Jacob Wan, “Pillowtalk”

Jacob Wan
Orlando, Florida

mixed media, artist’s book, handmade paper made from boyfriend’s clothes, thread, and letter foil
13 x 9 x 3″

Artist Statement

As a Chinese gay man, I explore sexuality, context, and introspection of personal experience through mixed media book arts. I support the definition of a conceptual book as an expression of emotions, sequence of consciousness, and collection of moments. By experimenting with the materiality of the page, thread, and cover, I employ personal memories to express self-awareness, celebrate solitude, and the importance of oneself.

Pillowtalk is a book that is bound in traditional chain stitch with handmade paper and found text. It is a book that contains the moments and thoughts of my relationships as a homosexual male who grew up in a traditional Chinese culture. The chain stitch is one of the strongest stitches, and to me, it implies a chain to bind two people together in a romantic relationship. This book has individual sheets of purple papers that record unspoken words and these pages hang delicately above the book with clips. The pink-toned paper was handmade using linear cotton sheets and cotton fillings of pillows. I left an invisible “I love you” mark with letterpress on the pages. It is not always easy for someone to express the emotion of love to another person. An unreadable “I love you” is a reflection of the vulnerability of love. It appears to be weak for men to commit to strong emotions in this society, and many expressions of “I love you” have been swallowed before it comes out. The pink paper was mixed with red and white pulp. The purple paper in the book was a mixture of different colors made from clothes I have collected from my boyfriends. Clothes are the second layer of the skin; they hold memories, moments, and stories. The cloth is fiber, the fiber is paper, the paper is memory. Making paper from clothes is a process of deconstructing the original memory carrier into a material which is used for recording histories. It is a process that, allows me to explore a new physical form for holding my memories. I contrast the idea of visibility versus invisibility by comparing faded silver to bold gold in the way I have stamped the names on the pages to emphasize the present rather than the past. Under the names, there are unspoken conversations that are signified by letters that have been pressed onto the paper without foils, which makes the words hidden or non-existent. It is an implication of the unsaid moments that are often happen in relationships yet, are remembered in the heart. .

The broken pages were stitched over with delicate gold thread. In Chinese culture, gold implies strength, honesty, and loyalty. The brokenness is a metaphor that the relationship is imperfect; the perfect relationship is stitched or put back together by the lovers. The found texts that I use for this book were from random romantic novels. They were cut from random pages that I chose improvisationally that express common romantic emotions. When I ended up with a box of random texts, I rearranged the order and mood to make a narrative, and I pressed the texts into the handcrafted paper. The randomness reflects memories that appears subconsciously and fragmentally.

Making Pillowtalk with its unspoken words and hidden texts symbolizes that nighttime is a secret space where I can dream of the fantasies and the ideal relationship I imagine. Hiding my feelings and desires and expressing the loneliness of seeking love and finding the perfect one, is all expressed in this book. Reflecting on the experiences and outcomes of my relationships, I have come to an understanding that although it is important to love someone; it is also important to know how to love someone.