On 31st July, artist Zhu Xiaowen presents her recently-published book Oriental Silk 鄉綢 (Hatje Cantz, 2020). Both visual and tactile elements corresponding to the narrative, craft, design and language of Oriental Silk, a company founded in the ‘70s in Los Angeles, are meant to stimulate wider engagements and intimate discussions on migrations across time and borders. Dancer and writer Yon Natalie Mik will present “Silk-Shop-Oriental-Body” (2021), a performance about bodies in translation, and a letter to Ken who is the shop owner in Xiaowen Zhu’s documentary film Oriental Silk (2015).
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 Company, 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.
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.
Zhu Xiaowen is an artist and writer. Born and raised in Shanghai, she has a diverse diasporic experience in Upstate New York, Los Angeles, London, and Berlin. Her work is concerned with how things and beings migrate across time (historical and contemporary) and space (borders and boundaries) with a particular interest in personal witness and testimony.
Yon Natalie Mik is a dancer and writer whose work considers the poetics of the dancing body through archives and speculative fiction. Her practice manifests in various forms including performances, texts, and still/moving images.