Oriental Silk is a documentary project created by London based artist Xiaowen Zhu. It features shop owner Kenneth Wong and his unsuspecting fabric store in Los Angeles. This store was responsible for the first imports for Chinese silk to America and by extension Hollywood. This once legendary store’s fortunes paralleled the Hollywood’s studio system, rising with Hollywood golden era and then falling with the proliferation of cheaper silk in the new global economy.
Carefully and quietly, Zhu observes Wong’s daily routine, and poignantly tells the story of how his parents, both first-generation Chinese immigrants, realized the American dream through importing silk. Told from the perspective of Wong, viewers consider a family’s legacy and are confronted with his deep feelings for the shop, its history, and its future.
The film shows the concrete impact of one family’s tie to the ‘Made in China’ movement, reflects on what a disposable culture might mean to conceptions of person-hood, and how identity is progressively quantified through the material world.
Born and raised in Shanghai, Zhu is a documentary filmmaker, media artist, curator 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.