On September 10, 2017, the artist Xing Danwen’s solo exhibition “Captive of Love” opened at the Beijing Red Brick Art Museum, the exhibition takes the curatorial thinking of Tarek Abou El Fetouh, featuring the photography and video installation as well as a number of new works which have never been seen before. It is the first exhibition held by Xing Danwen in a domestic organization and it is also the largest exhibition by the artist so far.
After graduating from the CAFA, Xing seems to be a “restless person” involved in art. When she studied the specialty of folk art in CAFA, she was drawing and using oil painting, and she used a camera and started the documentary photography creation in 1989, and later she found the most suitable road for the artistic expression. In 1998, she lived in the United States and studied in the School of Visual Arts, New York where she received a master’s degree in video and multimedia. Her works have been presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, the International Photography Center (ICP), Centre Pompidou, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Yokohama Triennale, and Biennale of Sydney, etc. In 2008, Xing Danwen stood out amongst all the 650 participating photographers from all round the world, to be one of the 6 final nominees of the REAL International Contemporary Photography Awards in the Netherlands and was the only Chinese photographer selected.
It is entitled “Captive of Love”, which is named after the literary work of Jean Genet, a French poet. Jean Genet focuses on social problems and the resulting resistance, the book uses a unique narrative style and “the way chosen by him”as the narrative of the personal experience of the author living with Palestinians and social militants of the Panthers Party, showcasing unique poetry and profound thought. Jean Genet’s theme has inspired the curator and also offers a special way to understand the works of Xing Dawen: the artist transformed the instinctive desire to creative desire and reconstructed the reality in the creation, and set herself in the center of the event, getting close to each subject with clear personal feelings.
“Captive of Love” is the comprehensive presentation of Xing’s thought of artistic creation, consisting of two main themes: the secret relationship between the artist and the city; the use of personal language as a description of the group photos of the artists of the early 1990s. As for the rhythm of the entire exhibition, the curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh compared it to a music score, with unique upsand downs, and a special rhythm. The relationship between the individual and city, and the related thoughts have always continuously concerned the artist. In the “Wall House” series, the artist placed herself in the Dutch building, and the individual image is interpreted as an individual who views the urban landscape through a reflection in the window or mirror, and the image of lonely living alone creates a lonely aesthetic taste, suggesting that the audience has to rethink the fuzzy reality between a public space and personal space. The “Urban Interpretation” series focuses on the urban jungle which is crazily growing, although this jungle is the sand table taken as a copy of buildings, the artist magnifies it to create a sense of emptiness brought on by a dramatic expansion of the city in the conversion between reality and illusion. Xing was also concerned with the “disease”, and the “Insulation” series of works that focus on the affect brought by recovering the electronic waste in the Pearl River Delta Region, to express the artist’s concern and trepidation of the urban environment and people’s living conditions.
“Personal Diary” series is the poetic work for the artist’s continuous observation and recording, showcasing the artist’s keen sense of perception. The contemporary art creation was a state of non-traditional underground practice in the 1990s, and it also embodied the real growth of Chinese contemporary art creation that started from hiding and developed towards heading for space. Xing through her uneasy lens and perspective, recorded both the results & state of the creation, and the state of the surrounding audience at that time which also reveals her personal perspective and emotion of individual art and events. The whole work is also the “climax” of the exhibition.
It also showcases two new works entitled “Lines” and “Only from Within the Mountain”, which were specially created for the exhibition, while the “Only from Within the Mountain” is an installation of contemporary landscape piled with cinders, with the composition and rhythm that applies to the arrangement of the screen of a traditional Chinese landscape painting, this also has a poetic artistic conception of a small bridge over the flowing stream, but the whole work describes the broken scene created by over-exploitation, which is a real pain and a scar.
We have to face the city and individual self in the contemporary real life, Xing Danwen using the lens to achieve her own personal and unique record of reality. Reality is objective and also self-built, while Xing placed herself in it to express the lonely feelings when she was in the city, and it also captured the ecology of artist groups in those years, to depict the real life, real self and real times. It remains on view till October 29. As part of the exhibition, the Red Brick Art Museum will also work with Prestel to publish the album of “Captive of Love” and a book of “Personal Diary”.
Text by Zhang Wenzhi, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
Photo by the organizer