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Screen Refreshing/Labor: 2017 AMNUA International Exhibition of Photography

2017-07-24 10:20:44  source: 2017 AMNUA International Exhibition of Photography [Reprint]  author:   editor: 斫子 Su Yuezhuo

Time: November 10, 2017 – December 20, 2017

Producer: Li Xiaoshan

Curator : Zheng WenHai JieChen Zheng

Organizer: Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts (AMNUA)

Screen Refreshing/Labor: 2017 AMNUA International Exhibition of Photography


Photographing as a verb seamlessly connects the daily life and artistic creation of modern people. Photography in the new millennium is no longer just the "classic moment" imagery narrative of Bresson, nor is it just "gazing objectively" at the social landscapes. Photography exists in the reality of information and internet as a new prosthetic limb-like conditional reflex. It is also a new alienating behavior of contemporary human beings. If the "spiritual light" Benjamin was calling for had been precarious in the paper media era, then is being further dispersed step by step as the pixels continue to improve in the era of screens.

In a cyber space interconnected by high-speed Ethernets of over 10 Gigabit per second, the creating and post-processing of a snapshot, posting and its swamping in the internet can be launched with the telecommunication end devices almost instantaneously. This process demonstrates a new type of conditioned reflex. The smart phone/camera is an extension of the human body. Each act of photo shooting and posting means a spontaneous spasm of this new organ and an outbreak of a functional syndrome. In the visual-oriented entertainment economy, the border between labor and consumption is also instantly collapsed. The two merge into one.

The Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Art (AMNUA) as one of China's most important college museums will soon launch the "Screen Refreshing / Labor: AMNUA International Exhibition of Photography" in 2017, addressing the state of photographic and imagery production in the current context of global social life. The event is designed to present works of photography marked with strongest characteristics of the era of new media. The exhibition is curated by Zheng Wen, Hai Jie and Chen Zheng. It will showcase the most vivid and overwhelming pictures of life and video experience of our times in several thematic sessions such as "Fear of the Floating Sand", "Cloud of Conspiracy", "Production to No Avail", "Self-drowning in the Mirror", "Fabrication and Rehearsal" and "Open Source Code".

Nowadays we are all dwelling in a mobile internet space, being very willing to get involved in this community and demanding attentions from others. At the same time we are laborers in front of the screen, refreshing our social media pages and producing images to no avail. This new media, driven by technical theology and digitalized Messianism, does not change our destiny - our fate to be enslaved. And it is no other than the screen that makes the running of all the controlling programs visually hidden. In the digital grids, we have to become diligent vultures and devour the corpses, at the same time we are becoming the corpses ourselves, lying around decomposing and being devoured, forming the background of all that is happening. "Circle of Friends" is the digitalized hypnotizing version of Gulag. It controls, extorts and consumes. It is the meat grinder of images. These mechanisms are all turned into secret instructions through the consumption of technology.

Obviously, the screen becomes our prosthetic limb. This is the exact situation of the body today. In the early days of the commodity era, "the reflection on the glass counter that forbids us to touch the commodity is fetishism". (Tazaki Hideaki) And today, in a situation where the screen always gives the body a joy ride, that layer of "reflection" approaches us and even thrusts itself into our face in a more subtle way. This is the light of the screen. Humans turn into wandering spirits floating in the currents of the lumens from images, while their bodies are digitally commandeered.

"Screen refreshing" as a form of living under the screen-based technological manipulation is the seemingly beautiful but very cruel reality we are facing today. People depart from real life and move to the internet. They are off the ground and refreshing the screens to enter into a new surrogated landscape. Today, consumerism looted the world completely and placated our discomfort successfully. We follow the flow of people, tirelessly. Screen refreshing has become a new fundament of reality. Refreshing the screen is easy entertainment and labor. It is such easiness and entertainment that covers up the hardships and slavery in labor evaluation itself and becomes the illusion and consumption of existence.

And photography, or image in a larger sense, has a special significance at such moments. It is not only the object of our consumption, the channel of our consumption, but also the effective tool for self-reflection and media criticism. In other words, it works as a double agent. Today, the identity and fate of images arethe portrayal of our own destiny. No one will force the selfie stick into anyone's hand. It is us that always reach out for it, and then tear ourselves apart again and again, throw the pieces to the digital distribution systems, expecting to hear an echo.

Now, we need to render these images.

The First AMNUA International Photography Exhibition

Fear of the Quicksand

From the "fear of the liquid" of Zygmunt Bauman to the "fear of the quicksand" of the nonphysical digital screen, the "fear" always exists. Only the medium has changed. This digital-based anxiety of identity is especially obsessive in the post-human era. People is estranged from reality and over flown with the currents of electronic images. People lives in a parasitic state, or as if walking on quicksand with the eminent fear of being carried away.

The Cloud is the spatial extension of the digital UFO, a utopia of saving space. It has the double-sided quality of calculation and conspiring. It leads us to store our information, to surrender an unaffordable volume of information. This is the commitment of the cloud to us, as well as our being held-up by it. It is an entrustment and an adoption, as well as voyeurs and supervision on its part. It does not isolate itself from being a "manipulator". In fact, the cloud is turning into a dispersed type of wall. The Cloud dances in the sky and orders us to upload all.

Ineffective Production

Not all production is meaningful. It is this meaninglessness that pleases us endlessly at this moment. Two types of people - the people in reality and the people in images (or in the screen) show up consecutively and finally become digital debris and electronic powder and were quickly cleaned up. Therefore, the production is turned into a formalized reproduction, an inert reproduction addicted to the scenes of consumerism.

Self-Drowning in the Mirror

"I" is a narcissus in the mirror, reveling in the pool of images. "I" is the producer of images as well as the object of image production. The selves rival to show off. The "I"s are the audience of an "I". Are we to go looking for the self, or rescue the self in such drowning decadence? Is the self running itself, or is it being manipulated by others (the viewer)? Can selfie snapshots be a way of salving the self from drowning?

Fabrication and Staging

Data is becoming a substitute of free will. Technology helps us to fantasy and fabricate, to stage a simulacra of the reality. It is repeatedly manufactured and it evaluates and counterattacks reality. Reality is reconstructed in the form of the theater.

Open Source Codes: (recruiting works) Thematic Directions: as described above.


Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts (AMNUA) is one of the most influential Chinese fine art museums with forward-looking academic visions. Its art researches and exhibitions have been conducted in international contexts. The facility occupies over 15,000 square meters, offering 6,000 square meters' exhibition space. With an outer space appearance and diverse inner layout, AMNUA has presented different kinds of display platforms for various types of arts, which doubtlessly has offered brand-new experiences and promoted the birth of new ideas. As an art museum of a university with the history of over a hundred years, AMNUA has been insisting on a serious academic attitude, an open international vision, a high-standard exhibition level and a strict collection system. AMNUA concentrates on the independent construction of a contemporary university art museum, emphasizing its independent research and planning capability. The museum focuses on current art issues and has conducted researches on politics, economics, media, etc..

AMNUA has already hold nearly a hundred exhibitions and academic activities, including solo exhibitions of important artists from home and abroad like Otto Dix, Francis Bacon, Joel Peter Witkin, L.S.Lowry, Sean Scully, Mao Yan, Zhou Chunya, Miao Xiaochun, QiuZhijie, etc..At the meantime, AMNUA has made every endeavor to present some long-term research projects such as AMNUA “0” Program, AMNUA Image File, AMNUA Image Forum. From the very beginning, AMNUA has paid much attention and contributed to the growth of young artists and curators.

Zheng Wen

Zheng Wen, Assistant to the Director of the Art Museum of Nanjing University of Arts (AMNUA) and Head of the Academic Department of the Museum, is a curator of contemporary art. Mr. Zheng became Assistant to the Director of Qinghe Contemporary Art Museum in 2009. He was appointed head of the academic department of AMNUA in 2012. Since 2015, Mr. Zheng is Assistant to the Director of AMNUA. His responsibilities are the planning and curatorship of exhibitions, academic research, collections management and administrative management of the museum.

Mr. Zheng has curated up to 40 exhibitions. Some of the exhibitions were invited to London, Bremen, Munich, Hongkong, Paris, Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Zheng led his documentary team and produced 5 films. He held over 30 academic seminars in colleges and museums in Nanjing, Japan, Suzhou, Sichuan and Shanghai among others. He is author of more than 40 articles amounting to 300,000 words in various major media and publications in China and worldwide, such as Sanlian Life Weekly, China National Museum Hompage, China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Global Chinese Press in Canada.

Hai Jie (Curator, Photography Critic, Writer)

He has successfully organised many large-scale artistic events, such as Buffet in 2014, in which he provided the public an opportunity to visit multiple artists’ studio, presented exhibitions and held photographic conversations on the famous Chinese social media. He has worked as curator and member of academic and review committees for many international photography festivals and art institutions in China, including Jimei× Arles: East West Encounters International Photo Festival (2015),Ray Art Centre (2014), Lianzhou Photo Festival (2014), Award of Art China (2013), Chengdu Multi-dimensional View Photo Exhibition (2013) and Pingyao Photography Festival (between 2011 and 2013). His research interests include case studies and oral histories of Chinese contemporary photography, analysis and reflections on ideological trends in Chinese photography, as well as analysis of media and communication models in Chinese contemporary photography.


Living in Screen:a dimension of Chinese Contemporary Photography after 2000,Beijing:China Nationality Art Photograph Publishing House, 2016

Declaration: Talk with 14 Chinese Contemporary Photography Artists, Beijing: China Nationality Art Photograph Publishing House, 2013

The Person Look at Himself in the Mirror: Interviews of 16 Chinese Contemporary Photography Artists, Beijing: China Youth Publishing Group, 2012

Chen Zheng(curator, art critic, curator of AMNUA Photography Department, director of Public Education Department, lecturer of photography department in NYA, Master of photography department of Nottingham Trent)

The Curator of Han Lei & Feng Li’s exhibition;

The Curator of the One Minutes on Tour in Nanjing;

The Curator of “Beyond Frozen Point”;

The Executive of Joel Peter Witkin’s Solo Exhibition;

The Executive of the Show of Chinese Experimental Video.

Chen Zheng works in image creation and theory research, focusing on the development of contemporary young artists.

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