The verb ‘to launder’ refers to the act of legitimising illegally obtained money to wash away its questionable traces. In contrast, the idiom ‘to air out dirty laundry’ is analogous to disclosing secrets publicly. The first speaks of erasure, removal, suppression, censorship, while the latter speaks of revealing, talking, leaking, publishing.
With Hutong Whispers, Amy Suo Wu invites us to enter a space filled with steganographic messages that are hidden ‘between the sheets’. Steganography is a form of secret writing that disguises hidden information within the public realm. The purpose of this obsolete, low-tech and analogue technique is to subvert digital surveillance, bypass censorship and offer insight into the struggles of minorities and other marginalised cultures.
Hutong Whispersco-opts three elements that are omnipresent in the Chinese urban landscape, namely bed sheets, Shanzhai fashion (a Chinese phenomenon that features nonsense English), and QR codes.
The audience is actively invited to discover and uncover the sensitive and suppressed knowledge that is hidden within these laundry lines. Altogether, the exhibition is designed to eventually be placed back into its original context: the traditional residential alleys of Beijing or ‘hutongs’. The presentation includes earlier work by Amy Suo Wu such as Thunderclap (2017) and The Choice of a Translator (2018) as well as related projects and references submitted by Clara Balaguer (Hardworking Goodlooking), Dušan Barok (Monoskop), Kelly Doley, Jessie Yingying Gong, Linda Zeb Hang, Elaine W. Ho, Janez Janša (Aksioma Institute), Woodstone Kugelblitz, Javier Lloret, Silvio Lorusso, Nadine Stijns and Nathalie Wuerth.
Amy Suo Wu (1985) is an artist, designer and researcher whose practice explores how to amplify, preserve and (re)activate obscured histories in critical and playful ways. She holds a Masters in Media Design and Communication from Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam and is currently a tutor in Experimental Publishing at Piet Zwart Institute and Cultural Diversity at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam.