Friday, March 27, 2009

Exhibition : Beijing Sixty-Six by Solange Brand

Interesting exhibition at Beaugeste Photo Gallery in Shanghai, the Gallery curated by Jean Loh will introduce some historical color photos from the Cultural Revolution in Beijing. The Exhibition will open on the 28th of March at 5Pm at Beaugeste Gallery , lane 210 Taikang road.
here the statement from Jean Loh :
Beijing Sixty-Six: Portrait of a Lost Generation
In 2002 the cofounder of the Pingyao International Photography Festival, Alain Jullien, invited an unknown amateur photographer to participate in the annual visual feast that went on to become the landmark of Chinese photography today. Solange Brand, then the Art Director of the newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique, mentioned in passing to Alain that she had been in China from 1966 to 1968, and had not set foot on the Mainland since. When Alain asked if she had taken any pictures of China; that innocent question turned out to be a major discovery: Her Kodachrome slides and Agfa prints buried in a shoe box for all those years emerged to become an award-winning book.
That same year in Pingyao I was privileged to be in Solange's hotel room where she first showed her sensational pictures on my laptop screen. Everyone in the room was awestruck. And I was captivated by the freshness of the images as if they were snapshots made just the day before. Later during the al fresco projection, many of the Chinese photographers were moved; all were fascinated by this very rare natural portrait of “Beijing '66,” and in color!
Photography is indeed a time machine where reality travels from yesteryear to yesterday.
The magic about the number “1966” is that this was the year when everything started going upside down, the beginning of an unprecedented upheaval. As if there was a before and an after—following 1966 nothing was the same any more. When Solange raised her camera she was wondering why those great numbers of students, instead of attending classes, were all over town, writing slogans on the walls. She sensed something was happening but did not really understand the scope of the phenomenon. It was the year that the Beatles revolutionized rock music with their albums Rubber Soul and Revolver. It was the year Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander invented new American photography. When Solange eventually left Beijing in 1968 she went home to a France shaken by a nameless revolution dubbed “May 68.” John Lennon said (in “The Beatles Anthology”); “The sixties saw a revolution among youth, not just concentrating in small pockets or classes, but a revolution in a whole way of thinking; the youth got it first and the next generation second. The Beatles were part of the revolution.”
What, with indescribable emotion, did the Chinese photographers see in Solange's Beijing '66? I honestly don't know. What I saw was the original iconography that would serve as the visual aesthetics underlying China's contemporary art today. What the Chinese photographers saw was perhaps a “self-projection” or “self-identification” with the faces of these young men and women, even children, who could have been their grandparents or their parents from a long lost memory.
Here lies the power of photography: What the Chinese viewers experience is like taking a swab of reality—an operation of “cut and paste”—and transposing it to fill in the void in our imaginations, to fill in the empty place in our collective memory, to fill in the absence as in our absentmindedness. We are confronted again by Roland Barthes’ famous “Ça a été—that has been.” Photography's immediacy acts to set up an instantaneous observation of the experience of its author. As a result of the cut and paste, this transposition becomes an affirmation of “I have seen this” or “I have been there.” Hence the excitement we feel in the possibility of scrutinizing each face in the crowd and asking of ourselves: Was that how we (or our progenitors) used to look?
Diane Arbus had the conviction that there are things people would never have noticed had she not photographed them. Thanks to Solange Brand we relish the opportunity to take in every detail of the clothing, of every particle in the air, of every expression on the faces in this Beijing Sixty-Six, and ask ourselves: Where have all these heroic faces gone? The students with their uniforms; those “lake hero” figures (Jianghu Renwu) with their fur coats of another age; those dancers on the train expressing their revolutionary fervor with a martial choreography; and those pilgrims on the road beaten by sandstorms but bravely carrying the icon of the holy idol on their backpacks. Where have all these Red soldiers gone?