Magic Soap, Crystal Foam, Glitter Ash

Customised hot process soap, single-channel video with sound (2’22”), printed matter
Commissioned by Para Site for Post-Human Narratives—In the Name of Scientific Witchery

Installation view of Post-Human Narratives—In the Name of Scientific Witchery. Photos: Samson Wong Pak Hang.

Presented in the form of magic wands in the mahō shōjo (magical girl) genre of anime and manga, Magic Soap blurs the boundary between what is classified as science and what is not, addressing the fragility of classifications. While ‘magic’ is considered unstable or threatening, ‘science’ is of stability and manageability. Here, the mahō shōjo, an  image derived from  the witch in popular culture, is a fluid signifier that rejects rigid or simplified definitions—is she a mere domesticated and harmless image, a heterosexual male fantasy, or can she also be an empowering figure in weaponising docile femininity, who dethrones the male privilege of the heroic quest, or does she simply embody masculine qualities? If cleanliness is a recurring state that humans regard as natural, normal, and safe, does the ‘magic soap’ stabilise or destabilise the order in society?

Crystal Foam juxtaposes clips from mahō shōjo-genre anime and soap commercials to  reveal the nature of commodifying the female body in mass media through consumerism and consumption. An escapist bubbly fantasy, created through the formulaic acts of transformation—waving a wand and showering—in turn becomes an unsettling repetition in which time becomes stagnant and entrapping. Here, the transformation tool (the magic wand) and the soap become an important link between the double life of the magical girl, allowing her to travel between the two distinct identities of ordinary person and warrior, creating an ambiguous space between the heroic and the mundane.

Glitter Ash serves as a worklog or production report, collating the ideas behind the ‘production’ of Magic Soap, exploring the concepts of magical girls, witches, and witchcraft, and rethinking the politics of naming. The artist refers to herself as Maker T in the publication, tracing her interactions with Maker X, who makes customised silicone moulds, reviewing the evolution of magical girls in the anime history and the dark history of witch-hunts, and focusing on the close relationship among magical girls, consumerism, and consumption. ‘For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing,’ writes Ursula K. Le Guin. The publication also traces the meanings, contexts, and ambiguities of names such as witch, majo (magical woman), wizard, and mage to trace the historical context of magic and witchcraft.