Over time, the stories that make up a family’s legacy often evolve into something more akin to myth and legend. Lengthy narratives with playful quips and anecdotes are told at family gatherings, their words catalyzed by a visual reminder from a photograph or album. The picture feels inherently tied to these words, but on their own, without their accompanying storytellers, they are a mere fragment of a moment in time. For artist Feiyi Wen, the way we piece memories and legacy together is the starting point for her ongoing project Under the Yuzu Tree, which incorporates materials from her family archive, photographs, paper ephemera, texts, letters and video installations.
“I seek out traces of uncertain identity in my own family history,” she explains. “The investigation takes place through the fuzzy memories of family members’ oral stories. Through investigating family photographs, letters and other materials, I try to put the fragmental pieces together into some kind of cohesive entity.” The resulting images are a series of peculiar, other-worldly shots, akin to candid moments from an alternative dream world.
While the photographs span generations, they are bound together by their black and white aesthetic, and the differences between them are just as intentional as their monochrome similarities. “By mixing up different materials, I am testing the blurry distinction between documentation and fiction,” Wen explains. “In particular, I am looking into how the narrative is altered from memory through images, and how the ambiguous nature is contained within the everyday. Within the liminal space between time, space and history, I am interested in the interplay between autobiography and imagination.”
This black and white Lynchian world is seen in every setting, from the glimmer in a lake to an anonymous arm reaching through a curtain. Strange archival fragments are paired with contemporary photos mimicking a similar contrast of shadows, and all of them hint at a story that feels just out of reach. In particular, I’m looking into how we experience landscape, and how narrative alters memory through visual practice,” reflects Wen. “Combining found images, text, objects and my own photographic work, I am trying to explore the possibilities of cosmic relationships between humans, landscape and spiritual resonances.”