Amy Chen

Lost Texts

Lost Texts

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

Dimensions variable

2017

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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.

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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."

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