By Derrida’s parameters Anese Cho’s works would be considered postmodern as they deal with fragmentation and discontinuity. In her Fragmentation series, she has deconstructed the female body acknowledging that its break up does not have one root cause or basic meaning. Rather, Cho’s philosophy of fragmentation is like the one assumed by Derrida that many causes exist. We borrow Derrida’s terminology who used linguistic structuralism to discuss the works of Cho who depicts female body parts or separate passages. Derrida agreed with Ferdinand Saussure’s beliefs that it is context that gives meaning to the word or parole. Thus, if we were to associate Cho’s sculptures with the word metaphor, we can assume the meaning of her pieces taken as a whole rather than their placement. For example, her female breast sculptures relate to a woman’s anatomy and signal a whole female body.
Cho tries to uncover the suppressed and excluded female without simply interpreting but rather to demonstrate that her life is always in flux. In a social sense Cho uses Foucault’s model, perhaps more suitable in this instance, to discover her works’ shifting meaning in that she examines the relationships of power to control. A sign, a piece of female anatomy, is a manifested body that in a classic linguistic Saussurian or arbitrary sense is both signified and signifier, and double sided. For the sake of discussion, Cho’s female shapes or signifiers, will pair the conceptual or signified component with the real or signifier. But, unlike Saussure we will discuss the works in a real physical context. In other words, not only as interchangeable, but rather as contextually defined.
For many generations women have had to struggle for power in a male-dominated- patriarchal world finding it necessary to splinter or divide themselves between their career and home life as wives and mothers. In a very real sense, this is the fragmentation seen in Cho’s works who as an artist needs to focus on her works, but as a mother must care for her child. This split role of woman as mother, wife, daughter, career woman was one of the inspirations behind this series of sculptures about the female. Simultaneously, in a very real sense, through her subject Cho, references the ‘Mother Goddess’ and nurturer as evidenced in her Fragmentation #7. This monumental sculpture executed in black lacquer with a negative cut-out of the female breasts in red, dwarfs the viewer and in a way forces her/him to acknowledge the import of the subject. A more playful sculpture is Fragmentation #4 in which many circles are repeated representing a similar subject but which is reminiscent of Kandinsky’s 1925 Several Circles. Cho has engaged with abstraction for many years utilizing circular forms in her past works. Consequently, it can be understood that this wall sculpture served her as segue to the current production with a similar theme.
Cho’s 3D and wall sculptures are made with very smooth surfaces that, like silk satin, flow red and black in their glistening texture. Her color choices, red and black, are like two sides of a coin as well as the color wheel that in black is the mix of all color that to her signifies death, and the red that can signify both life and death. In western thought the female body has been associated with the physical and the male with the spiritual. Anything to do with the earth is associated with the mother principle and mythology has associated anything to do with the sky for example Uranus, with the male. The female breast has been the topic of fascination, sexual focus as well as a fetish by some. Hearkening back to Neolithic times at Catal Huyuk, 1960 excavations revealed that the shrine walls were decorated with female breasts. The breast motif has been interpreted by scholar Elizabeth Gould Davis as object of worship and “instrument[s] of motherhood” along with the phallus. But, she argued that after the patriarchal revolution, men appropriated the form hence the forms endowment with erotic significance.
By associating the feminine with the earth or body, women are subordinated and given negative meaning deeming them property and objectifying them as exchangeable commodities as seen in fashion, and diet, cosmetic surgery etc. Cho’s depictions of female breasts are as much a statement about female independence as they are about enriching society. In this series she is celebrating the female while calling for the world to rid themselves of such binary oppositions and dichotomies in order to acknowledge the complexity of the female.