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Wen-You Cai: Minnan Exit

Wen-You Cai: Minnan Exit


Cai documents her family’s traditional Chinese funerals with both grief and reverence

New York–based artist Wen-You Cai (born 1989) is the founder of Special Special and the author of When You Make No Art, a memoir about growing up with her father, artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Since 2015, Wen-You Cai has returned multiple times to her parents' hometown of Quanzhou, Fujian, to attend the funerals of relatives. The ceremonies in the Minnan region unfold like grand dramas in which she is both an observer and a participant. Throughout the ceremony, Wen-You is enveloped in the unknown; everything seems meticulously arranged. Amid the overwhelming grief of losing loved ones, there exists a feeling of confusion, and taking photographs was a way for her to engage in the funeral process. For this photo series, Wen-You was initially confronted by her own fear of death, intertwined with her bewilderment and curiosity about the complex funeral rituals and their uniqueness inherent to Minnan culture. To demystify these subjects, Wen-You interviewed a funeral director who provides comprehensive “one-stop services,” a monk who hosts Buddhist ceremonies and a folklorist of Minnan rituals. Minnan Exit is at once a family album, a curated collection of photographs, an unfinished journey of discovery and a chronicle of Wen-You's reconciliation with her mortality.

Paperback, 192 Pages