Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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The Past Is Another Country

The Past is Another Country: tofu skin installation

Tofu skin when fresh has the texture of canvas, then shrinks as it dries into brittle sculptural forms, shaped by the environment. Commonly used in dishes in China, it is colorless, tasteless, and takes on the flavors of whatever is added to it. 

"The Past Is Another Country" takes the form of two maps carved from tofu skin, backwards as if in reflection. They explore commonalities between China and the US, and the many diverse 'minority' cultures within them, many of which were incorporated into modern nation-states by force. Phrases (most expressing ambivalence towards the dominant state) in indigenous languages were carved into tofu skin, then left to dry, warp, and transform into a fragile state. The artwork was installed in an exhibition of Chinese and International artists in Beijing's 798 Art District. 

Installation views from C-Creative Space in Beijing's 798 arts district

Detail US Map, a tribute to Chinese laborers who built railways across the US:

 railroad curled

Continental US

backwards america on blue

Mainland China

backwards china on blue 

Detail, languages common in Xinjiang province, in what is today Northwest China:

curling northeastern china

Detail, Tibetan, commonly used in what is now 'Chinese Sichuan' and Tibet:

peace tibetan