UnBinding Bodies

Lotus Shoes and Corset

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Project description

The Chinese practice of binding feet, i.e. to artificially reduce the size of the female foot to about 10 centimetres, has shocked and simultaneously fascinated European travellers since the 16th century. This fascination has manifested itself in the acquisition of numerous objects imported from China, including bones and plaster foot casts, and displayed by European scientific and ethnological collections. The exhibition “UnBinding Bodies” takes this now discontinued practice as the starting point for examining its multifaceted significance in an interconnected history of gender, class and colonialism. In contrast to the long prevailing colonial view, the exhibition does not portray the so-called “lotus feet” as an example of subjugation, but rather a complex cultural practice with numerous interpretations in Europe and Asia. The exhibition offers new perspectives by presenting the practice in the context of female body modification – similar to that of wearing corsets and high heels in Europe.

The cultural-historic exhibition is being developed in cooperation with Chinese researchers and supplemented by works by three internationally renowned artists, including kate-hers RHEE, Zhang Gong and Zhang Rui. The exhibition and accompanying event will be staged at the Tieranatomische Theater (TA T) of the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Museum am Rothenbaum (MARKK) in Hamburg. The exhibition texts and accompanying publication will be produced in three languages in order to acquaint international visitors to the content and works of the project.

Curators: Jasmin Mersmann, Evke Rulffes, Felix Sattler
Project coordinators: Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik, Humboldt University of Berlin
Partners: Museum am Rothenbaum, Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK), Barbara Plankensteiner, Susanne Knödel, Gabriel Schimmeroth
Artists: kate-hers RHEE, Zhang Gong, Zhang Rui
Research advisors: HAN Congyao, Mareile Flitsch, Dorothy Ko, Carina Phillips, Thomas Schnalke, Susanne Wernsing, ZHU Yijie

9 Sep 2022 – 31 Jul 2023 : Exhibition and accompanying programme at Tieranatomisches Theater, Berlin / MARKK, Hamburg / Kunsuniversität, Linz and others


No upcoming events at present

Previous events

  • 1 March, 2021 to 31 July, 2023: Exhibition and accompanying programme

    Tieranatomisches Theater, Berlin | MARKK, Hamburg | Kunsuniversität, Linz u. a.


Humboldt University of Berlin

Helmholtz-Zentum für Kulturtechnik
Unter den Linden 6
10099 Berlin

tieranatomisches-theater.de (external link, opens in a new window)
markk-hamburg.de (external link, opens in a new window)