Since 2018, Beichen Zhang has been investigating the history and circulation pathways of Chinese artefacts in American museums, in an attempt to unveil complications and contradictions in how historical narratives and cultural identities are constructed.
This project is a visual manifestation of his critical inquiry, delineating the migration of a Han dynasty coffin fragment, its colonial background, and the interplay of power dynamics within American institutional museum collections.
The project title references the journey travelled by an artefact (Object#40-35-4) from the Shandong province in China, to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in the United States.
Presented as a photographic archive reimagining an artefact exhibition, the narrative dissects the key practices amongst museum institutions in identifying, collecting and disseminating cultural artefacts. It reveals how certain historical narratives inadvertently end up being neglected, rewritten or obscured as relics get reorganised and recontextualised across different cultural settings.
This series aims to question and subvert the conventional perspective of museums and cultural spaces as neutral spaces where artefacts are stored and viewed, and form new sites of discussion that interrogate the power dynamics and ideological functions inherent within.
Curated by He Yining