Artist Movana Chen spends much of her time next to a large ball of tangled strings of paper. The pages of old books, magazines, diaries, and maps become woven sculptures and dresses—the shreds of paper are Chen’s string for knitting.  

Since 2003, the Hong Kong-based artist has been weaving shredded paper to create a variety of knitted art pieces, from a 50-foot-long carpet to mummy-like bodysuits. In this video produced by South China Morning Post, Chen shows her 2013 exhibition KNITerature at ArtisTree Gallery in Hong Kong. At the 33-second mark, you can see her busy fingers working traditional needles to weave the threads of paper together.

“Knitting paper is very different from knitting wool yarn,” Chen says in the video. “You just need one string when knitting wool, but you need several strings when knitting paper. So it takes a lot of time.”

She was first inspired to knit with paper after being assigned the long, laborious duty of shredding confidential documents as an accountant. Chen still uses the original shredder from her accounting days to create the material she needs for her pieces.

Chen initially focused on clothing, her debut paper knitted garment a dress comprised of discarded magazines (a durable paper to work with, according to Chen). Later, she moved onto full suit sculptures, or “body containers,” which she wore around Hong Kong in a 2013 performance art piece. The suit, seen at the 1:15-mark, was knitted with shredded traveling maps. In 2007, she and a colleague wore body containers linked at the head and moved about the busy streets of Seoul. The performance of coordination and communication was meant to symbolize the relationship between North and South Korea, reported the South China Morning Post. 

The 50-foot-long paper knitted piece titled Knitting Conversations and her body containers were displayed in the KNITerature exhibition. Knitting Conversations involved the work of 150 knitters around the world who contributed personal books of sentimental value. According to her website, the project is ongoing. Chen hopes to collect more than 10,000 knitted paper pieces from people around the world.  

“People think I’m destroying history by shredding,” Chen tells South China Morning Post. “But I don’t think so. I’m transforming it to another way of communicating … and I let people become closer through the project.”

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