Serge Onnen

I Am a Lone Monk Walking the World with a Leaky Umbrella


softcover, 160+24 pages illustrated in color throughout
8 in. x 5 in.
Edition: 750

The shadow puppet theater is the oldest form of projected moving images. Semi-transparent puppets are carved out of tanned donkey or cow skin which are painted with ink and are traditionally played with sticks between a light-source and a paper screen. This art form has spread over centuries from China throughout Asia. In an age in which moving images are nothing special anymore and everybody has, at least, one screen permanently within reach, artist Serge Onnen made a series of shadow puppets with Chinese craftsmen. Nowadays this folkloric art form is at the edge of extinction.

The book I am a lone monk walking the world with a leaky umbrella contains two volumes in one cover:

An image volume with 160 pages of shadow-puppets behind rice paper and a texts volume, that can be read as brief biographical notes on each puppet, in both Chinese and in English.

The puppets were inspired by world events related to economy & anger happening during this period (DSK affair, pussy riot, Piketty, Trump, etc.) A timeline inside the cover of the book, puts these global events next to the development related to this project. Mockery of the powerful by the powerless, has always been part of the grotesque world of puppets. Also Chinese numerology is an important part in this book. In the Chinese language, “homophone” numbers are very popular. Homophones are words that have a different meaning, but sound exactly like something else (week/weak). For a westerner the number 514 says nothing special, but in Chinese it could mean “I want to die”.

In modern society numbers stand for the most rational way of thinking. Argument are won with numbers and not with reason.

In this grotesque world of shadow-puppets numbers have become totally irrational. The book contains a list of numbers-homophones with their meanings in English.

Also two short essays from Shuyu Chen (Institute for Provocation) and Annie Katsura Rollins on the history of the more than 2000 years old shadow puppet theater.
Graphic design; Arthur Roeloffzen
Numerology, English and Chinese text from Serge Onnen, Shuyu Chen en Annie Katsura Rollins
Self-published together with Institute for Provocation, Beijing/Malmö

I Am a Lone Monk Walking the World with a Leaky Umbrella

Serge Onnen is a Dutch artist whose work has been shown in Europe, South America and North America. Residencies: Rijksakademie, Amsterdam; Glassell Program Houston, TX; ISCP program NYC; Cite International des Arts Paris. He is the trumpet player for the improvisational band Oorbeek.