" The paper burning ritual is traditionally seen as way of bridging the material world with the immaterial world of the deceased through a plume of smoke and ashes. This artwork, through a play of absences, turns the process inside out, showing that the market world, a system of belief where housing is left to market speculation, is in itself a smokescreen, a simulacrum turning an entire generation into ghosts, unhoused, forever lacking a sense of place. "
Artist Germain Canon (b. 1989) is part of a generation who can no longer afford housing. Young people in Taiwan live in the precarious gap between low wages and high housing prices, floating from rental apartment to rental apartment, like ghosts haunting a future they were promised as children but later found is out of their reach. Thus Germain Canon, who has a background in architecture, set out to design paper houses (zhizawu) for the ghosts of his own generation.
The houses are printed on paper using silkscreen and stencil techniques. The artist imitated the templates found on the back of cereals boxes during his childhood, that could be cut out and folded into models of cars or planes, which he would look at every morning but never actually built. Just like in his childhood, the paper houses are left unbuilt, laying flat on the museum walls.
Inside, tiny furniture, doors, staircases are reminiscent of children dollhouses is another hint of childhood nostalgia which, in contrast to a paper house burning ritual originally destined to the ancestors, emphasizes the generational divide at the core of the housing issue.
On the other side of the room, a tray filled with paper ashes retraces the final step of the paper houses burning ritual. The visitors are left in the empty space in between the house ashes and the house not yet folded, unable to see the house completed, and must rely on their imagination. The artwork is a play of absences. The houses are a ghostly dream, stuck in an unattainable future, or a distant past.