JADN home page JADN Repository home pageKaren Tang

published in Wound Magazine, November 2007

Wound Magazine Issue 1"I experienced Shenzhen for the first time last December. Immediately, all my senses were overwhelmed by the ubiquitous commerce, industry and urban development. Dense factory pollution, construction dust and grit, car fumes and smog obscured the end of each street, even when just a few metres away. But directly above, gleaming new skyscrapers proudly announced themselves as Shenzhen’s bright shiny future. Packed with building sites, hundreds more shimmering towers are poised to spring up in Shenzhen. In this enthusiastic rush for a modern city, sometimes a new skyscraper is built in a week, then swiftly and efficiently knocked down to allow for an even better, fresher model. With this attitude to city planning, the mass-produced ‘flat-pack’ skyscraper is becoming a reality, marauding disposably through China’s rapidly expanding new market economy cities.

"Contemplating the sheer scale of the urban landscapes being knocked together in China, my Golden Reaper sculpture stands bemusedly as a kitsch-ridden portent of doom and a parody on the materialistic values driving these unprecedented developments in human geography. This reaper has a clear reference to the deathly Grim Reaper and harvests the pre-existing old buildings with its scythe while simultaneously clearing land for sprouting skyscrapers.

"In a series of modular sculptures made out of cheap industrial materials – MDF and metallic papers manufactured in China’s Pearl River region – I am creating DIY kits that can be pulled apart and reassembled flat-pack style. The gold of the paper – traditionally a symbol of eternity and transcendence in Chinese iconography in addition to its pure market value as a metal – is offered as something of alchemical mirror-writing: it’s very shiny, but it’s actually meant to be read as a base metal.

"Snakeskin Invader is a disconcerting hybrid – with a “wild animal” surface and quadruped in form, it has a flat-pack structure, and like Golden Reaper, wields a weapon – in this case a machine wheel with finger-like protrusions. The familiar functionality of furniture is disconcertingly displaced; this object-thing conspires against easy interpretation, particularly the unnervingly visceral pink jointed-phallus-tail with silver go-faster stripes. It simultaneously evokes perverse Cronenbergian flesh and the metallic detail of a Miu Miu handbag.

"Like Golden Reaper, Snakeskin Invader sports a skin of decorative paper, and in addition has silver-leafed edges. This object presents an aesthetic of “bodged glamour”, the result is transitory, skin-deep and awkward, despite all its aspirations to modern shining elegance. MDF lies beneath, and none of the animal joints work – it is a toy-like representation but mutated beyond a playful size."

Karen Tang