Monday, 11 March 2013

Back From Beijing...

So I am back! And what an absolutely incredible journey it has been. I still can't quite believe all that I experienced and all that was there to experience, Beijing is a magical place completely different from anything I have ever seen or been part of before with a progressiveness that is quite extraordinary and freeing. 

This time two weeks ago I had landed and was on my way into the city, dropping my bags and heading straight out to the studio to start working! Mr Sauvin, a great guide welcomed me to the city with a hard drive of over 500,000 images from the Silvermine Archive to get started on, a quick tour of his studio, an amazing first lunch with welcoming beers in the city centre then off to work! What I found in this archive can only be described as some of the most inspiring, unbelievable images I have ever seen. From images that span over 20 years, this wealth of imagery was not only honoring to work with, but I had a complete nervousness about it also. The sociopolitical and cultural importance of this archive must not be underestimated and I knew being a westerner from the outside passing any judgements around this archive would be problematic. 

So my first task was to go through as many images in the first trip as possible to see what images I felt inspired by and what exactly made up these half a million images. In over a week I managed to go through 207,702 images (a number I couldn't have made up!) and above is just an example of what I found, printed up and the from the sort of negatives. This destruction, this damage is what struck me from the source material. A beauty that was so spontaneousness, organic and uncontrolled in its nature it was a great juxtaposition to the very formal, strict portraits found within the archive. The material I found within this framework is quite stunning and this is the route in which our collaboration will develop. This abstraction, these images that are so literally painted bring together many ideas surrounding the medium, archives and the defunctness of the core elements of photography. There is a uniqueness about each and everyone of these damaged negatives and I am very excited about all the possibilities that lie ahead of us.

Finally on my last day, an believable cycle through Tiananmen Square. Understanding a history about somewhere never really prepares you for actuality of visiting the place and here is one of those examples. The square is vast, a space so enormous is can hold up to 1 million people and it was busy on the warm, spring day that I visited. As it is a very busy road you can't actually stand in the middle and kept behind barriers, but being on your bike you get a different view. I cycled through the square and really got an understanding and sense of the space. What's very important to add is you can indeed take pictures, everyone does and locals pose in front of the monument as if like tourists! It appeared it is quite a normal thing to stand there for hours, watching the cars drive past, being part of this space. 

From being there only a short period, I felt I learnt a lot about the culture and I can honestly say that we here in the west have only a tiny view/ idea of what China is and has to offer and for me Beijing brought a freedom to my practice that I haven't felt for a while, the art district 798 too brings a totally different theme to the city, so I thank you for that and can't wait for my next trip in the summer.

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