Burning is an exploration of memory as I create and burn books made of Chinese incense paper, critiquing ritual and belief, and the relationship that binds them. 


In 2023, I moved to New York after having lived in Hong Kong for almost a decade. Whenever I felt homesick, I would burn one of the paper books I made, reliving the memory of the first book I burned in Hong Kong.Each book would go up in flames and disappear into thin air, clarifying and materialising fleeting memories which I hoped to preserve. With every burn and disappearance of each book, memories and intentions are reinforced and solidified. Burning books soon became a ritual for me to remember, leading to the re-invention and meaning of the rite that I created for myself. 

The act of burning in this project references the centuries-old Chinese ritual in which representations of the physical world are made with incense paper and transferred to the departed in the afterlife through the ritual of burning. However, the meaning of the ritual in this project is re-invented through the process of constructing and designing each book. Each burn acquires its intended meaning over time, deviating from the traditional rite of burning and becoming a new ritual with its own purpose and intentions. 

Rituals connect us from the present to hundreds or even thousands of years in the past, creating new meaning as they are passed from one generation to another. In the West, burning is often associated with notions of purification and cleansing of impurities. In the East, burning is often ritualized as a form of remembrance. 

However, the meanings and intentions behind these rituals are constantly re-invented. Historically, the Chinese burn paper offerings with the belief that incense paper, when lit with fire, would transfer manifestations of the physical into the afterlife. Today, people conduct these rituals mostly as an expression of love to those who have passed away; they are expressions to remember and be remembered, a way of connecting present generations with hundreds of generations in the past, from one place to another. Burning explores and critiques this critical relationship between ritual and belief, and how they evolve together or fall apart; it suggests that ritual and belief are not intrinsically tied together, but evolve based on social needs. 

Burning weaves modern day constructions with centuries-old rites, questioning the relationship between belief and ritual. It expands upon traditional notions of filial piety, mythology, the afterlife and generations past, to broader meanings about remembrance, absence, and identity in the present.

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