ArtworksQUILT OF THE DEAD (work-in-progress)

2002 ~ Ongoing...
Thread on Cloth
224cm x 224cm (current size)

Performances      Workshops
Chang Yoong Chia - QUILT OF THE DEAD


Quilt of the Dead is a work-in-progress. The task is to stitch obituary photographs taken from newspaper and other sources onto pieces of cotton cloth roughly 19cm x 15cm at various locations until I have enough to form a quilt measuring 10ft x 10ft.

How it began

  1. When I was 17 my paternal grandmother passed away. She had 5 sons and 5 daughters. One son (my uncle) is a staunch Buddhist and one daughter (my aunt) is a staunch Christian. As my grandmother was nearing her death, both parties were arguing with each other about the way in which she should be buried. Other members of the family took opposing sides. When she passed away, the wake was performed in a compromised Christian, Buddhist and Taoist custom.

    Because of that all I sensed at the time were the verbal fights between my relatives and the ridiculous circumstances which surrounded the process of her death, as well as my lack of belief in the afterlife. I didn't get a chance to mourn for her properly. Her death was the first "real" death that I experienced. Quilt of the Dead is an attempt to mourn for her, or to negotiate my guilt for not being able to mourn for her.
  2. The fairy tale "The Seven Princes" by Hans Christian Andersen which I read at a very young age. It is about 7 princes who were also siblings who were transformed into swans by an evil witch. They can only resumed back their human form at night. The curse could be lifted by the youngest sister, who must stitch 7 clothes for the brothers out of various materials such as weed, spider webs and such. However during the whole process of stitching, she must not speak a single word, else the spell would not work. So for years she kept stitching tirelessly and silently. A king fell in love with her but a jealous witch convinced the king that the princess was a witch and must be burned to death. She kept on stitching even as she was being burned. The seven swans flew to her and she draped the clothes unto their back and the spell is lifted.

    This story symbolizes for me the dedication and misunderstanding one must endure in order to complete a task. Quilt of the Dead is a ritual without religious backbone. Rituals are symbolic rites of passages. The act, the time it takes to complete it, is in itself meaningful. Physical endurance and patience is needed to "exorcize" the repressed emotional states-of-mind.


Quilt of the Dead has become a collaborative work between me and Teoh Ming Wah, whose sociology background has been invaluable to development of this work.