« Her work is a powerful, ambivalent evocation of spaces where success means obsolescence» - Frieze 26.08.2021
For the exhibition, Lap-See Lam has traveled around Sweden searching for old Chinese restaurants similar to the ones she grew up with. The artist has used 3D scanning, virtual reality, and animation to document and depict these ancient restaurants which are slowly disappearing. Using fiction as a tool and the distinctive aesthetics of interiors of Chinese restaurants as a formal language, Lap-See Lam makes us aware of the cultural history of these rooms and how the idea of a place constructs notions of cultural identity and belonging. Her work constitutes an expanded anthropological study that explores language, identity, and cultural histories with sculpture and VR technology. Chinese restaurants are a global phenomenon in the way they sell products and with their demographic style. These restaurants have been a familiar feature of Scandinavian cities since the late 1960s and have been considered a foreign and exotic alternative that is familiar to us.
"I have tried to understand the aesthetics of Chinese restaurants from a historical and sociocultural perspective, and less from a Eurocentric idea of taste. The first Swedish Chinese restaurants followed a successful "model" and the typical imperial interior design style can be traced to early Chinese restaurants in the United States, Canada, and Cantonese migration history. The décor both flirts with an exotic image of China and expresses cultural affinity"
The particular aesthetic arose when she scanned various restaurant interiors and converted them into digital environments. The result can be reminiscent of both ruins and memorials.
"My first idea was to make hyperrealistic reproductions of these spaces, but the scanner missed much information and created "errors" in the images, and I also had to convert the data in the computer to work with the heavy material. So in the post-production, the material behaved unexpectedly and created a ruin-like expression. Inevitably, I began to associate the images with shipwrecks, traces of fires, archaeological excavations, and dreams - the realistic image was no longer interesting. It was not conscious but something I chose to keep. The material and the loss of generation gave me a visual language to work with and think through."