In ‘White uniform’ 2017, Hou I-Ting examines women’s work in creating a Taiwanese variant of the bento box. Known as ‘bendong’ in Taiwanese Hokkien and ‘biantang’ in Mandarin, these boxed lunches have persisted as a cultural legacy of Japanese occupation. Consisting of a short film and a series of photographs, the work was produced in collaboration with the employees of the Taiwan Railways Administration kitchen in Qidu, near Taipei.
The film focuses on a group of women as they use stencils to finely cut sheets of seaweed to be placed over rice, reproducing historical designs from the covers of ‘bendong’ boxes. These designs, documented in the accompanying photographs, were created during the Japanese colonial period (1895–1945), a time when Taiwan’s railway was intensively developed to facilitate the transportation of natural resources for export. Most designs are innocuous, their Japanese text advertising sandwiches, chicken lunches or bananas from Taichung; however, others are more ambiguous and include wartime propaganda.
Intercutting historical footage of rail travel with interviews with staff members and their supervisor, Hou’s film recalls the tendency of the mind to wander during long journeys and repetitive work. ‘White uniform’ addresses the intricacies of sexual difference and labour relations, colonialism and national identity, collective history and personal memory, all through the simple enjoyment of a packed lunch on a long train ride.
Exhibited in 'The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (APT9) | 24 Nov 2018 – 28 Apr 2019