Hong Hao, 1965, CN

My Things(Book-Keeping)6, Scanned color photograph, 120x205cm

For 15 years, Hong Hao has been making a full-size digital scan of every product he has bought or consumed—chocolates, drink cans, toilet paper, tea bags, rubber gloves, packaged meat, cigarettes, books, light bulbs, razors, chopsticks, vitamins. Using this vast database as his “paintbox”, he assembles the images, thousands at a time, into intricate collages. As the viewer comes closer, and each gorgeous expanse devolves into its component boxes and packages, labels and logos, the sheer mass of material goods becomes overwhelming. Do we really use this much stuff? Do we need it? The artist has likened the project to both bookkeeping and meditation. Meticulously tallying and scrutinizing his material possessions, he says, has reduced his attachment to them. The project has given him “a direct understanding of ‘man controlled by material things’. It has made me feel that less is really more. The less we pursue what is outside us, the more time and space we have to pursue what is inside us.”