The traditional names for joss paper money from which these works derived are: 九金, meaning nine gold and 刈金, meaning cut gold. 刈, while it literally means cut, it can also be taken to mean mow or harvest—in essence to care for and maintain. In Chinatown, many houses are literally cut, run down, in desperate need of repair. But as they are cut, residents in those houses reap what they can from their environment, caring and maintaining their living quarters as a proper home. They create beauty from hardship.
In Japan there is a practice of repairing broken ceramics and lacquer ware with gold, treating the breakage of the object as well as the repair as a part of this object’s history, as something to be accentuated and not covered up. Inspired by this tradition, called kintsugi, I wanted to include threads of gold to tie some of the cut seams of the houses together, relating Chinatown residents’ maintenance and care for their homes as a social and metaphorical kintsugi.
The paper-cast houses used to create 刈家 cut houses were originally made for a previous art project in collaboration with fellow artist and friend, Jennifer Harley, in which we cast hundred of paper houses and installed them along the boundary of a historically redlined neighborhood. These paper houses were destroyed by an unknown bystander, who mowed the houses down with his bicycle (so we are told) when we weren’t keeping a close watch of the installation. The history of these houses is of being broken and then repaired and repurposed.
As for 九家 nine houses, I took the word nine from 九金 nine gold in a direct way and cast nine, New York-style brownstones out of cotton and linen fibers mixed with joss paper remnants. I wanted to include the joss paper within this cast to relate to the practice of burning elaborate joss paper for ancestors and deities. In China it has become common to even burn paper replicas of iPhones and laptops so that these modern electronics can be given as offerings to the dead. I liked the idea of carefully constructing these nine homes into something that could be burned and offered in a ritual practice for better fortune in another life.