Dezeen Magazine

Silent Heroes: Objects, as told by Zhou Xun

Silent Heroes: Objects, as told by Zhou Xun

Beijing Design Week 2011: here are some pictures of an exhibition curated by Beijing Design Week's creative director Aric Chen, where the childhood possessions of a Chinese actress were arranged beside illustrations of piecharts and explosions.

Silent Heroes: Objects, as told by Zhou Xun

Zhou Xun's humble furniture and objects were interspersed between household items from local residents at the Silent Heroes exhibition, which was located in the festival hub at Dashilar Alley.

Silent Heroes: Objects, as told by Zhou Xun

Each object on show was chosen to reveal something beautiful about everyday life in China. Items included a rusty bed, a set of bamboo steamers, wooden chairs and an emerald green tiled floor.

Silent Heroes: Objects, as told by Zhou Xun

Suspended plywood screens adorned with the sketches by Chinese illustrators Ray Lei and Chai Mi surrounded the exhibited items.

Silent Heroes: Objects, as told by Zhou Xun

See more stories from Beijing Design Week here, including our roundup of highlights.

Silent Heroes: Objects, as told by Zhou Xun

The exhibition was designed by Liang Jingyu and Andreas Varvin of Beijing studio Approach Architecture.

Photography is by Eric Gregory Powell.

Here's some more information from the festival organisers:

Silent Heroes: Objects, as told by Zhou Xun

Exhibition offers an intimate look into the actress’s life, and the richness to be found in common things.

BEIJING - Part of 2011 Beijing Design Week (BJDW), Silent Heroes: Objects, as told by Zhou Xun, is one of the highlights of Dashilar Alley, a series of exhibitions, talks, workshops and pop-up shops concentrated in Beijing’s historic Dashilar neighborhood, just south of Tiananmen Square.

Curated by Aric Chen, BJDW’s creative director, the exhibition assembles common objects from the childhood of Zhou Xun, one of China’s most acclaimed and admired actresses. Through intimate, first-person texts and audio recordings, Zhou shares her recollections of these otherwise unassuming things, which have been borrowed from her family in Quzhou, Zhejiang Province: her great-grandmother’s chair; a set of steamers marked with her grandfather’s unusual name, Meng Qiu (“Dream” and “Ball”); a washstand that became a symbol of romance and family affection; the bed where Zhou learned to dream on her own.

“On the surface, these objects might not appear to be especially remarkable. But through Zhou’s heartfelt storytelling, one begins to see their inherent richness,” says Chen. “I think it’s clear to most people that, as China continues its rush towards newness, something is being lost. We hope this exhibition will encourage a greater appreciation of older things, no matter how humble they might at first seem.”

Chen continues: “It’s not just temples and palaces, and books and paintings, that preserve culture; it’s also the implements of daily life. There’s a beauty and authenticity to be found in the imperfections that come with age, which is why this exhibition’s location in Dashilar is especially appropriate.”

For centuries, Dashilar was the lively, thriving commercial heart of Beijing. While it retains much of its character, the area has in recent decades experienced significant decline. The exhibitions, pop-up shops and other events of Dashilar Alley are part of a broader, longer-term effort to revitalize the area in a way that is more sensitive to its existing buildings, urban fabric, and local community.

Accordingly, Silent Heroes ends with objects chosen from the lives of current- day residents of Dashilar, who have generously shared their stories as well.

Throughout the exhibition, both Zhou’s objects and the Dashilar residents’ are inserted within imaginary worlds drawn by Ray Lei and Chai Mi, two of China’s most talented young illustrators. Alongside the texts and audio recordings, these drawings aim to elaborate the meanings that lend the objects their resonance—giving voice to many “silent heroes.”

“Although life is busy, we still need to appreciate those unassuming objects from our common history, to treasure those ‘silent heroes’ in our lives,” says Zhou. “For me, this was a new experience. And I hope to share more in the future.”

The exhibition is generously supported by Diesel.