When displayed, as here in the 2001 Liang Sicheng Architectural Design Biennale, the suitcase lies open on the floor to reveal frame-supported fabric, cut and engineered to resemble architectural elements of the Chinese cityscape. The small, rumpled, and soft structures interject the alienating modern megacity with the domestic intimacy of human wear and dwelling. Made from clothing once worn by the artist and her family members, the piece represents Beijing as a ring of buildings circling the open green space of a stretched shirt. Pulled inward, the sleeve leads the viewer’s eye down to a macro lens that displays in miniature a map of the city circa 1949 affixed to the bottom of the suitcase. A speaker inside plays Beijing opera sung by elderly amateurs recorded in Shichahai Park, a popular public space north of the Forbidden City that by 2001 had been flooded with trendy restaurants, bars, and bicycle rickshaw tours of hutong alleyways. Portable Beijing was the first in what became a series titled Portable Cities. It also represents Yin Xiuzhen's continued use of clothing subjected to deconstruction and reconstruction as part of her artistic process. An early example is her piece Woolen Sweaters (1995).
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