In the last decade photography has become increasingly important as a medium of expression among the younger generation of Chinese artists. While many have turned to performance and installation, a significant number have elected photography as the most appropriate means of conveying their complex reactions to the simultaneous destruction of the old and adoption of the new that is occurring in China , particularly in the big cities.
In One to One curator Feng Boyi has selected eight young photographers who approach the task of recording their environment from diametrically opposed viewpoints. Some of the photographers realistically record their own life experiences and living conditions, as is the case with Guan Shi and Wen Ling, who both emphasize the facts of their existence. Xu Lei, Ma Han, Yi Deer, Bai Yiluo, Lin Jingjing and Chi Peng utilize props and other devices to create and manipulate the environments in which they live.
Play of Ants by Ma Han is a montage of images of the streets of Beijing . His photographs of the incessant movement of vehicles and pedestrians at a street corner in Beijing over an extended period of time resemble the frenetic activity inside an ant-hill. The young artist Guan Shi takes numerous snapshots of routine events in his daily life, and uses this visual diary to record his existence. Through the eyes of the artist, we clearly see the changes in society and people's attitudes in the course of China 's economic development. Chi Peng presents the dreams of today's adolescents. Experiencing the pains of growing up in a rapidly changing society, the young people seem fragile and at the same time ready to embrace the challenge. After photographing the portraits of hundreds of ordinary Chinese, Bai Yiluo diligently arranges and pastes the portraits into the shapes of traditional Chinese zodiac animals. This results in images that are familiar but also strangely humorous.
Through the juxtaposition of such alternate views the complexity of life in this transitional period in which knowledge of tradition is being rapidly eroded is powerfully conveyed. Whether documenting reality or recording visions of what might occur, the photographers in this exhibition create startling metaphors that vividly convey the quality of life in China today. The views of ancient cities by Xu Lei and the hallucinatory glimpses of modern urban life by Lin Jingjing may appear to be at the opposite ends of the photographic spectrum as it exists today but as Feng Boyi has observed in his discussion of the other artists in the exhibition, it is through the process of contrast and comparison that a more profound understanding can be achieved.