They say that pictures are worth a thousand words. These antiques live down at Mu Lan Warehouse, a two hours away trip by metro and bus from the center of Shanghai. Spiced up by layers of dust and erosion, by dirt and hundreds of engraved fingerprints, they routinely inhabit an old, covert secondhand store in a space forgotten by the fast pace of the big city’s hustle and bustle. The spirit of these objects’ previous owners live on through them. The lives, stories and trajectories of their owners are deep inside the core of the antiques. At the same time, these broken down, malfunctioning and in a way ‘dead’ items tell a story of their own existence. They have a life of their own and possess an acting energy, a life force to call it so, that exercises an influence on owners. Of course, the owners had an agency of their own that guided the trajectories of the objects.
In a material culture world, these articles are more than lifeless things, they are actors that impose their will on people and spaces. What might their stories and histories be?
Their beauty and uniqueness lies in the dust that covers them, in their cracks, in the faded paint, in the fingerprints that touched them. Antiques have soul or a multiplicity of souls that can touch your inner self, your life, your space, your house. They come with a vibe that bounces back and forth between past, present and future. Antiques kick ass in comparison to new, mass-produced, hollow items.
I don’t want to make a case about how sustainable it would be if we were to adopt these antiques and give them a new home, instead of buying new articles all the time, whose production requires the use of too many resources!
But let’s imagine the stories of the antiques in the pictures!
Female silhouette frame:
The deceased Mr. Weng Zhou purchased the object at a flea market during a business trip to Beijing on the 12th of September 1955. He hid it in a secret compartment of his brown leather suitcase and never revealed it to anyone. When he got back home to Guangzhou, in the middle of the night, he locked it up in the drawer of his desk. He was fascinated by the female silhouette, attracted by its shapes and by its apparent nudity. He imagined its nudity, he played with it. Every midnight he would slip out of his matrimonial bed and go to his desk, take out the female silhouette, gaze at it for hours on end and get lost in imaginary scenes of passion and perversion. His wife was a shy lady that never wanted to experience anything new in bed and had a totally conservative notion of what their sex life should be. The female silhouette incited Mr. Zhou’s and his midnight fantasies made up for his wife’s lack of imagination. When Mr. Zhou died, his children inherited his possessions and decided to get rid of the ‘useless’ decorative objects. They frowned when they found the female silhoutte and threw it in a bin never to talk about it again. The female silhoutte was meant to burn with a pile of rubbish in an incinerator outside of Guangzhou. However, the antique collector, nicknamed Tintin (yes, like the Belgian comic book character) rescued it during one of his collection journeys and brought it back to his Shanghai store.
My name’s Jack the Ripper. I killed a few, but I also gave birth to a few…books, satires, novels, poems, letters, newspaper articles, love notes, etc. My keys moved with the speed of light from morning ’til dawn, at very odd moments. I slept very little, if at all. I never took a rest and I almost never had time to replace my ink. My life was long and painful, whereas my friends, the poor paper sheets, were regularly doomed, destined to die as soon as they were picked up by my master’s fingers. During my entire lifetime, I gave birth to 3 novels, 4 love letters, 12 break-up letters, 3 satires, 55 poems, one nonfiction book and a bunch of newspaper articles. Should I be content? I killed, ripped, cut the throat and abdomens of other 113 letters, 12 novels, 5 books, 89 poems, 27 love notes and 43 newspaper article. I am surely an innate murderer. Despite, my life was nothing but miserable. I fretted the writing pace of my master, he struck me down various times, he tossed me in the middle of the room, he threatened to burn me and terrorized me with abandonment. He poured whiskey on me, he smashed glasses of wine on my keys, he took out the letters he hated, he punished me for his writer’s block and every second day he would pathetically apologize to me. He liked to call me “The industrial-strength machine” since I was highly resistant to his constant abuses. I felt more like ‘Jack the ripper’, guilty and full of shame. Of course I wasn’t psychotic, but one day I couldn’t take my master’s temper anymore and I broke down for good. He put me out angrily in the middle of the road, hoping that a car would run me over and smash me into little pieces, However, his will was not to be. It so happened that Tintin saw me when he was crossing Wuding Lu, picked me up and took me to his antique store with the taxi. I get peace, company and a lot of affection from visitors in the store. Look, I was even given a voice by a visitor and now hundreds of people will get to see me and know my story. Boy, I am happy!
Can you imagine the stories of the other objects in the pictures?