Oriental Silk 鄉綢
Graphic design by Studio Cheval
Translation by Nicky Harman
196 pp., 51 ills.
17.80 x 24.10 cm
Can corporate history be art? This question can only be asked if one is not familiar with the fascinating long-term project by the Chinese artist Xiaowen Zhu. Anyone who has experienced Oriental Silk will answer this question with a clear “yes.” The project’s title is also the name of a company founded in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. Specializing in trading and distributing silks, it was headed for decades by Kenneth Wong and his family. Through her multi-sensory works, Zhu opens up a multifaceted view of a firm that is distinguished, like its silk products, through its own haptics, style, colors, and values. The people, places, and stories that make up the phenomenon of Oriental Silk form a fascinating, vivid tapestry in which the past and present, art and life, are closely interwoven.
Zhu’s book serves as both an enlightening companion piece to her film and a fascinating work in its own right: an object of beauty to be looked at and touched like the eponymous silk goods, a thorough examination of the relationship between history and the individual, and an honest, mournful look at the passage of time in its grandeur and its mundanity.
– Artists' Book Reviews
The work has been showed internationally from London to Shanghai, New York and Beijing. And now, this new publication records the project in its various iterations through the people who interact with it and the stories that relate to it, weaving the meaning of Chinese silk with its immigrant and emotional past.
– It's Nice That
The book is a beautiful and seductive object, designed to mimic something of a visit to the store: plain grey cover (the store is curtained to protect fabrics from sunlight), pages decorated by what look like cutting guides and embroidery patterns, and coloured-paper sections for documents and photographs that approximate the experience of faded silk.
– Art Review