birch wood, acid free card, Baryta archival photo paper, Ri Xing Type Foundry lead type, stainless steel case
42 x 52 x 10 cm
Chen Wen-Chi’s installation is like a museum of historical artefacts. But this cabinet of curiosities shows us a past that never really existed – it’s a clever illusion. Chen presents letterpress printing, metal type and black-and-white photographs shot on a mobile phone and edited with a vintage filter in wooden cases, like insect specimens in a natural history museum. The photographs show views of Shanghai’s laneways and scenes of urban life: people carry shopping or cross the road, a solitary figure stands under an umbrella, washing hangs from powerlines in cluttered alleys and the upturned eaves of old buildings are silhouetted against the sky. The Chinese title of this installation is ‘Pseudo Diary: Shanghai’. The text, recording the artist’s reflections on his travels, is written in traditional Chinese characters made using obsolete lead type from the Ri Xing Type Foundry. Chen says, ‘I am mixing the false with the genuine, or replacing the genuine with the false; true is false, false is also true.’ The past and present overlap, in a society so fast-moving that even memory is suspect.