Like many young women growing up in Taiwan, Chenhung Chen learned to crochet. Crocheting is “women’s work,” considered a trade. Now, Chen is an artist in Los Angeles, and her knowledge of this "women’s work" is helping her to actualize the potential of electrical waste for her upcoming solo show, Entelechy.
Entelechy is an Aristotelian concept dealing with the realization of potential. In Chen’s work, she manipulates old wires, cables, and video game controllers—things that might be otherwise thrown away—into sculptures, realizing perhaps not their final form, but definitely a greater one than trash. Using crochet, she is able to create gravity-defying forms reminiscent of, say, Eva Hesse’s gravity-defying Rope Piece.
“I use the crochet elements to hold all the pieces together, much as it is women’s work to hold the family together in many traditional societies, even in this informational age.” Chen tells the Creator’s Project. "Visually, this is carried out by the shaping of the 'spine like' metal crochet work as well as its contrasting colors and radiance.”
While Chen’s concepts deal unequivocally with feminine realms, the aesthetic of wires can almost read male. Perhaps that’s because video games and tech are often (wrongly) associated with men, or because electrical connectors are literally gendered—plugs as male, outlets female. Or maybe it’s just an ingrained gender bias that wires and electrical equipment seem hard and masculine, especially in comparison to a softer, more traditionally feminine material like yarn. Either way, Chen doesn’t see such distinctions.
“I actually didn't think about the idea of the wires and electric components being male. I think they are actually both genders and in fact most components do have male and female ends. My idea of women’s work has to do more with the crochet, braiding, sewing, connecting than the material,“ she says.
Entelechy by Chenhung Chen opens on April 9 at the Los Angeles Art Association, and is on view until May 6.