The LAB 3.5: Christopher Butterfield Pavillion of Heavenly TrousersFebruary 13, 2004 - February 13, 2004
Pavilion of Heavenly Trousers is a layering of two novels written in the 1930s by two Western authors about contemporary life in China. Christopher Butterfield interleaves these novels by alternating sentences from the two. The results are written on nearly 600 sheets of yellow foolscap that will cover the LAB space walls. An audio recording of the complete text plays continuously, inviting visitors in. Both novels, The Maker of Heavenly Trousers by Daniele Var? and Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck, are sentimental romances. Along with a central narrative, they each describe in detail the local context in China: how people dressed and behaved, local customs, historical anecdotes, attitudes towards other cultures, and how families worked. One of the recurring motifs in writing about pre-modern China is the attitude towards labour. To reflect the extraordinary Chinese work ethic, Butterfield constructs an installation in which the work involved (writing 3 pages a day for 200 days) is the principal artifact. The visual and audio materials are merely proof that this work has taken place. The result is an enormous shaggy-dog story, endlessly complicating itself within narrow limits of place, time and character. Pavilion of Heavenly Trousers is a speculation on the nature of work, time and form, and the possibilities of narrative.