness of French cultures. FIAF seeks to generate new ideas and promote cross cultural dialogue through partnerships and new platforms of expression. www.fiaf.org
Terracotta Daughters is presented with the support of No Longer Empty.
Crossing the Line 2014 is made possible with the generous support of The Hermès Foundation’s New Settings program; Nespresso; Air France and Delta Air Lines, the official airlines of FIAF; Florence Gould Foundation; and Pommery.
Our Producer’s Circle: Ron Guttman, Tom McCarthy & Violaine Huisman, Agathe Lerolle, Elizabeth Krief Manardo, Virginia A Millhiser, Marie Nugent-Head, Barbara & Henry Pillsbury, Antoine Roset-Ligne Roset, and Elisabeth Wilmers.
FIAF would like to thank the following for their generous support of Crossing the Line 2014: The National Endowment for the Arts; Institut Français; New York State Council on the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; FUSED: French U.S. Exchange in Dance, a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project; The Enoch Foundation; The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation; and Robert de Rothschild.
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