Regine Tiu is not your jolie poupée | The Coast Halifax

Regine Tiu is not your jolie poupée

The CFAT arts scholar sheds light on cultural stereotypes, the male gaze and the Japanese porn industry through her debut exhibit.

Regine Tiu is not your jolie poupée
Ian Selig

A different place: Centre For Arts Tapes' media arts
scholarship presentation
Feb 9-23
Opening reception Feb 8, 6-9pm
(Former) Video Difference
6086 Quinpool Road

"Art can manifest in so many different ways, and have so many different articulations," says Regine Tiu. "There is no quote-unquote fine art."

This is something she's learned a lot about during the course of her time as a media art scholar with the Centre for Art Tapes. Before applying for the program, she was harnessing an innate desire to make art, to be an artist. With a background in humanities, Tiu has always plugged away at illustrations, poetry and some video editing in her spare time, but now she'll debut her first exhibit Not your jolie poupée as part of CFAT's scholarship presentation A different place.

"It started in the summer when I was trying to draw self-portraits, just for fun, and I realized I couldn't really recognize myself. One that came out was a really cutesy caricature-type and I was like, 'That's not me. Who am I?' And then realizing I didn't know," she says. "I was imposed upon by these images over and over again adhering to different people's expectations and historically, when I didn't adhere to them, people would be aggressive or be rude. I realized something wasn't right."

Tiu says the finished product isn't all that different from her original pitch for Not your jolie poupée, save for the fact it's been strengthened by her newfound skill set from her 10 weeks of CFAT workshops and the mentorship of filmmaker and NSCAD instructor Becka Barker. She'll present a collection of painting projections and collage videos that illustrate her experience as a sexual assault survivor and woman of colour.

"I wanted to highlight what it felt like suffering from the male gaze, from female objectification," says Tiu. The project she originally pictured was a group show, highlighting the experiences friends and fellow survivors. "Then I realized mine had a more specific slant to it as I'm a person of colour and my experience is tainted by all of these media representations."

Through investigation, reflection and a lifetime of hints, she realized that pornography was the source of the microaggressions she'd consistently faced—specifically, Japanese pornography—and decided to use it, and the way the industry treats women, as her project's anchor.

"I'm really looking for the show to give them a voice, give them a space." Tiu, who is Taiwanese, says she is often mistaken for, or assumed to be, Japanese or Korean. "And for people to recognize them as humans and be appalled by that because that tends to be the conflict of pornography. You want to enjoy it, it's there for it, but so many people are exploited in order for that to exist. I knew this before, but not to the extent that the Japanese porn industry will go for entertainment."

CFAT's A different place opens this week, showcasing the work of its six media arts scholars in the re-imagined, iconic Video Difference building. Fittingly, Tiu's pieces will take over the basement floor, the former home of the shop's porn section.

"A lot of it is coming from an angry place, so I tried to balance it with not wanting to traumatize people the way I've been traumatized, but also finding a space for recognition. I want there to be an acknowledgement of 'Oh, what I believed in all these stereotypes I've been handed down and I need to find a way to get out of that'," she says.

"I'm still personally on this journey. The show is fairly true to my state of mind, feeling all the anger and aggression and wanting to find a silver lining and help people understand that there's a light at the end of the tunnel," Tiu continues. "I just want to show them there's a right to be angry, there's a reason to be angry and there are different ways to be heard.