I look for raw art materials everywhere: in art stores and galleries, and even markets.
Since moving to Beijing, I've been experimenting with a local specialty: tofu skin from wet markets. It's a cream-colored blank canvas for ideas.
I'm an artist who lives where I don't belong. For the past few years, I've been lost more often than found. As a way to trace where I came from, and places I've wanted to forget, I've been carving maps from tofu skin. Backwards.
So I carved some words into the paper used for festive Chinese paper-cuts:
I was born here
I was destined to die here
but took fate into my hands
as much as anyone can
as my ancestors did
Then laid them on top of the skin to print a cyanotype…
They looked nice but didn't print well. Water and thin Chinese papers don't mix.
However it turned out ok once I gave up on the words. Mostly.
The tofu skin sculptures curl up as they dry, shaped by atmosphere just as much as by human hands.
Then I was asked to join an exhibition in Beijing's 798 arts district.
The timeframe was only a few days.
There was no time to experiment with new ideas or materials, or to wait for sunshine to burst through the smog of a Beijing spring.
So I made what I knew. Backwards.
And big, just like the countries they represent:
In progress: Backwards America, The Past is Another Country, 70 x 130cm
Backwards America installed at 3C Creative Space
Detail of sculpture curling as it dries
Chinese characters trace the transcontinental railroad across the map:
China & the US have more in common than most countries.
I stretched their proportions to fit the borders of the handmade Beijing paper used as templates, to emphasize their similarities.
Backwards China in progress:
China carved with "peace" in its minority languages & scripts:
The Past is Another Country: Reverse China, 70 x 100cm, tofu skin sculpture
More images of The Past is Another Country on Flickr