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Chen, Mu: Home

Artists' Books

Mu Chen

Mu Chen, Shao Yinong
Art Library Rare Books Collection: CS 1169 .M823 M8 2002 box 19.2

An excerpt from "The Photobook: A History, Volume II" by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger: "Family Register [uses] the family portrait to reclaim or summon up a history that has been lost or disrupted... [But] the idea of the family suggested by the title should not be taken too literally: this is not a documentary history but a work of art, an imaginative and metaphorical reconstruction of Shao Yinong's lost family tree, a myth, a family 'saga'. Mu Chen and Shao Yinong tracked down as many of the existing family members as they could, and photographed them wearing a Mao jacket over their ordinary clothes; the jacket signifies revolution and loss of self, while the clothes beneath indicate tradition and individuality...The 'modern' medium of the photograph is mounted on a continuous accordion fold-out page, recalling the traditional Chinese scroll-painting format. Alongside each photograph — generally a portrait of the snap-shot or identity-card type — first-hand accounts of the family history of those portrayed are presented in the form of extensive texts that replicate the objectivity of an anthropologist's field notes." In much the same way that Christian Boltanski's Kaddish does, Family Register "searches for a way in which the photographic image can be utilized imaginatively to explore identity and conjure up the collective and individual histories written in a series of faces." —