Chuang, Liu b.1978 / Love Stories - 4
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Chuang, Liu b.1978 / Love Stories - 4Chuang, Liu b.1978 / Love Stories - 4Chuang, Liu b.1978 / Love Stories - 4
about this work
Love Story is composed of thousands of used pulp fiction novels rented or borrowed by young migrant workers in China’s boomtown Dongguan, where varieties of made-in-China commodities and knock-offs are manufactured. “The sappy cover illustrations, together with the printed and handwritten Chinese characters, telegraph a poignant sense of isolation and longing.” Roberta Smith once commented (New York Times, May 10th, 2013) on the occasion of “Love Story” New York debut in Frieze New York, 2013. Those anonymously scribbled notes fall into categories as such: confessional and family letters, personal diaries, poems, personal contacts and biographical info, daily memo, and doodles. They will be translated and hand-painted in form of enormous wall drawing as visual components of the site-specific installation. A mobile library of this specific literature and an offline facebook in the most classic and analog form, “Love Story” delivers a precise yet multifaceted portraiture of a young generation of Chinese.

“In 2005, I opened a handcraft factory in Dongguan, China1, which shut down after just one year. During that period, I spent a lot of time wandering around the factories in the surrounding area. Those factories mostly manufactured computers, electronics, clothing and shoes. The workers came from every part of China, mainly from villages and small cities. Their average age was about 20 and most of them were female. There were also many book rental shops in the factory districts and most of the books in these stores were love stories2. The rental fee for the books was quite cheap, costing about 2 RMB (about 33 cents) for deposit and 0.5 RMB (about 8 cents) per day to rent.

Many workers would rent a book after they got off work. These books were only half the size of a regular book and were small enough to fit in a pocket and very portable. In the beginning, I was interested in the characters and the history of these books. Taiwanese or Hong Kong writers wrote most of these books in Mandarin in the 1980s and the 1990s, which was the golden age for Taiwan and Hong Kong and new social classes were created.

These books met the cultural needs of these new social classes. As contemporary China developed and the industrial revolution took hold, they were imported to mainland China and soon attracted a much larger readership. They are considered low culture literature. Rarely translated into other languages, these books were mainly circulated within Mandarin speaking countries. I had tried to translate one of the books to English, which was my plan for the artist residency program at Gasworks, but I eventually gave up due to lack of time. Several years later, I wanted to re-create this work. I purchased all the books from a run down book rental shop, about 700 in total. When I looked through them, I found quite a large number of hand-written notes in the page margins. Some read like letters, which are really internal monologues, some look like diaries, others are the addresses of their hometowns or simply just scribbles.

Sometimes people would also write modern poems. But after reading them carefully, I think they are not actual poems. They could be copied from random phrases, or simply written words from their minds. It feels like fruit picking in an orchard, the fruits casually picked up and put into a basket. I looked very closely at these handwritings and found quite a few of them to be quite brilliant. Their command of the language really surprised me. They were much better than the tedious fictions of the love stories themselves. These anonymous readers were driven by a secret desire to write and share. They invented a space from the white margins of the pages. They wrote and read in these blank spaces. The whole process is silent and secret.

The writings propelled the micro-economy of book rentals and turned the book rental stores into a lower version of internet blogging. It was invented in a specific time and was temporary and lasted from 1990 to 2010, the same time as the Internet was developing and popularized in China. By 2010, when smart phones became popular, many these book rental stores shut down. People started to download books on cell phones, the same books that were in those now closed book stores.”

Text by Liu Chuang

Liu Chuang (b.1978, China)

Love Stories - 4, 2006-2014

Found books, artist-colored rocks, wooden platform and handwritten text on wall
30.48 x 238.76 x 111.76 cm.
12 x 94 x 44 in.
Provenance:
Salon 94, New York, US Current Location:
Hong Kong - S InstallationFar East

exhibitions

Art Basel Unlimited, presented by Salon 94 in collaboration with Leo Xu Projects
Hong Kong, China
June 2015

Liu Chuang: Love Story
Salon94, New York, US
May 2014 - June 2014

publications

Paul Teasdale, In Focus: Liu Chuang
Frieze (Online), March 2015
View Publication »

Zhang Hanlu, The Impulse to Scribble: On Liu Chuang’s “Love Story”
Randian (Magazine), December 2014

Venues Lau, Liu Chuang
Kaleidoscope (Magazine), Fall 2014

Artwork History
  • artist origin
  • provenance
  • current location
  • exhibitions
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