I am one of three sisters. My parents were over overjoyed at our birth. It’s easy to forget that in some parts of the world, gender is an issue. Prune Nourry’s work, Terracotta Daughters explores the subject of human selection. Nourry created 108 “daughters” in a Chinese factory using traditional techniques. This factory produces reproductions of the famous 8000 warriors commissioned by Emperor Qin Shi Huang, 2200 years ago, to protect him in the afterlife.
Nourry collaborated with an NGO, The Children of Madaifu, to find 8 prototypes for her “daughters.” The 108 terra cotta sculptures are based on the faces of 8 different girls from rural provinces in China. Nourry took photos of the girls; frontal, side, back. Using these photos she sculpted the faces of the first 8 terra-cotta daughters. In the film, Nourry is producing about the artwork (not yet released), the viewer is able to see the work evolve: Nourry sculpts the original 8 works in clay, pours the molds, fires them in an ancient coal-fired kiln, alongside the craftsmen from the factory in Xian. Without a translator on site, Nourry uses an app on her iPhone to translate her intentions in French to Chinese in order to communicate her vision of the piece to the craftsmen.
Nourry’s 32 minute-film (Terracotta Daughters) was shown last night at FIAF (French Institute Alliance Francaise). After the film she discussed her work with Chien Chung Pei, Chair of the Board of Trustees of China Institute in New York. Pei asked Nourry if she considered herself a feminist. She answered “I am an ARTIST. I do not
need to add any other IST. Nourry trained as a wood sculptor in Paris. “Sculpture is my spine. I need to feel the material in my hands.”
Unlike the warriors, who can only be looked down upon, Nourry ‘s “daughters” are exhibited in spaces where they can be touched, seen eye to eye and walked around. The “daughters” are the size of the girls themselves.
The sculptures will be transported from China for a world tour to four cities: Paris, Zurich, New York and either Mexico City or Los Angeles. In 2015 the sculptures will return to China to be buried. The sculptures will be excavated in 2030. According to Nourry, 2030 is the year that the biggest imbalance between men and women in China will occur.
Usually questions from the audience are fairly inane. This time someone asked the question, I was wondering about the entire evening. How did you finance this project?
Nourry: Usually I finance my current project with the sale of artwork from previous projects. In this case, the project was too expensive. I am lucky to have a collector who is interested in my work. He joined with 4 other collectors and I pre-sold the 8 original terra-cotta daughters. This paid for the work to be done and also paid for the education of the 8 girls. Each girl will receive a small version of herself.
Once I realized that I wanted the exhibition to travel; it was obvious the transport was going to be a big expense. Again the collectors bought bronze versions of the sculptures. The sale gave me the finances to have the daughters travel to 4 cities.
Nourry: “When you have an idea, you find a solution”. Those are words to live by.
Terra Cotta Daughters
with Prune Nourry
In conversation with Chien Chung (Didi) Pei
French Institute Alliance Francaise
Tuesday, March 4, 2014