Amy Chen

Lost Texts

Lost Texts

lost texts1.jpg

Transparent oil pastel and india ink on rice paper scrolls, wire, string

Dimensions variable



This project is about communication, biculturation, and cultural ties through generations. For this piece, I went through my text conversations with my mother and isolated the Chinese characters that I could not read, leaving blanks in the places of characters that I could read, and I wrote them on the scrolls in transparent oil pastel. Then, I marbled the scrolls with India ink, revealing the presence of the characters through oil resist and leaving soft dark shapes that reference traditional brush painting.

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By making the characters be the untouched part of the paper, I create a ghostly imprint that connotates absence. Additionally, by arranging the individual pages from darkest to lightest, I imply the gradual trickling away of pigment and of language. In my installation, I arranged the two scrolls opposite each other with a seemingly inverse relationship, never touching. Where one arched up in a crescendo, the other deflated, diminishing. This represents my relationship with the two languages that I speak; I see them as parasitic, drawing resources from the other.


Gustavo Pérez Firmat describes biculturation as:

"…a situation where two cultures achieve a balance that makes it difficult to determine which is the dominant and which is the subordinate culture…biculturation implies an equilibrium, however tense or precarious…a seesaw: it tilts first one way, then the other."