starched silk and cotton fabric, thread, fishing line
Jin Nv’s Exuviate 2 - Where Have All the Children Gone? is an installation of ghostly apparitions – 20 tiny starched organza children’s dresses, turning gently in the slightest shift of air current, swaying and moving as if sighing or crying in an elegy of mourning for lost childhoods. The artist denies any connection with China’s one child policy and the countless little girls who were never born in a society that valued sons far more than daughters; she says instead it is about memories of her own childhood, and the idea that we emerge as adults as if from a cocoon. The artist had these dresses specially made for her installation, based on own childhood memories and the frocks that her mother had carefully saved. A hardening material was applied so that as they hung, turning in every breath of air, they would seem like the cast-off shells of cicadas. The sense of absence is palpable. Whether we choose to read a larger societal narrative into this work or not, discarded clothing, especially children’s clothing, is filled with multiple meanings of love, loss and mourning including the sadness of the child grown away from the security and safety of the family and the mother regretting the passage of time and the loss of her children to the adult world.