China Pulse is a series of exhibitions curated by young Chinese curators and China photography specialists. It aims at taking the pulse of current trends in Chinese photography.
TO BE AN IMAGE MAKER
KO SIN TUNG
YI XIN TONG
CURATED BY HE JING
Today’s photographers or photographic artists have to not only take photos but also be able to reflect on the environment of photography. Compared with the traditional concept of the “photographer” this describes someone who is more like an “image maker”. The “making” in question is not simply technical, but more a reflection on a series of gestures in the image-making process itself and how they are generated. Whether the image is shot, reproduced, copied, edited, misappropriated, tampered with, reset or even destroyed does not matter. In short, the artist as image-maker is no longer simply the person behind the camera clicking the shutter button, nor necessarily deified as a creator in the image world. All these relationships can loosen up and become multidimensional. What is important is that in the whirlpool of dissemination and circulation, the opportunity to intervene in continuous editing and repair is not lost, and that in the creative process, an introspective attitude towards both object and way of working can be preserved.
In the context of Chinese contemporary art, it is imperative that photography is discussed. Perhaps by opening up the so-called “photographic” borders, media barriers that limit the discipline will be lifted. In fact, only when photography is no longer being talked about on its own, but rather viewed in a general context of contemporary images will it be possible to further enrich and activate this visual form. The exhibition To be an image maker at Jimei x Arles International Photography Festival shows several young Chinese artists’ image making practices, opening up the narrow confines of “photography” toward a broad idea of the “image.” While exploring the boundaries of photographic images, the problem is directed towards the media itself in our visual environment and its mechanisms of production. Stemming from this, the exhibitors are all not “photographers” in the traditional sense, but creators of images, installations or texts, or have always been concerned with images outside of the perspective or discipline of traditional photography. Despite the different approach, the works presented in this exhibition are all reflections on the artists’ existing image making methods. Thus, it is not so much an exhibition of photographic images as a cultural studies case on contemporary visual environments and image production mechanisms.
CURATED BY DU XIYUN
Being open to the future is a prerequisite for stimulating creativity. In this process, diverse patterns are formed in their most natural way. China today, having sustained many years of fast-paced economic growth, has driven all kinds of change, some with immediate effect and some where the impact has been slower to emerge.
A vast country, in terms of space and population, China holds a wealth of generations, regions, gender differences, identities, and classes. People are ever more different from each other, and these rich micro-distinctions arise from the very complexities of being. This is the most attractive thing about modern China, but also the root of many of its issues, attitudes and methods. Of course, uncertainty is everywhere, and even if developed countries in the West have determined concepts and attitudes, these are again ambiguous and subject to uncertainty and change.
As a type of order, contemporary culture has clear bases, and on these bases all sorts of possibilities can develop freely. In modern China, individuals are running around all over the place, but is there a clear sense and active pursuit of contemporary culture? Or, in the pursuit of economic gain, is there a clear sense of the connections between the orders? What kind of understanding is there? Only by carefully identifying the specific circumstances of individuals can we have any real experience of such issues.
For the artist, corporeal existence is the most genuine thing about everyday life. Beyond that, the artist's work is a way to position feelings and assumptions, form relations between things using specific forms, and externalise their location. The closer the tools are to the possibilities of the flesh, the smoother this expression will be. With daily skills for everyone, and the threshold of photographic ability has almost disappeared. At this time, the border between professional and amateur has turned to the curation of experience and the quality of thought.
So, in the context of the festival, the participants of this exhibition are not professional photographers, but rather are frequent users of the tools and methods of photography to express themselves. If photographers have strict tricks of the trade, these exhibitors do not follow the rules. For their own purposes of expression, their methods are self- sufficient.
The perspectives, attitudes and ideas expressed in these works reveal how differently artists see things given their various ages, genders and regional origins: Mo Junfeng uses documentary photographic techniques as far as possible to capture the maze of multiple fragments of China; Ai Moyang combines photos and computer generated virtual images, so that the ruins of the invisible psychological state can magically become real; Li Bo slows down the shutter speed to capture the naked body on a dark campus night; Hu combines photography and installation, a flash of quiet fluorescent light passes through a young body and other equipment, fishing out life's inexplicable nature in time and space; Qin Jin takes Chinese young people's emblems, slogans, school uniforms, and offers a psychological account of the mixed feelings young people have in their vast mental universe. Both Meng Huang and Zhang Zhujun use archival methods in creating regular images. Although the logic of the combination is different, both are quite conscious of the particular living environments they find themselves in and question; Zheng Hongchang's composition uses genetically modified radishes and blood as his model, to create a concrete, visual image, turning the common situation of people living in China into an abstract that almost no one can stay out of.
These intuitive works reveal a lot about China. Compared with the past, changes now happen anytime and anywhere, and their whereabouts may twist and turn, without recourse to a reverse. No matter their differences, artists share a concern for the fate of the individual and a hope in a more open future. This is the instinctive call of life, however expressed. Because human nature has never changed, despite our ever increasing number of options.
BROKENICE: 160118 - 170811
160421 - 育树二条 | YùShùE`rTiáo
- Iʼm still going to school, where I make bracelets and necklaces with beads, and where I knit horses and soap holders. Thereʼs art as well. We do brush paintings. I paint vegetables such as luffas and peppers.
- Iʼve been living in this neighborhood since I was born.
161021 - 东四南大街 | DōngSì South Street
- My suitcase is full of booze.
- I served in the Air Force Services Agency.
CURATED BY RUBEN LUNDGREN
In his spare time blogger BrokenIce hits the streets of old Beijing armed with a camera and one request: “Tell me one thing about yourself that is true and one thing that is not true.”. It's a simple concept, consistently executed, that led to remarkable results. The blog, or actually a WeChat subscription under his name BrokenIce, is a collection of his ndings on the street titled according to the date of the post. It combines observations on the street and full body portrait photographs with detail shots of the out ts and answers given by the models. Which part of the answer is true and which part is not often stays unde ned adding an extra layer to the portraits.
The works are a tribute to people who stand out in the crowd. A fascination with this phenomenon drove BrokenIce to a diverse group of (senior) citizens in the streets and hutongs (traditional alleys typical of Beijing's city center) of Beijing. Authentic characters who express themselves through their clothes without a self-contentious idea to make a fashion statement. BrokenIce: “I'm mesmerised by their carelessness and spontaneity when it comes to dressing up. And to me, they're the ones who are truly cool and stylish, because they don't have a lookbook in hand, they don't have a prototype to follow, and they're not taking rides in no bandwagons”. In a wider perspective this search for authenticity can be seen as a re ection upon a changing society. One in which the distinction between the way things look and the way they are is blurred and a desire for pureness and authenticity is growing.
Similar to photographers like Liu Tao and 223 who started their career online, BrokenIce has no particular photography education or background of making exhibitions. Instead he decided to share his photography explorations online. He is an interesting example of the type of blogging photographer who feels a distance to participate in the contemporary photography/art world. That is not just a modest attitude often felt by amateur photographers. On one hand the possibilities to combine multiple photographs with text, video and music in an accessible way (for free) makes it less attractive to make a physical exhibition. On the other hand it's also a pretentious attitude of the contemporary art world that scares them off. A real exhibition (read: print exhibition) is considered a bridge too far.
As a curator I have taken this opportunity to offer BrokenIce his first “real” solo exhibition. The title is based on the selection of works made between 18th January 2016 and 11th of August 2017. Together we have explored the possibilities to translate the works from online into print. Beside showing the quality of the works I took this show as an experiment of how we could stretch standard patterns of photography exhibition making.