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zhao yanbin

through ashes and dust

11x14, gum bichromate on canvas

(in progress)

Through Ashes and Dust is a series of gum bichromate prints on canvases created from an archive of early certificates of Chinese immigrants in San Jose, California, issued during the years of Chinese Exclusion Act. In the paper, descriptions of physical appearance, occupation, as well as headshot are displayed for identification. Through a combination of digital manipulation and early photographic technique, Through Ashes and Dust constructs a negative space that contests and subverts the traditional role of identification by reducing the details to abstraction, revealing the substantial status of immigrants—faces positioned behind information, obscured, reduced to words, constantly scrutinized and governed by a western gaze. Over a century later, as otherness transforms into myth, the artifacts offer a portal to a haunted past, where the faces, fixed on the paper, linger in the space towards infinity.

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