XING DANWEN15 May – 30 September 2004
The architectural structures that I photographed are all maquettes made to promote real-estate developments that are being planned in China today. Some of the buildings already exist, and others will soon begin construction. When you face these models showing such a variety of different spaces and think about the life-styles associated with them, you start to wonder: is this the picture of life today? Do we really live in this kind of space and environment?
Globalization is reshaping our urban environment and our vision of life, as the “new” constantly replaces the “old.” Private living spaces expand with the growth of income but the city becomes more dense and fills up with modern buildings and high-rise towers. People live in cubes that are squeezed next to one another, separated only by thin walls. This physical proximity, instead of leading to greater closeness and intimacy between people, can often create psychological distance and loneliness.
The sculptural form of these new residential buildings, the floor plan of the apartments, and the various interior designs are all related to the inhabitants and their “individual” taste and needs. The models of these new living spaces are perfect and clean and beautiful but they are also so empty and detached of human drama. When you take these models and begin to add real life–even a single drop of it–so much changes.
This entire body of work is playful and fictitious, wandering between reality and fantasy. All the figures in this series are images of me, playing different characters. This creates another paradox: “I” am real but at the same time “I” am unreal. The figures act out totally imaginative roles as part of different plots and in different spaces that I visualize when I look at these models. For example, “I” am sometimes a white-collar office worker brought to despair by job pressures and spiritual emptiness. Sometimes “I” am a materialistic woman enjoying a life of pleasure and dissipation. Or “I” am a young girl who has accidentally killed her lover in a fit of anger. (this piece is on view at the gallery Piece Unique, through September 15) Together the resulting pictures compose the episodes of the urban fiction.
These images represent the state of urban life today. In our childhood, skyscrapers were buildings that we had to raise our head to look at. Now we can imagine our future by bending down to examine tiny models of buildings. This, perhaps, is another image of modern life.
This body of work is still in progress. I have the plan to accomplish approximately 40 photos.”
The work exhibited at Galerie Pièce Unique (a unique print) is the first photography of the series Urban Fiction.
The gallery Pièce Unique presents the Chinese artist Xing Danwen with her last work entitled “Urban Fiction”, from 15 May-30 September.
Danwen was self-taught in photography. She started with painting at the Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts in her hometown, and continued at the Central academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Later in 1998, she went to New York with a fellowship and grant received from Asian Cultural Council in New York. There she got further developed at the School of Visual Arts in New York, did the master of fine art in photography and multimedia. Xing Danwen is one of the rare internationally recognized women among the Chinese contemporary artists.
Her particular works -a strong and sensitive view on the society- has been noticed for more ten years through her exhibitions in Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, China and the United States. Many of her artworks are already in the collections of modern art museums in USA (New York, San Francisco, Santa Barbara…), Pompidou Centre and in many private collections. A series of photographs were exhibited at the Pompidou Center in the collective exhibition “Alors, la Chine” in the summer 2003, and the young artist received the price of the best book project in Arles 2003.
In her most recent work “Urban Fiction”, Xing Danwen photographs the maquettes of the new architecture in China and the modern urban landscape with their disproportion, their dehumanized aspect, sometimes with their grotesque lights and colors. She shows this mushroom bed that China today through the last five years, and introduces an artificial living element in this universe of concrete: often a disguised self-portrait, sometimes people of the real life like this small civil servant in a strict suit, balancing on a top roof of a high white building on the point of committing suicide…
With this stratagem, Xing Danwen attracts our attention on the consequences this important upheaval the China urban universe is currently subjected to: the disappearance of the inheritance and the references to the former generations, this new world of cold buildings where the human appears terribly ridiculous and alone.
The second part of the exhibition, at the Gallery Piece Unique Variations, 26 rue Mazarine, presents her last series: “disCONNEXION” (2002-2003) where the artist shows large piles of computer trashes, criticizing the consumer society and environment nightmares, but succeeding to extract a kind of beauty from these residues. With “Scroll Series” (1990-2000) Xing Danwen presents in a panoramic way as through a hidden objective views of the disappearing old Beijing. In her large body of photographs “a Personal Diary of Chinese Avant-garde Art in 1990s” (1993-98), Xing Danwen documented a remarkable historical period of underground happenings of avant-garde movement as a participant and witness, and, in “Born With Cultural Revolution” (1995), Xing Danwen photographs a naked woman under a Mao’s portrait…
This is the first personal showing of her works in Paris, organized in cooperation with the Gallery XIN DONG CHENG, Beijing.