“The Yangtze is Chinese people’s Mother River. It is my Mother River. But such ‘Mother River’ is a myth, not a fact. As an anti-landmark concept, the ‘Point System’ forces me not to preselect where to photograph, therefore opens up possibilities to observe the vernacular landscapes along the river previously unseen in this way. The ‘Point System’ is absolutely not objective, but it might appear so. It is applied as one possible way to demystify the mythical Mother River, to re-explore what this mighty water way might be. The work may also contribute to the river’s myth, but such is one possible result, not my intention.”
—— Yan Wang Preston
The Yangtze River, (or “Changjiang” in Mandarin), is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world. From the glaciers on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, it flows 6,211 kilometers eastward across China before entering the East China Sea at Shanghai. Together with the Yellow River, the Yangtze is one of the most important rivers in the history, economy and culture of China. Seen as one of the ‘Mother Rivers’ in China, its landscapes are closely linked to Chinese national identity. The Yangtze also homes the world’s largest hydroelectric dam: the Three Gorges Dam.
‘Mother River’ is a practice-based research project launched by Preston in 2010. Within the project, the Yangtze River is seen as the physical carrier of two Chinese myths: an idealized Mother River, and a naturalized modernization process in the name of the river. On the methodological level, the project explores possible ways to unveil such myths by adopting a ‘Deep Mapping’ method, which combines embodied performance works on the river with the itinerary ‘Point System’ photographing the river at a precise interval of every 100 kilometers. On the output level, the projects attempts to form a dialectic portrait, and a personal collection, of contemporary China on the scale and depth rarely seen before.
Yan Wang Preston (b.1976) is a British-Chinese photographic artist based in Yorkshire, England. Originally trained in Clinical Medicine at Shanghai Medical University, Preston worked as a qualified anesthetist in China before moving to the UK in 2005. Since then she launched a new career as an artist. Besides building her international reputation gradually, she is also completing a PhD in Photography at University of Plymouth, supervised by Prof. Liz Wells and Prof. Jem Southam.