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Note on the Diseased City

The most serious urban disease in the 21st century is mental illness. Nearly 20 years of development of China and the massive expansion of cities have taken place midst two dominant struggles: One is the conflict between the civilian capitalists’ gains and the state interest. The government encourages people to get rich, thus greatly prompting the people’s desperate pursuit of material wealth. But the country has turned the wealth created by the civilian capitalists into the state interest through complete policies, and by sacrificing the wealth creators who are charged with “original sins”.  The second is the conflict between the local government and the central government in terms of interest. The local government and central government share the taxes, this practice is rare in the world. The local governments thus have the desire of crazy development which has generated “original sins”. Once there is any conflict between the local government and the central one in terms of interest, the representative of the local interest will be sacrificed with “original sin” for the overall development of other places. China has finished the road within 20 years, which the western world used 200 years to complete. During process of these two conflicts, our cities have gained unprecedented development with massive change. While the development has changed the cities physically, it has also brought about mental diseases: such as lack of moral bottom line, cops and thieves forming the interest groups, seeking development in the cost of dignity of men and women, environmental pollution, indifference and estrangement of human relations, deviation from traditional virtue and decorum etc.  These are the “urban diseases”, which the artists could do nothing about. The only thing they can do is to express their criticism and reflection on these problems with their image works.

First of all, there must be “observing place”. While the west world uses “symbols” to summarize the factors in China, we place the preset “conceptual stories” or rather fables to the grandiose urban places, then photograph them. The images taken from these scenes have some kind of preset certainty and the uncertainty happened at scenes without presetting. This just reflects the certainty of the development of Chinese society, and the uncertainty brought about by the development result. Secondly, my pictures need “space”. As a graduate of architecture, I have superior understanding of space than ordinary people. I used more than ten or twenty 8×10 inch films to shoot one scene with horizontal viewing angle wider than 210°,and vertical viewing angle bigger than 101°When all the pictures are ready, I piece them together with the digital darkroom to create the effect of “superspace”. On the one hand, I want to express the super-experiment of China’s development, on the other hand, I want to show the sociality of Chinese people. You should know that life of Chinese people is more sociable than that of any western country, i.e. they have some kind of social “blood relationship”. In addition, my pictures bear the sense of “time”. Just because of the fast development, each time section records various fractions of the result caused by the two conflicts, and epitomizes all walks of life in China. So when I took the pictures, I tended to shoot across the time and place. Even if I shot at one place, I would shoot from multiple angles and scenes, then I would piece them together to create the “Ukiyoe” of Chinese society.

Luckily, we have the means of photography, so that we can put up the existing problems of China. At least, the spirit we can sense from the pictures is no longer the disease of one person, and solitude is no longer that of one person, but the solitude of the group. The “Diseased City” is a virtue one, a city of feeling for the artist to reflect on the collective unconsciousness.

                                                               

April 15,2007

中文 / English