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For his latest exhibition, “Man in a Jar,” Boston-based artist Paul Chan has installed a small metal container, empty but for two suitcases. The contents of one, contained in a similar pack but somehow still full, are unknown, but the other is covered with a similar case of personal effects—a suitcase, a drinking glass, a small child’s chair. This seems to be a collection of curiosities—personal effects of a private, not even familial nature. The personal nature of Chan’s objects has always been closely linked to the specific context in which they are encountered. In his recent exhibition, this theme was further articulated in two pieces. In the first work, Man in a Jar (all works cited, 2010), Chan hung two manila envelopes, each with a small child-size ball attached to its center. The letter S, which is printed with the word MANMA in red, green, and black, bears the weight of one of the letters contained within the letter, while the weight of the corresponding piece of luggage is not clearly indicated. The other piece, entitled Mailer, consists of a box that contains a rather large envelope, which is open to reveal a mass of carefully sorted mailers, neatly wrapped and sent by some person to another address. The contents of this box are unknown, but the fact that some envelopes are mismatched with others—that some are clearly marked for others to take—indicates that some have been deliberately misfiled. The idea of manila envelopes as a sort of portable universal language is a recurrent motif in Chan’s work, and is particularly evident in the large-format photographs that comprise the installation Man in a Jar. The artist also exhibits two other pieces, entitled Two Personal Folds, and Exhibit A, both of which are made of a metal plate covered with photomascapes of his own body. These works offer a humorous commentary on the notion that we constantly produce our own versions of ourselves, our own personal fates.


Generated from the "Artforum, June 1, 1962 - January 3, 2020" dataset, used in the article "Affect as a Service."

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