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Chen Qiulin

Updated: Mar 1, 2019


Artist 67

Chen Qiulin Multimedia The Hundred Surnames in Tofu, 2014


Chen Qiulin (born 1975) works primarily with the moving image but also performance, photography and installation. Interested in reality for ‘ordinary’ people living in China today, in her practice she explores notions of memory, social injustice, rapid development and displacement while capturing a sense of nostalgia, confusion and hope.


In any medium you like, Chen Qiulin makes beautiful and poignant work addressing the process and results of urbanization outside of an urban context.



Much of her work highlights its violent and barreling effects on rural areas in her native Sichuan province, though she also makes gestures to generate hope and return stability to disrupted communities.


Today’s focus is on the artwork installation the titled One Hundred Surnames in Tofu, where (as the name would suggest) the hundred most-common Chinese family names are carved in tofu.

She carved the most common Chinese last names from tofu, one of the country's most common food staples, and displayed them along a Sichuan road.



The project is based on themes of migration and how displacement and urban development disrupt traditional ancestry, culture and way of life. Such themes resonate with many members of Shepparton’s diverse migrant populations.


Chen created scents to accompany the carving of the tofu .



“The ability of a smell to remind you of somewhere else is something that I think is really key to Chen’s work,” says Rebecca Coates, director of the Shepparton Art Museum. “This installation is a similar experience to when you walk through a marketplace. You have this onslaught of perfumes, scents and aromas, and you try to decipher what’s what. It’s exactly like a smell test.”


I love the idea of using a local delicacy to reflect how humans fragility and transience. By combining different scents in her art it achieves a different part of the brain and creates a stimulating experience. She uses scent, by using food taste and the visuals. A beautiful example of multimedia art.





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