Ka-Lai Chan’s most recent production, SheLLf, was completed in early 2011 and premiered on this year’s Object Rotterdam. Made of separate compartments arranged – seemingly randomly – on the wall, it seems as if the shelf is growing out of the wall, like an animal crawling out of its shell. Its exterior surfaces have a smooth, glossy black lacquer surface. In the interior, the rough wood is left untreated. The lack of doors or drawers leaves the inside exposed, intensifying the contrast between interior and exterior.
An amalgamation of ‘shell’ and ‘shelf,’ the title reminds of Jacques Derrida’s linguistic deconstruction. The overlap of these two words defines the project’s philosophy. The introvert ‘shell,’ a bunker shaped residence of precious assets, contradicts the extroversion of the ‘shelf.’ The juxtaposition of the two notions (shell and shelf) results in exposing the ‘self,’ exhibiting the owner as the object of his or her own reflective consciousness. In other words, SheLLf is a ‘shell,’ a safe, where the precious private secrets of its owner are stored. Strangely enough, the safe is cut open, transformed to a ‘shelf’ hanging on the wall, leaving privacy exposed. This action of disclosure automatically turns the viewer to a voyeur and offers one, secrets of the ‘self,’ secrets of the personal life of its owner.
A conceptual amalgamation of the terms ‘shell,’ ‘shelf’ and ‘self’ turns to an unexpected design object hanging on the wall.