Picturing Histories: Historical Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Photography 描绘历史——中国当代摄影中的历史叙事

Picturing Histories: Historical Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Photography

(Research-based curatorial project shortlist exhibition)


Artist: Chen Min, Dong Yuxiang, Li Lang, Shi Zhen, Kurt Tong, Yang Yuanyuan, Zhu Lanqing

OCAT Research Center, Beijing


In recent years, photography practitioners around the globe began to break the conventional linear sequence in the construction of photographic texts, opting for a new wave that allows multiple narrative strategies of the real or the fictional. They fuse documents, historical photos, texts, and carefully-constructed images, taking viewers to some times and places in the past, to boundaries that can or cannot be told.

The research project “PICTURING HISTORIES: Historical Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Photograph,” originates from my research work, commission, and curatorial practices in contemporary photography. It revolves around a series of related questions that are concentrated on photography and historical narrative, including but are not limited to the following: Can we use postmodern theories on narrative in the formulation of a set of analytic strategies for image narrative? What does photographic narrative have in common with literary and cinematic narrative and what are the differences? Does the popularity of “photobooks” worldwide play an important role in the current trend of photographic narrative? What are the motives of practitioners of photography in employing knowledge to the“archaeology” of photography? Does the “archive fever” in contemporary art influence practitioners in transforming old photos to art works?

This exhibition will focus on seven cases in Chinese contemporary art that entered historical narratives through photography. By means of exploring histories of individuals and families, historical events, discussing varied historical episodes, or even reflecting on the theme of photograph as a medium of historical narrative, practitioners think of themselves as archaeologists  and pursuit the questions from various perspectives. While revisiting, rewriting, and reconstruct ing history, they develop pursuits of more specific cultures.














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