Hundred Surnames in Tofu by Chen Qiulin (陳秋林). 2004-2014.
Hundred Surnames in Tofu is a video installation consisting of
100 screens, documenting over a decade of work. Chen Qiulin records the entire process of carving the 100 most
common Chinese surnames in tofu, displaying them on a Sichuan road, and the decay of the tofu along the way.
This installation is part of the artist’s 10 years of continuous interest in tofu as a medium. Tofu was chosen for this series of works
because of its perishable and volatile shape and its importance to Chinese
national cuisine. Tofu has the highest global awareness as a traditional Chinese
food, with a culinary history of over 2000 years. It is also the most
prominent protein source in Chinese cuisine, as well as one of the most symbolic.
Having a history of 3000 years since ancient Chinese civilization, surnames in China contain cultural history,
identification and inheritance for families. Chinese people name this complex group of
ancient Chinese surnames, The Hundred Surnames.
Through the tofu’s process of composition and
deterioration, Chen explores themes of identity loss, memory and consumption of
fading traditional Chinese culture in a rapidly developing modern society. (See
Chen’s interview about the installation here)
Chen, born on 1975 in Yichang, Hubei Province, is a
photography, video and performance multimedia artist. She is currently based in
Chengdu, Sichuan Province. As part of China’s emerging generation of artists,
Chen explores the process and repercussions of China’s rapid push for economic
and political reform. Her artworks reflect themes of forced migration and
displacement, often visualizing the destruction of daily life in rural areas as
a result of progressive urbanization. Having experienced the violent effects
from the construction of the Three Gorges Dam to Sichuan Province,
her art focuses on generating hope and creating stability to disrupted
communities. With 15 years of artistry, Chen gained global reputation as an
emerging artist with works that deal with increasingly relevant political and