Poster of Cai Dongdong 422x598 - Leo Gallery presents "Photography Reforged: Cai Dongdong Solo Exhibition" in Shanghai

“Photography Reforged” refers to Cai Dongdong’s reflection, deconstruction and reconstruction of the operational mechanism and the image production of the medium of photography. Almost from the moment that he stopped shooting photographs, Cai Dongdong has become a photography artist, and more accurately, become an artist who works on photography. He quitted being an image producer, instead, he started to work on photos that already exist in reality, or, “surging these photos like a surgeon”.

The photographs are partly taken from the discarded photos he took in the past, but more from the flea markets where he collects a variety of old photos and negatives, bring them back to the “darkroom”, and think about possible “surgical” solutions from time to time. Curling, sanding, transplanting, scratching, tearing, burning and else, just like operating with a scalpel which has a sense of violence, but in fact the goal is to save, is to discover some kind of “dramatic structure” behind the rigid images and offer them new vitality. This process depends on whether there is the possibility of creating a new “punctum”, as he looks into the images and the images look back into him.

Cai Dongdong Rehearse 2019 Installation photography video silver gelatin print wood box single channel recording 53.4x40.2x41cm 598x393 - Leo Gallery presents "Photography Reforged: Cai Dongdong Solo Exhibition" in Shanghai

Cai Dongdong, Rehearse, 2019; Installation, photography, video, silver gelatin print, wood box, single channel recording, 53.4×40.2x41cm

The photography around us is still mainly focused on how to produce a new photo in the form of documentary, role-playing and digital production, yet Cai Dongdong “tries to extend an (old) photo”—in this way, a photo can be alienated into a painting, a sculpture, an installation and even a theatre space, to some extent, it transforms photography from industrial production to manual form. The extension of the image is accompanied by the deconstruction of the image. For Cai Dongdong, perhaps his “punctum” means the pleasure of deconstruction – the deconstruction of the original context of the image, as well as the ideology behind it.

Cai Dongdong Bullfighting 2018 Installation photography silver gelatin print 59x46.5cm 598x449 - Leo Gallery presents "Photography Reforged: Cai Dongdong Solo Exhibition" in Shanghai

Cai Dongdong, Bullfighting, 2018; Installation, photography, silver gelatin print, 59×46.5cm

Although some of the works like “The Rolled-up Road”, he implemented some kind of social intervention in the way of reversing the image, but in my opinion, the most critical part of Cai Dongdong’s work is not just the visual intervention, but the complete overturn of the one-way photography viewing method. When you view the photos, the photos also view you—this is the point that he always reminds himself and us at any time, for which he always put in mirrors or camera lens in his works, to highlight the gazing and encroachment from the images. Therefore, a rotational relationship between the viewer and the image is established, and the human subjectivity is no longer there—the mirror re-encloses us into the image, and the lens – we make the lens, but we become slaves or victims of the lens.

Cai Dongdong Three little firls 2017 Photography silver gelatin print 41x61cm 398x598 - Leo Gallery presents "Photography Reforged: Cai Dongdong Solo Exhibition" in Shanghai

Cai Dongdong, Three little girls, 2017; Photography, silver gelatin print, 41x61cm

His metaphysical thinking about the image also gave birth to another installation, “A Jar Camera”, as a lens was framed in an ancient pottery pot which was unearthed in his hometown. The subtext seems to tell the story that the human history is already full of all kinds of “photography” even before the invention of the camera…

About the artist

Cai Dongdong was born in Tianshui, Gansu Province in 1978. He studied at Beijing Film Academy in 2002, currently lives and works in Beijing, China and Berlin, Germany.

His artistic creations include photography, installation, video and social art practice. He was awarded The First Prize of 3rd Terna Award for Contemporary Art Award, Italy, and TOP 20 Young Photographers – 2015 China Contemporary Photography, China.

Cai Dongdong participated in various exhibitions of different art museums and institutions, including Museum for Photography (2017, Berlin), Eli Kleim Gallery (2017, New York), Pully Museum of Art (2017, Switzerland), Taikang Space (2016, Beijing), Potsdam c/o Waschhaus (2016, Berlin), Minsheng Art Museum (2016, Shanghai), Hive Center for Contemporary Art (2015, Beijing), Three Shadows Photography Art Centre (2015, Beijing), CAFA Art Museum (2015, Beijing), Echigo-Tsumari Triennial (2015, Niigata), Folkwang Museum (2015, Essen, Germany), Pace Beijing (2014, Beijing), He Xiangning Art Museum (2014, Shenzhen), Les Amis de Nouvelles D’Europe (2014, Vienna), Urban Arts Space, the Ohio State University (Ohio, 2014), China Art Museum (2011, Beijing), FRAC Gallery (2011, Turin, Italy), Donggang Museum of Photography (2006, Korea), Guangdong Museum of Art (2005, Guangzhou), etc.

About the exhibition

Dates: Aug 24, 2019 – Oct 19, 2019

Opening: Aug 24, 2019, 15:00

Venue: Leo Gallery

Courtesy of the artist and Leo Gallery, for further information please visit

Related posts: