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beijing design week   silent heroes : zhou xun
original content
sep 30, 2011
beijing design week silent heroes : zhou xun


‘washstand’ and ‘chamber pot’, part of the ‘silent heroes’ exhibition curated by aric chen for beijing design week 2011

curated by beijing design week’s creative director aric chen, ‘silent heroes: objects, as told by zhou xun’
takes everyday objects as a point of departure for a reflection on the value of day-to-day life.
items have been selected from the childhood things of chinese actress zhou xun, as well as from the lives
of current residents of beijing’s historic dashilar district where the exhibition is located during beijing design week 2011.

each piece is contextualized within an imaginary world created by the image installations of illustrators
ray lei and chai mi, alongside textual and audio narratives that relate the real history of each object.


gallery view


entryway to the exhibition


additional view


installation by illustrators ray lei and chai mi


‘slippers and comb’, chosen by 60-year-old retired hospital administrative worker shao xiuling

the exhibition calls to mind the narratives and life stories that hide behind the artifacts of our everyday life.

those ordinary objects not selected by zhou xun were chosen by residents of dashilar. shao xiuling, for example, a 60-year-old
retired hospital administrative worker who has lived in the region for 35 years, chose a pair of slippers and a comb, reflecting:
I started working in 1971, and my salary was 16 yuan per month. I don’t remember how much they were– 2.5 or 2.7 yuan–
but I got these slippers on sale one day. given my salary, it was a luxury. I can say I’ve made good use of them:
I’ve had them for 40 years.

the comb likewise comes with entire history: ‘I was too shy to get a perm at the beauty salon [in the 70s when they were popular]
but I wanted to look nice. So I spent 0.2 yuan buying this aluminum comb. after washing my hair, I’d heat it over the stove,
then curl my hair myself. later, my daughter dropped it in the public bath, and 4 teeth went missing. now my grandson
is five years old, which means the teeth have been missing for at least twenty years
.’


textual accounts on the walls relate the story behind each object on exhibition


the tile floor


‘bed’, chosen by actress zhou xun

actress zhou xun’s explanation of the inclusion of her childhood bedframe:

the first time I slept alone was in this bed. because I was an only child, my parents wanted me to learn independence early on.
I remember my mother putting a picture of nine kittens on the wall of my small bedroom; I cried in front of it that first night.
my parents’ response was, ‘well, maybe let her cry a little.’ I started sleeping alone after that. […] this bed felt like my own
little world; it’s where I started thinking my own thoughts, and where my imagination grew.


gallery view of ‘certificates of merit’


‘certificates of merit’, from zhou xun’s childhood


additional view of the space

you may also be interested in designboom’s interview with aric chen,
creative director of beijing design week 2011 and curator of ‘silent heroes’.

from september 26th through october 3rd, 2011, designers and thinkers from across the world gather in beijing, china
for  beijing design week and beijing international design triennial. exhibitions, conferences, workshops and lectures
across the city address the theme of ‘design beijing – good design’ for the nine-day event, which looks to transform
the ubiquity of ‘made in china’ to ‘designed in china’.

beijing design week is presented by the ministry of culture, ministry of education, the china federation of literary
and art circles, and the municipal government of beijing, in collaboration this year with tsinghua university.

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