Organized by Laura Demers and the plumb
Presented in collaboration with J-Spot Gallery
February 5 - March 16, 2021
Baskets Blighted (2020) is composed of three variations of hand-made baskets that convey the loss and destruction of intergenerational knowledge. Basketry is a technique that is slowly dwindling away, particularly in Chen's father’s hometown of Shouning, Fujian province. As the deep impact of globalization and mass-production increases more each year, there is a growing lack of effort—or perceived need—to recultivate this traditional skill. Such baskets are vessels that are only done by hand; no machine can replicate the woven structure and handwork involved in the process. In Braiding Sweetgrass, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer explains how Birch bark baskets woven by members of her community are priced to reflect the labour and craft inherent to their making:
People think it’s just basket weaving, but 80 percent of the work comes long before you weave. With finding the tree, pounding and pulling [at the birch bark] and all, you barely make minimum wage. (Kimmerer, 147)
This quote highlights the tedious and meticulous labour that is not factored into the capitalist mode of production. The steps between obtaining the raw material by peeling the outer layer of the tree and the final product are numerous.
The technique used to create these three particular baskets was gleaned from digital platforms; simultaneously creating and learning. The use of silicone and incense alludes to the depreciated value of basketry, and the resulting dissipation of intergenerational knowledge. The incense acts as a medium of decay, slowly eating away at the form. The silicone drives the basket to perform as a sieve, filtering what is left to learn.
Materials: Round + Flat Reed, Tomato Supporter, Bamboo Stool, Silicone, Incense Mix (Coal Powder, Cinnamon, Gum Arabic, Canola Oil), Metal Rods