Xiaowen Zhu’s London debut, titled Unrolled Silks, will be the artist’s second solo presentation.
Xiaowen Zhu (b.1986, Shanghai) is a filmmaker, artist, and writer. Described as a visual poet, social critic, and aesthetic researcher, she uses video, photography, performance, installation and mixed media as platforms to communicate the complex experience of being an international person and to wrestle with the notion of a disembodied identity.
Unrolled Silks will feature a series of works created between 2013 and 2016 – including a dual-channel film installation, Oriental Silk (2015),whose single-channel version has been shown around the world but the dual-channel version has never previously been exhibited. The exhibition will also feature a series of photography, textile installation and commissioned fashion design that explore the subject of materiality, personal and collective memories, craft and value – the essential themes touched upon in Oriental Silk.
Oriental Silk (2015) explores the worldview of the owner of the first Chinese silk importing company in Los Angeles. Carefully and quietly, the film observes this owner, Kenneth Wong, as he goes through his daily routine in the store and tells his story: how his parents, first-generation Chinese immigrants, realized the American dream through the store; how the once legendary store’s fortunes rose in close connection with the Hollywood entertainment industry, then fell with the proliferation of cheaper silk in the new global economy; how he himself came to be the owner of the shop and caretaker of the family legacy; and about his deep feelings for the shop, its history, and its future.
The dual-channel film installation portrays Mr. Wong’s state of being inside Oriental Silk – a shop that serves as a museum and place of worship for traditional craftsmanship and the attendant cultural values that are largely now lost or even actively undermined in contemporary China, ideas which for him are intimately interwoven with his own history and the history of his family.
The single-channel version of Oriental Silk has been awarded the Jury Award of Mexico International Film Festival. It has been widely shown at Whitechapel Gallery, Whitstable Biennale, RISD Museum (Rhode Island School of Design), New York University, Aurora Museum Shanghai, Lund Museum and more. It is described by Sukhdev Sandu, Director of Asian/Pacific/American Studies, New York University, as “a beautiful articulation – thematically and visually – of the relationship between scale and intimacy.” It is also commented by Dr Cangbai Wang, Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies, University of Westminster, as “a film that excellently reveals the complex relationship between people and objects in migrant worlds in an exquisite, rhythmical way. ”
Xiaowen Zhu: Unrolled Silks will have a panel discussion on the topic of “personal and collective memories”, chaired by Gareth Evans, film curator of Whitechapel Gallery on 22 September, 2016.