Crafting Desire

Rising Lai

Social values are materialised through craft, and make up our material culture. Through objects we carry and inherit social values, habits and traditions that are mediated by the object. Red Sleep Bed (紅眠床) is a traditional Taiwanese bed which portrays the ideal marriage, between two people based upon social values and ideologies ingrained in normative gender roles, heterosexuality and patriarchal relations. The bed is embellished with stories carved into the wooden panels that convey these ideologies and traditions.

How can I, as a queer person, relate to the Red Sleep Bed and what it represents? With this project, I explored how the Red Sleep Bed is made by craftsmen in Taiwan, and how its symbols and stories uphold patriarchal relations. By rereading canonical Taiwanese/Han Chinese novels, I found queer stories and desires in these texts even though they are overlooked, as they are read and taught to us in schools through a patriarchal lens. Based on these stories and histories, I crafted new narratives and symbols for the Red Sleep Bed to include queer desires and perspectives. By redesigning the bed as an open structure and surface, I consider this version of the Red Sleep Bed an open archive, to which new stories and desires can be added. Through this project, I hope to pass on a more inclusive heritage and to share the (hi)stories and relations of queer communities.  

I am a passionate designer who loves to uncover stories contained within an object. Knowing the importance of cultural heritage and the grounding it provides, I comb the complexity of human creation in industrial products and cultural artefacts, and develop new stories through my designs. In my research I build upon and speculate on the relationship between people, objects, and material culture.