Li General Store is an illusory establishment that examines the various forms of material constructions and imaginations in which spaces of cultural encounters can be recreated. Drawing upon early theories of Orientalism and contemporary representations of China in the West, the diverse nature of the goods being marketed explores how a range of Chinese and immigrant identities can be constructed through the ownership, manipulation and display of a distorted Orient—an Orient tailored to the Western gaze.
As tokens from an ‘exotic’ place and of a familiarity to such spaces, these objects present an alternative to the non-present racialised bodies and communities contested by their purpose and locale. Utilising the aesthetics appropriate to its formal qualities and the creative possibilities of the printed form, the cultural intersection that modern Chinoiseries reproduce act as reminders of the legacy of imperial impact on material cultures and the lives of individuals indirectly caught in the colonial contact.
Where these reproductions and imaginings of Chineseness confront the visualisation of culture through interaction and stereotypes, it serves to reconceptualise a dominant discourse and attempt to redress the underrepresentation of Asia Australians within historical archives and design scholarship.