For this exhibition, Lam has collaborated innovatively with industrial technology companies. She has produced a unique 3D scan of the Chinese Pavilion in Stockholm and performed a broad study with sinologists and curators at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, which has lent Bonniers Konsthall one object from its collection.
In her new work Dreamers’ Quay (2022), visitors accompany the teenager A’Yan through a time portal. A large-scale shadow play takes us from the 1970s Chinese restaurant back to the 18th century and an era characterised by Chinoiserie and the early relations between Canton and Sweden. The shadow play is Lam’s take on an ancient form of visual storytelling, to which she has added new technology such as advanced projection mapping on a surface that creates an optical illusion. Lam is fascinated by the shadow play, which was brought to Europe from China in the mid-18th century by returning merchants, as its French name, ombres chinoises (Chinese shadows) indicates.
This work is the final piece in a trilogy that includes Phantom Banquet (2019–2021) and Mother’s Tongue (in collaboration with Wingyee Wu, 2018). All three parts relate to and are set in and around the Chinese restaurant, in an exploration of historical notions of China. In Phantom Banquet, visitors are placed at a set banquet table, with a decorative blossoming cherry tree, where they experience digitally manipulated visualisations of Chinese restaurants and a narrative about imagined and metaphorical spaces through a VR headset.
These works are based on an ongoing project in which Lap-See Lam is performing a 3D documentation of famous typical Chinese restaurants in Sweden before they close or are sold and remodelled. The project began when Lam’s parents sold their restaurant Bamboo Garden in Stockholm. Her desire to preserve her memories of the restaurant interior, coupled with a curiosity to learn 3D scanning sparked a process that eventually developed into an artistic practice focusing largely on exploring the image of China in Swedish cultural history. 3D scanning technology is far from perfect, but the flaws and defects leave room for Lam to move the settings beyond time and space, into another dimension.
The dragon ship Floating Restaurant Sea Palace is also featured in the exhibition. Built in Shanghai according to imperial drawings, it docked in Sweden in 1991. After fruitless attempts to use it as a floating Chinese restaurant, the vessel was left at Dreamers’ Quay in Gothenburg. Today, it serves as a haunted house at the Gröna Lund amusement park, where it is described as “A ship from the Orient with an ancient curse”. The exhibition also features a new series of works, Dreamers’ Quay (Singing Chef Suits), consisting of paper costumes that Lam has folded by hand, inspired by traditional Chinese paper folding technic and votive gifts in Joss paper, and a selection of earlier works, such as the neon sculpture Phantom Banquet Ghost (2019).