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Canton Girl in the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Archival B/W inkjet print on canvas, acrylic paint, plastic zip-ties

[The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2017.]

Re-colouring the Canton Girl photograph with zip-ties, I question the power and representation of these colonial imagery and the shifting symbols intertwined with the complex intersections of social-political history, material culture, and gender identity.

In search of traces of Hong Kong—my home—within foreign fabrics in a museum collection, the results I found are distant. I use a pseudo from of embroidery in response to the deficiency of early photographic techniques—the impossibility to record colours. The work negotiates with the novelty, power, and violence involved in the representation and formality of these hand-coloured female portraits. 

Bridging the realms of high and low archives, lots of made-in-Hong Kong plastic and textile commodities were found on eBay. The choice of plastic material for the pseudo embroidery on this particular portrait dated 1868 is an attempt to bridge the two colonial era of Hong Kong found in America.


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