Jennifer Ling Datchuk’s exhibition is filled with the haunting, rhythmic sounds of gently clattering porcelain.
HOUSTON — While conducting research at the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center in 2018, Jennifer Ling Datchuk came upon a poster that caught her attention. “Chinese Carry Out Family Planning for the Revolution” by the Shanghai People’s Publishing House features a smiling, smocked woman who holds a bottle of birth control pills and is surrounded by cartoons of a woman and a child engaging in lively activities. The slogan below reads, “Later, Longer, Fewer,” encouraging women to have later marriages, longer periods between births, and fewer children. The 1974 poster is a precursor to China’s one-child policy that was instituted five years later to slow the country’s climbing birth rates.
As empowering as the poster’s message may seem, it also draws certain parallels with the most recent restrictions on women’s reproductive rights in Texas, where Datchuk has lived and worked for the past 13 years. In response to the poster, Datchuk wrote, “This message suggests that women have the power and access to resources in order to make these decisions in the first place.” Now as then, from Shanghai to San Antonio, women’s bodies are subject to state control.