“I am a silkworm.” Liang Shaoji has repeatedly used this phrase to describe his work, underscoring his preoccupation with the materiality of silk and the technology of sericulture, or silk farming. For more than twenty-five years, Liang Shaoji has raised silkworms and trained them to spin silk onto different objects in his Nature series.
For the work Chains: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Nature Series, No. 79, Liang covered hollow metal chains in delicate, raw white silk. Here, the silkworms not only create the material but also become live participants—stand-ins for the artist. Liang blurs the boundaries between his role as an artist and the worms with whom he co-creates this artwork, opening larger questions on the distinction between art and nature. Furthermore, his fascination with silk is rooted in the Chinese psyche: Chinese legends connect the invention of silk-making with the creation of Chinese civilization. It is said that the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi, or his wife, Lady Xiling, actually discovered the method of raising silkworms and spinning silk.
“The relationship between the silk and the metal chain here is one of dependence . . . they depend on each other, but also conflict with each other.”—Liang Shaoji 1
Interview with Liang Shaoji, July 30, 2019, conducted by Nancy P. Lin, translated by Greg Young.
Installation of 13 hanging pieces: polyurethane, colophony, iron powder, silk, and cocoons
Courtesy of the artist and ShanghART Gallery