Video Documentation: "Oriental Silk" by Xiaowen Zhu & Performance Response by Yon Natalie Mik
Zhu Xiaowen's English-Chinese bilingual artist book 'Oriental Silk 鄉綢’ (Hatje Cantz. 2020) is a memoir, a biography, a company history and a visual elegy. The Oriental Silk emporium, founded by Kenneth Wong's family in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, has become a productive place to reflect on the astonishing histories of 20th-century Asian American migration and to re-consider the idea of the American Dream. 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.
During the book presentation at the Pickle Bar, Zhu will introduce both visual and tactile elements corresponding to the narrative, craft, design, and language associated with the project. Through conversations and exchange, the story of 'Oriental Silk' and its rich context are meant to stimulate wider engagements and open discussions that link people and places – and provide purpose – across time and borders. Additionally, a personal selection of silk items will be presented by Zhu and she invites the participants to bring a piece of silk fabric or garment that are connected to their personal memories, as a way to share and explore how textile shapes our relationship to the emotional past.
Yon Natalie Mik will dance 'Silk-Shop-Oriental-Body' (2021), a bodily response and performative translation to Zhu's Oriental Silk project. The choreography is arranged through a voice/sound collage and four key movements, that were drawn from various conversations Mik had with the artist Zhu and the shop owner Kenneth Wong between 2019 and 2020. The four movements blend with Mik's personal memories of growing up as a child of first-generation immigrants in Germany and reflect on the communal dreams of transmigrants in the past and today. Eventually, they unleash their longings as fictional letters to Kenneth Wong. 'Silk-Shop-Oriental-Body' is dedicated to those, whose stories of labor and hope once entered the silk shop, and whose unfulfilled longings are still attached to the almost unbearably alluring and soft silk fabrics.