Red Oil Wontons 红油抄手

2015

Serial glitch prints and installation

This series of image degradation is generated by repeatedly saving a JPEG image of a bowl of red oil. Everytime a jpeg is saved as a copy, there will be a certain level of loss of pictorial information. The loss multiplied by several generations of copies creates the change of image quality from realistic and detailed, to abstract and coarse. The number that follows each print's title indicates its generation.


This project was originally created for installation in 2015. The print came in the size of 11.5”x16". The installation spanned along a hallway wall and center-aligned on the vertical axis. I selected 10 prints out of the 5000 generated prints. Each print is 40 generations away from the next one to show an even sampling interval.


This project was originally created for installation in 2015. The print came in the size of 11.5”x16". The installation spanned along a hallway wall and center-aligned on the vertical axis. I selected 10 prints out of the 5000 generated prints. Each print is 40 generations away from the next one to show an even sampling interval.


In the installation configuration, each print is printed twice with seperated captions in English and in Chinese. Besides, indicating the title of each print, the English caption says "Wonton is a Cantonese phrase. Image names are automatically generated through Shell script." The Chinese caption says “抄手是一个四川词汇。图片名字由手动逐一修改而成。" ( Chaoshou is a Sichuanese phrase. Image names are transcribed manually, individually.)


The compression and degradation of pictorial information reminds me of the way language is shaped through translation. Whenever you see "Red Oil Wontons" in a menu, it usually refers to a Sichuanese style dumpling dish. "Red Oil"(红油) refers to chili oil. "Wontons" (云吞) refers to the dumplings. However, "Wonton" is not a phrase that appears in Sichuanese dialect. It is actually a dumpling variant in Cantonese cuisine. In literal translation, the phrase stands for "Swallowing cloud". The term could have been made to describe the thinness of the dumpling skin, or it was the simplification writing of the phonetically-identical term, “馄饨” ( wɐn3 tɐn1 ). The original name of the Sichuanese dish is 红油抄手 ( Red Oil Chaoshou ). "Chaoshou" literally translates to "Crossing hands ( in front of one's chest )". There are two possible explanations for this name. Either it's describing the folds of the dumplings that resemble a pair of crossing arms, or it's referring to the ease of cooking -- the chef could simply toss in the dumpling and wait while crossing their arms.


When the dish is translated in the English menu, the nuance is erased and the origins are collapsed. Using Wonton / Chaoshou as a vehicle, this work draws connections between linguistic obscurity that is resulted in the process of translation and mediation, and the pictorial abstraction created in the process of compressing digital files.












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