Excerpt: 'It's Fiction' by Yanyun Chen



From Sketching in white ink:

A line
A line that lines
surrounds, borders.

Some call it a frame.
Keeping in mind that to frame not only entails what is brought in, brought together, drawn into;
not only what is left out, excluded, exorcised, exiled;
not only what is left on the border, in the in-between, unwanted yet not free, sans
but that to be framed also entails being accused of something that one has not — or, at least, might not have — done.

What Manet did [it is in any case one of the important aspects, I believe, of the changes contributed by Manet to western painting] was to make reappear, in a way, at the very interior of what was represented in the picture, these properties, these qualities or these material limitations of the canvas which painting, which the pictorial tradition, had up until then made its mission in some way to sidestep and to mask.

— Michel Foucault [1]

Whether or not Manet did it is another question.
One that remains perhaps unanswerable.

At best, we can attempt to make his works, his paintings, testify for — perhaps against — him.

Perhaps then, an altogether irrelevant question.

Which does not mean that one ceases, we cease, to continue the quest to attempt to discover something about his paintings, his work, something about him.

But perhaps, always already only something about Manet:

Éduoard might well remain hidden from us, there but not quite there. In the white shadows, as it were.

And in that very spirit: if Manet is the one who “reinvents [or perhaps he invents] the picture-object, the picture as materiality, the picture as something coloured which clarifies an external light and in front of which, or about which, the viewer revolves,” [2] does Yanyun Chen invent [or, taking framing itself to its limits, I shall then say, Yanyun Chen is the one who invents] — although as one who knows very little of what I am writing about, who am I to say; so I shall say even though I have no right to — the object-picture; the picture that objects to itself being a picture, being depictured.

Not so much — or perhaps not just — the “reinsertion of the materiality of the canvas in that which is represented,” [3] but the rejection of that which is represented to being presented.

A rejection which she has long realized, felt at least. For, even as she has sketched these objects, drawn them, she has never quite acknowledged her drawing, her role in them. Where amidst all the marks of, on, the object, her mark, the mark of her, her name — Yanyun Chen — remains invisible.

Which is not to say that she is missing.

For, just because her name remains veiled from us, from one, does not mean that it is not there — does not mean that it does not remain to haunt us.

For, one should try not to forget that forgetting happens to one, one has no control over what one forgets, over forgetting itself. Which means that there is no way to know, of knowing, if every moment of remembering, every act of memory, brings with it forgetting — that forgetting is potentially part of memory itself.


Yanyun Chen
— a name we forgot —
the name of a forgotten.

a name for forgetting itself.

Excerpted from ‘Sketching in white ink’ by Jeremy Fernando in It’s Fiction, by Yanyun Chen. Published by Delere Press, 2014. Republished with permission of the author.



[1] Michel Foucault. Manet and the Object of Painting. translated by Matthew Barr. London: Tate Publishing, 2009: 30.


[2] Ibid: 31. Parenthesis from source.


[3] Ibid: 31.


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