E Chen

November 13, 2001 - January 27, 2002

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Working model for United Paper

Paper and products.

E Chen's installation is built completely from products purchased at stores, still housed in their original boxes. Using objects that inhabit our daily lives and spaces, Chen creates his vision of a new consumer-driven architectural world.

Organized by Alex Farquharson, an independent curator and critic based in London, who contributes regularly to Frieze and Art Monthly.

About the Exhibition

By Alex Farquharson

A few weeks before the opening of his installation for the Hammer Museum, E Chen's studio is full of blank cardboard boxes of various sizes. Odd parts of their contents - ordinary appliances - poke through, or can be viewed through, the one or two apertures that have been cut into most of the boxes. The bits that are revealed are the ones that interface with our bodies: the parts we grip, press, or pull. Chen has made each object generic by erasing its brand identity. He's archieved this by simply turning its packaging inside-out and refitting it around the object, generally reducing a box's volume to allow for the suggestive protrusions. Denuded of logos, lists of attributes, flattering photographs, and other exaggerated signifiers of worth, the boxes become mere structures: cubes drawn around irregular objects, with internal planes to nestle the contents in place. The boxes may be read as miniaturized units of ergonomic modern architecture. They make the objects inside resemble people in rooms, albeit squashed people in too-small rooms.

The boxed objects have other, more archaic connotations as well. The pale brown blocks suggest slabs of stone. We may imagine that these stones have been eroded to reveal entombed objects. We might try to discern the function of these objects and then, through inference, arrive at some defining characteristics of the society that made and used them. Yet these aren't potsherds, bits of weaponry, and funerary paraphernalia, but rather microwaves, jug kettles, diapers, television sets, desk lamps, and saucepans. For a moment we might forget why we have any need for them; by removing these objects from their ordinary context, Chen makes us anthropologists of our own lives. More


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