Ali Baba's cave

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On the day I arrived in Jinze, I immediately heard about the Dutch neighbour of the artist residency. I had the opportunity to see a few pictures taken by some of previous artists who were able to visit him.

Just by looking at the pictures made me want to go there right away. I was excited to see all these vintage pieces from the Dutch neighbour’s collection in person.

We eventually went to see the place one week later. It exceeded my expectations. The time and space points of reference were definitely lost. Many of the 19th-century antiques on display came from French castles and churches. 

What a small world! I never would have imagined that in a far-flung village in China, I would discover a multitude of furniture, paintings, sculpture pieces from my country thousands of miles away.

After going through two big warehouses filled with European antiques, the Dutch neighbour invited us for coffee and mooncakes in another building decorated with Chinese antiques. I could not believe my eyes. 

There I saw furniture made of sandalwood, sculptures made of ivory, and vases and furniture created for Chinese emperors. These were way too much for me take in. He then showed us 2,000-year old potteries that were found in graves. These potteries were the oldest pieces he owns. Ancient Chinese people, like the Pharaohs in Egypt, buried their beloved with a lot of objects in case they might need them in their next life.

During that first visit, I could not take photos because I was too overwhelmed. I asked to come back on my own the next day to take pictures at my own pace. So, I was back again in Ali Baba’s cave.  But despite taking so many pictures, nothing really clicked. Was it the chaotic sensation of having so many stories in the same space? I do not know, but actually inspiration did not come to me. I could not find my own narration amongst them.

Fortunately, I had the chance to go back inside his place ten days later as one of my co-residents was actually working on a big artistic installation in one of his warehouses. I often visited to see the progress of his work. 

A few days before I left, I went again and inspiration suddenly struck me. After taking pictures of co-resident Benjamin Buhl’s installation, I headed to one of the warehouses where they had set up a small photo studio.

I started to play around and made up unlikely associations of objects I found around me. I was feeling like a little girl discovering more and more treasures. Here was an El Quijote sculpture, then I found an old accordion, a hunting horn, and many, many Chinese vases. It was incredibly inspiring!

One after another, I created sculptures as if I was writing little stories. I assembled the memories of different origins and styles. I provoked encounters that might have never occurred in real life. I gave a second life to things that were once used as signs of distinction and that suffered a long descent towards oblivion.

In the end, these sculptures spoke about change, about the social decadence of a high status that could not be sustained anymore. 

Change is a big thing in Asia. Based on the traditional representation of Yin-Yang, I imagined the Fragmented Memories photo series with black or white backgrounds to reinforce the transformation that permeates life.