Treated more as an aesthetic, instead of a language, Chinese characters have made an impact on visual cultures of the West. Many fashion brands capitalize on the beauty of Chinese symbols and slap them on garments simply because they “look cool.” Westerners like to have Chinese tattoos without actually knowing the cultural context they carry, and sometimes even the actual meaning of the words.
Often these attempts of participation and cultural appropriation do not have malicious intent, but their presentation is fraught with misinterpretation and ignorance. To create an open dialogue on how the West is capitalizing on the “exotic charm” of the Chinese language, this project presents a conceptual space by transforming the Aidekman Art Gallery into the “No. 1 Best Chinese Tattoo Shop.”
The aesthetic of the space reflects a combination of elements gathered from Chinese restaurants, tattoo parlors and manicure shops. The intention of creating this atmosphere is to play with Westerners’ stereotypical point of views towards Asian elements and Chinese culture. It also creates a conversation on how Chinese and American culture have intersected and interrelated under the influence of globalization.
All the decoration materials and products in the store were made in China and shipped to the US. Niki believes this ‘made in China’ process has internalized the implication of ‘cultural globalization’, which is also a part of the concept of this store.
Niki hopes people can have fun in her tattoo shop, get some interesting souvenirs, and then see the deeper meanings underneath all the humor.
The concept store displays a series of tattoos that use original fonts and graphics that Niki designed and that she, in a performance art role as shopkeeper, seeks to sell to visitors. These original tattoo graphics are applied to the interior decoration as well as T shirts, temporary tattoo stickers, and other souvenir products, for the audience to shop on. The audience is welcome to lounge around and apply the temporary tattoos onto their body.
The intention behind this interaction is to show how cultures can be appropriated, reclaimed and repurposed by other cultural backgrounds and perspectives, sometimes creating a cultural disparity in which feeble attempts at understanding can promote misinterpretation and ignorance rather than transparency, respect, and clarity.
The viewers are encouraged to scan the customized QR code printed on the store table cloth, which would take them to the store’s Instagram account.
The participants are also encouraged to ‘ink’ their body with the temporary tattoo stickers, take photos and share them on this Instagram page under a certain hashtag.
TRY TO REAd ThESE TATTOOs!
YES! i am talking to you!
These original tattoo graphics combined highly stylized English letters with the aesthetics of Chinese brush strokes to resemble Chinese characters.
The tattoos play with the illegibility and exoticism of Chinese characters while selecting humorous phrases from popular culture and every day slang.
Some of the tattoo phrases were actual Chinese tattoos gotten by strangers that Niki encountered randomly in life. Niki redesigned these Chineses tattoos by translating them into English using the stylized English letters she created, while still mimicking the aesthetics of Chinese characters.
Simply put, these tattoos look like Chinese characters at first sight, but as you look into them, you will find out that they are ALL in English!!!