Jennifer Ling Datchuk on the Porcelain Power Factory
Alumni Updates — Written by Cortney Lane Stell
What is the Porcelain Power Factory?
Opened on the Presidential Inauguration Day 2017, it is a one-person porcelain factory that reclaims the past lives of objects to bring social awareness to causes we need to fight for. I research and obtain ceramic objects from functional wares, image decals, and figurines that in past and present day contexts are insensitive and offensive. I take the history of these objects and remake them to give underrepresented voices a sense of power and ownership in their future.
What inspired this concept?
This idea came to me after hearing Trump’s bragging of body shaming and sexual assault in his now infamous Access Hollywood interview with Billy Bush.
I made this cup to commemorate what I thought would be the historic election of our first female president. With heartbreak and hopelessness, I decided to open the Porcelain Power Factory to affect some change in an uncertain time.
How is the Porcelain Power Factory different from your art practice?
I am interested in the idea of social enterprise and how this informs consumerism and material culture. PPF is an extension of this idea while never letting go of these core fundamentals: handmade, well designed, and conceptually rooted in feminism and social justice.
The first object produced for the Porcelain Power Factory was the Pussy Power cup, can you tell us a little bit about it?
In the summer of 2016, I visited a 50-year-old abandoned ceramic supply store and factory in San Antonio, Texas. Digging through thousands of plaster slip casting molds, I found the naked lady cup mold. I was really familiar with these cups typically founds in tacky souvenir shops. My first reaction was to take this cup mold so no one would ever make this objectified cup ever again. It sat in my studio for months until I decided to reclaim the past life of this cup.
Why did you choose to donate to Planned Parenthood?
Planned Parenthood is constantly under threat from defunding and polarizing to many. As a young woman, Planned Parenthood was my only option for health care and my experience mirrors so many people in my community. It is my body, my decision, and I want to fight to make sure it stays that way.
Will a portion of all of the sales be donated to Planned Parenthood or will each object have a different charity?
Under this administration, so many people are at risk and feel threatened by a country leaning towards a nationalist identity. I think about the world everyday as current events are hitting too close to home. As the factory grows and our current state of affairs keeps threatening our lives, I think the charities I donate to will grow too.
How do you include activism in your practice?
My work has always dealt with identity, of being half, an other and examining this conflict of race and gender through the use of porcelain. In my practice, I bring light to the past and personal and make it public and universal. The Porcelain Power Factory allows me to dedicate part of my practice in a foundation of activism in hopes it reaches a wider audience and initiates a larger dialogue. It is my hope that the Factory will only be open for four years, possibly less.
What’s next for the Porcelain Power Factory?
I am in the process of introducing new objects to the PPF. The next object coming to the shop are small bust figurines of Chairman Mao. Mao Zhe Dong, the Communist leader of China, was both revered and despised by the people he served. He is credited for opening the China to the west and making it world power but also responsible for the destruction of its own culture and the death and extreme abuses of human rights. Each Mao is adorned with a hairstyle of a young girl wearing a tiny headband of cat ears and takes away his iconic image and ultimately takes away his power and turns him into an ordinary person.
What’s next for your art practice?
My new work about the cultural re-appropriation of ethnic hairstyles and blue and white porcelain, “Natural Hair Don’t Lie” and “Short Hair Don’t Care” will be traveling to a group show at the Forum Gallery at Cranbrook Academy of Art. A residency at the European Ceramic Work Center this summer and a solo show at the end of the year for my Berlin residency through the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum.