on ju duoqi's works


Vegetable Museum

Ju Duoqi


In the summer of 2006, I bought several kilograms of peas, and sat there quietly for two days peeling them, before stringing them on a wire and turning them into a skirt, a top, a headdress, and a magic wand. I took a photo of myself in them, and named it “Pea Beauty Pageant.” That was my first work of vegetable art.

In the two years that followed, I often dressed up as a housewife, leisurely strolling to the market in a serious search for fun. I would often pace in front of the vegetable stalls, picking things up, thinking and putting them back, trying to figure out which positions made them more interesting. The different types, shapes, and colors of the vegetables, with a bit of rearranging, can make for a rich source of imagery. Fresh, withered, rotting, dried, pickled, boiled, fried, they all come out different. I no longer needed a model, as the vegetables became actors and even props. As a director, I arranged them to re-stage “La Liberté Guidant le Peuple,” and called it “La Liberté Guidant les Légumes.” As a Chinese woman in the Internet age, I wanted to present these kinds of world famous paintings. Against that fiery fried-egg backdrop, a woman smelling of onions and draped in a tofu skin robe leads the vegetable people forward, as she carries a spring onion spear in her left hand and a wood ear flag in her right. The yam soldiers, with their bewildering little round eyes raise a cabbage banner. Have they figured out what moving forward means, or have they lost their momentum? Each of the potato-head soldiers has a different expression. Most are uncertain and some are surprised, but they are completely unadorned potatoes. You wouldn’t know them any better if they were chopped into French fries and covered in ketchup, but when placed in the picture, they appear unfamiliar yet expressive. On the ground lies the body of a winter melon soldier, with rotting ketchup flowing out of his body like blood. The battleground is strewn with rotting vegetable leaves. Here, this great historical moment in this world-famous painting becomes completely absurd. How do you approach this famous painting? Can you really know its historical background? Do you know what the painter wished to convey? I believe that the world is the world as I understand it; on other world exists

I am happy that I have found a way of life for women who loves to work in the home. I have found an environmentally-friendly way of bringing work and life together. From imagination to reconstruction and post-production, these creations burn through boring hours. For these projects, a housewife, who doesn’t have to get up in the morning, wakes up at two a.m. to fry up the carrot that just served as Napoleon’s head. Photography is my favorite medium for decoding time. Everything has a spirit; under careful observation, each vegetable, each person, and each second has extraordinary meaning. When I see “Napoleon on His Potato,” I happily think back to when I fried him up and ate him at two in the morning in the summer of 2008. Through photographs, memory becomes sentiment. I never leave the house, and when I do, I rarely travel more than 15 kilometers. In a studio, with a knife, a box of toothpicks, and some vegetables, I make small sculptures and larger scenes, using the most effortless and thrifty method of fantasizing about the larger world.