“My friends say I’m creepy,” Xiwen Zhu told me when we met to discuss her upcoming show at Non-Fiction Gallery, Mined Matter. The show (opening November 7 at 7pm) certainly has its moments of disquiet, that’s for sure. At first glance Zhu’s mixed media works appear to be collections of personal ephemera. Maybe the old family photos she incorporates are taken from a complex childhood; maybe the stuffed animals now kept safe in the annexes of her art objects belonged to her and her siblings. Each piece seems to tell the story of a memory intensely personal to the artist. But this isn’t the case. As the show’s title suggests, these objects have been mined from the lives of others.
Zhu scours thrift stores and crawls Google Images for photos and objects that she can re-appropriate into works that don’t represent intimacy – they replicate it. “Other people’s memories are surrogate reflections of all of our lives,” she writes in her artists’ statement. The works in Mined Matter (affectionately referred to as ‘memento boxes’) are manipulated memories and manufactured fictions created to explore and question the notion of familiarity.
Zhu is notorious for keeping tight-lipped about her art; the closest she comes to discussing her concepts is talking about other people’s reactions to her pieces. If she’s honest, she told me, she isn’t truly interested in concepts, just ideas. “While my work is the result of specific choices, it is open-ended. Everyone should make their own statement about the artwork,” Zhu says.
Mined Matter will be on view at Non-Fiction Gallery from November 7 -11. The opening reception is on November 7 from 7-10pm. Click here to visit Xiwen Zhu’s website and see more of her work.