Site 2. makermei
蝙蝠Biānfú – Bats of Fortune
Sculpture, copper wire, copper electrical tape, Chinese joss paper/spirit money 
Unfurled horseshoe bat: 270mm x 270mm x 90mm
Upside down flying fox: 290mm x 160mm x 100mm

︎ makermei

My intention as an artist is to promote harmonious discourse and a symbolic reframing of the supposed cultural practice origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The artwork 蝙蝠biānfú – Bats of Fortune explores themes of symbolism, scapegoat-ism and cultural defensiveness. Dialogue in media regarding the zoonotic and supposed cultural practice origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the COVID-19 global pandemic have ignited fierce community reactions. Bats have become a symbol for disease and poor hygiene which some sections of society link closely to wet-markets and the consumption of “bat-soup” rooted in mystic traditions of Chinese medicine. In Chinese, the name for bat is 蝙蝠biānfú which is homophonic with the character for fortune 福fú. In traditional Chinese art, bats represent happiness, longevity, good health and good fortune.

During a state of disaster, it is easy to look for something to blame. Bats are a frequent scapegoat - their leathery wings fanning our fears of a flying mass of virus-harbouring creatures of the night. Recent fear and fervour surrounding bats has led to calls for culling and instances of cruelty towards bats. Concurrently, some people are unable to separate traditional cultural practices or actions of a foreign government from the everyday experience of Australian citizens of Chinese heritage. The combination of these elements stirs a complex mix of emotions ranging from critical explorations of the transmission of community beliefs, to an underlying defensiveness of both the Australian environment the artist was raised in, as well as the cultural heritage she seeks to reconnect with.

The artwork consists of two copper wire bats, one with wings unfurled modelled on the Chinese horseshoe bat Rhinolophus sinicus and a second upside down and curled modelled on the Australian black flying fox Pteropus alecto. Bats symbolise fortune, health, renewal and rebirth in a number of cultures including Chinese culture. Copper as an element is essential for optimal immune function, albeit more closely associated with antibacterial rather than antiviral properties. The use of pieces of red and gold joss paper is multi-symbolic. Joss paper, also known as ghost or spirit money are sheets of paper burned in traditional Chinese ceremonies including funerals as an offering for prosperity and good fortune. Red can also symbolise luck in Chinese culture or blood and loss in Western culture. The gold characters reassembled from the joss paper have meanings of ‘fortune’ and ‘peace to your abode’.