Photography and Curiosity
Essay by Yining He
Translated by Nianping Tian
“Curiosity is an ambiguous passion: the virtuous impulse behind the search for knowledge and at the same time a disreputable desire for novelty and strangeness.” This is how curiosity was defined in the exhibition called Curiosity: Art & the Pleasures of Knowing in Hayward Gallery, the U.K. In Chinese dictionaries, to be curious is to be interested in new and unfamiliar things, or to be unconventional. This Chinese expression originates from Wang Chong, a philosopher in the Western Han Dynasty. In his book On Balance, he writes “The pursuit of unconventional things will never end, making those things everlasting.”
In 2013, the 211th issue of Aperture focused on the curiosity in photography. In the preface, the editor wrote “Photography has long served as a medium of choice not only for the curious practitioner, but also for his or her audience, whose curiosity may be either aroused or appeased by an image.” As early as the 1960s, Richard Cumming, the artist who aroused my interest in the fancy of photography, used scenery to reproduce the connections among different objects, creating film-like visual languages. Later, I was attracted by the absurd and meaningful works from photographer Joan Fontcuberta, who is an expert in raising curiosity. The documentary photography stories he created during the past three decades used visual languages, including advertisements, museum displays and scientific magazines, and combined the reality with romance. All those works challenged science, the symbol of authority. Curiosity encourages people to know the world, and photography is the driving force for this exploration. In the recent Shanghai Photo, as an audience, I closely appreciated the lunar exploration photos provided by NASA. Those magnificent images excited me and satisfied my curiosity.
Curiosity stems from our most direct sensory experiences. Photographer Lin Weixi thought about dimensions of pictures in her Stereo. She provided us with a serious of sensory experiences in our daily life. They seem irrelevant at first sight, but interconnected with each other. Known Unknowns originated from careful observations of graphic designer Hu Xiaoqin. The gorgeous world became abstract in her eyes and she transformed it into patterns in her unique photographic style. At the same time, with the observation and experience of the photographer, curiosity was given more profound contents by her images. Yang Qingqing concentrated on the tiny sparkling objects she met. Driven by her curiosity, she photographed them and edited them in her Sparkling. Li Yuqi’s Temperature Differences presented us the nomadic life in the grand Hulunbuir Grasslands with vague imageries and warm tones. She said she had never thought that it would become a series of work. It has no theory description; it is entwined with her body’s perception. The perception is the initial urge for her photography: connecting with others, and connecting with herself.
Cities are always the paradise for explorations.Mark8:24 was edited by Ma Yinni when she was studying at London College of Communication. Through the presentation of the materialistic urban life, her work explored the real spiritual life of human beings. The photographer used strong contrasts to raise our curiosity and to see how vision can lead audiences to different thoughts. Meanwhile, the night in a city has another sight. Since 2013, young photographer 9 mouth began to take pictures of female nudes in city at night. In Night Tour, 9 mouth put little female bodies in massive city architectures. Through the strong comparison, he presented his thought upon independence in metropolis. Li Chaoyu, who lived in Walla Walla, a typical American town for four years, took pictures for those common architectures in that small town. Domestic Nightscape captured and magnified the contrast of luminosity and the interweaving of colors from different light sources of architectures, making those quiet blocks and middle-class tract houses dreary and mind numbing at night. Their original materiality started to become abstract till the moment when the two sides of those architectures were perfectly balanced.
Memories sometimes guide photographers back to their childhoods or make them think about the reality. Memory and present entwine with each other, so do reality and romance. Fascinated about the surroundings and curious about the reality, Huang Dongli rethought about the real world through his project. shows a kind of non-linear narrative documentary which exposes the subtle relations among objects. In Wu Shankun’s Innocent Youth, the photographer tried to use abstract images to explore our endowed curiosities. For him, this work is rather a dairy of subconsciousness than a collection of images. He presented his private memories step by step and felt that the past could stay, allowing him to see his youth afar. Some artists created interesting images through digital collage. They combined photos with varies elements and made interesting works. Kayan Kwok is an artist, illustration and a graphic designer based in Hong Kong. A Poster a Day is from a project called “A poster per day for 365 days” which makes a poster per day till it hit 365 days. This project is not a professional work about photography, however, it is a practice of collage. By redesigning photos from 1900 to 1970, the photographer successfully brought creative ideas, mysteries and memories to a multi-dimensional space.
This exhibition is jointly held by Go East Project and Dusk Dawn Club. We gathered works of 10 photographers from Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Tai Wan to explore the practice of curiosity in modern photography. As an online institution dedicated to building a platform of photography, Go East Project encourages the young to explore the world through photography. At the same time, by cooperating with Dusk Dawn Club, we hope to arouse audiences’ resonance by group exhibition.
Go East Project × DDC presents
Curiosity | Photography Exhibition
November 8, 2014-December 9, 2014
Opening: 15:30, November 8
Artists: Xiaoqin Hu, Dongli Huang, 9 mouth，Kayan Kwok, Chaoyu Li, Weixi Lin, Yinni Ma, Shankun Wu, Qingqing Greg Yang
Curator: Yining He
DDC(Dusk Dawn Club), 14 Laoshan Hutong, Dongcheng District
Facebook events: https://www.facebook.com/events/863584536994568/
“好奇心是一个模糊的激情：它是一种隐藏在对知识的探索背后的良性冲动，以及对新奇和陌生感声名狼藉的渴望。”. 这是艺术展《好奇：艺术与求知的愉悦》（Curiosity: Art & The Pleasures of Knowing）在英国Hayward Gallery举办时为“好奇心”下的定义；而在中文的辞典中，“好奇”一词带有对自己不熟悉的事物新奇而感兴趣，或有喜欢标新立异之意，取自汉王充《论衡·案书》：“好奇无己，故奇名无穷。”
2013年，美国光圈杂志（Aperture）第211期则把专题聚焦在摄影的“好奇心”上，编者在刊首页上这样写道：“摄影曾在很长时间成为那些拥有好奇心的摄影师选择的媒介，但同时也适用于他们的观众，因为，一张照片足以挑起或平息一个人的好奇心。”理查德·卡明（Richard Cumming）, 这位最早引起我对摄影的趣味进行长期关注的艺术家，早在上世纪60年代，他便开始用布景的方式将物件之间的联系重现出来，从而制造出富有电影幻像的视觉语言。不久之后，我迷恋上了摄影艺术家胡安·冯库贝尔塔（Joan Fontcuberta）一系列荒诞离奇且意味深远的作品。冯擅长利用观众的好奇心大作文章。他在过去三十年中创作的摄影作品，大多使用了广告，博物馆陈列和科学刊物的视觉语言，并结合了现实与虚构的摄影叙事， 一致挑战着象征权威的科学。好奇心驱使着人们去认识这个世界，摄影更成为探索未知的动力。在不久前于上海所举办的上海影像艺术博览会上，作为观众近距离地观看到NASA宇航局的探月照片，我在浩瀚的登月影像中找寻视觉上的刺点，极度地满足了好奇心。
城市始终都是摄影师探索发现的游客场，马寅妮于伦敦传媒学院学习摄影时所拍摄的作品Mark8:24, 通过对城市生活物质表面的强烈展示来达到对于表象下人类真实精神生活的探求。强化色彩和触觉的感受，来挑战视觉本身可以做到怎样的引导观者进入不同的心理层面， 带给观众无限的好奇。此时此刻，夜晚的城市又是另一番景象，年轻摄影艺术家九口走召从2013年开始在夜晚拍摄城市中女性的身体，在《夜游》中，九口将女性柔弱的躯体置放在夜幕下的城市建筑之中，尝试用视觉影像上的强烈对比来映射他对消费主义大都市下自身独立性的思考。而在美国小镇Walla Walla生活了四年的年轻艺术家李超瑜，则将相机对准小镇那些熟悉且平淡无奇的建筑，Domestic Nightscape捕捉并放大了夜晚建筑不同光源的明度对比和色彩交织。使得白天千篇一律的中产阶级住宅在夜幕下变得不再枯燥。它们原本呈现的单调的纯物质性开始变得抽象，直到两者以完美比例融合。
记忆中的片段时隐时现，在不经意间勾起摄影师们对童年生活的怀念以及对现世的思考。记忆与现实、真实与虚构相互堆叠交织着，对周围事物的好奇心和对真实的追求驱使年轻摄影师黄东黎对现实的二次思考。 参展作品《表象之外》是关于现实与记忆的非线性的叙事，揭露隐藏在日常现实之下事物存在的微妙关系。而在吴舢锟的作品《一封来自远方的信》中，他尝试用抽象的影像来挖掘停留在脑海深处的童年探索欲。对摄影师本人而言，这部作品更像是一个潜意识日记，一点一点把私密的精神碎片抖落出来，似乎影像中的时空一直停留，能远远地看到过去地自己。亦有艺术家通过数码拼贴，将照片和各种元素结合在一起，创作出趣味十足的作品。A Poster A Day是一个365天的创作项目，来自香港的年轻艺术家Kayan Kwok通过将1900－1970年代的老照片进行再创作，虽然作品并非是对摄影本身的讨论，但却是有关如何用拼贴将奇思妙想、神秘或过去的状态带到一个多维空间中的实践。
此次Go East Project 与黄昏黎明俱乐部（Dusk Dawn Club）共同策划的“好奇心”展，集合了上述来自大陆、香港和台湾共十位青年摄影师的作品，集中探索“好奇心”这一话题在当代摄影中的实践。 作为一个致力于搭建摄影平台的线上机构，Go East Project鼓励年轻人通过摄影的媒介去挖掘身边世界里的种种议题，同时，我们通过与黄昏黎明俱乐部的合作，力求用群展的方式带给观者以共鸣。