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Follow_Me: New narratives in contemporary photography, China – Switzerland

Follow_Me

Exhibition project organized by OCAT Shanghai, supported by Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council, and Swiss Foundation for Photography / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Swiss artists: David Favrod, Anne Golaz, Romain Mader, Virginie Rebetez, Salvatore Vitale

Chinese artists: Kimisa, Celine Liu / 刘思麟, Lau Wai / 刘卫, Shi Zhen / 石真, Zeng Yicheng / 曾忆城

Curators: Peter Pfrunder, Shi Hantao

Venue / opening Shanghai
The exhibition Follow_Me is planned for OCAT Shanghai, June to September 2017 (Opening June 18). Further venues in China possible.

“Follow_MeNew narratives in contemporary photography” will be presented at OCAT Shanghai on June 19, inviting 10 young photographers from China and Switzerland. The exhibition features works using the language of photography to build layers of overlapping narrations. The two curators of this exhibition, Peter Pfrunder and Shi Hantao, have observed and studied contemporary photographic practices in China and Switzerland over a long period of time. They have discovered that the practice in these two respective countries unfold their narrative through the medium of photography, whereby to build an imaginary reality with its documentary and fictional qualities. This is also a commonality in contemporary photography. On the one hand, narration as humanity’s most ancient means to record and self-express, continue to search for linguistic and formal conduit in various artistic mediums. Since the birth of photography, photographic narrative has developed its own unique history, one that has not faded with the changing times, where we continue to find photographic developments that is unique to each time period and in the individual’s expression. On the other hand, as social media become part of our everyday lives, users of these media portals become the storyteller of their own lives that further collapses the grand narrative, as the massive micro-narratives conjure together to convey the new condition of humanity. Therefore, the exhibition does not only invite the viewer to “listen to me” – telling the stories of the others; but also sending an invitation to “follow me” for the viewer to become the narrator of their own stories.

Although these participating artists unfold their narrative on the basis of photographic vernacular, their forms of expression and techniques adopted differ with various modes of narration, expanding from still photography, moving images, projection, light box, to objects and etc., all of which are intertwined together to constitute the indispensible component of their stories.

The exhibition is divided into four sections. Part one addresses the issue of identity, in which artists David Favrod, Kimisa and Salvatore Vitale use photography to ask questions of “Who am I?” in their biographical stories; in part two, Liu Wei, Anne Golaz and Zeng Yicheng expand on an important location of their life experience to recollect and enquire; in part three, Celine Liu and Romain Mader blur the boundary between fiction and documentary through role-playing; and the last part of the exhibition takes on an archaeological angle, for which Virginie Rebetez and Shi Zhen adopts the “unreliable” evidence of film records to explore personal and collective memories.

Public Programs

June 18, Opening forum

July 1, Talk
“I” through the lens: Family photography and memory building
Kiki Tianqi Yu, Associate professor, Film Studies, Cultural and Creative Industry, University of Southern California, filmmaker and producer

July 15-16, Workshop
Narrative catalogue
Yan You, independent publisher, founder of “Jiazazhi”, devoted many years in the discovery of young photographers.

July 29, Talk
The cultural politics of “documentary” – On the “artistic documentaries” of the 1950s
Tang Weijie, Associate professor of Humanities studies, Professor of comparative literature at Tongji University

August 12, Talk
Tracking narrative: The conceptual art practice of Sophie Calle
btr, writer, translator and critic

September 9, Curator’s Guided Tour & Special Event

One of the most remarkable features in contemporary photography, both in China and in Switzerland, is the way in which the medium is used for telling a story, creating an imagined reality between documentary and fiction. Within a coherent body of work, the artists build up a visual narrative along a story line or a certain plot. This can be linear or non-linear, elliptic, following a time line, a spatial movement or a voyage. The story can assume the form of an (auto)biographical account, or a travelogue, or investigate unknown realities with dreamlike lyrical sequences. These stories are based on the suggestive power of photographic sequences which go far beyond the simple depiction of reality. They play in a creative way with the ambiguity of the images and the voids between the captured fragments of time.

The title of this show, Follow_Me, refers to the role of the author / photographer / narrator who is guiding his audience through the universe of images by selecting, ordering and editing his photographs along his story line. The artists see themselves as storytellers but leave it up to the viewer to speculate about the so-called «truth». Follow_Me also alludes to narrative forms in social media, to platforms on which every participant behaves like a storyteller regarding his or her everyday life. In the exhibited works, the crossover or combination of media appears to be natural elements of storytelling. The forms and techniques of display in the exhibition vary according to the narration. Still and moving images, video projections, lightboxes and objects are intertwined in a playful mixture. Not surprisingly, most of the artists have also published their stories in photobooks, using the potential of double pages, layouts and multiple reading options for developing their narratives.

The first chapter presents the works of David Favrod, Kimisa, and Salvatore Vitale. They have in common that they use photography to ask questions about themselves, their cultural and biographical identity, their own past or their relation to history. Their autobiographical approach focuses on their childhood and youth. The photographers seem to travel back into an unconscious past, trying to fill the gaps of their conscious memory with lyrical dreamlike explorations and with narrative imagination.

David Favrod, The Bunker, 2012, Archival pigment print, 64 x 80 cm, © David Favrod
Salvatore Vitale, From the series “The Moon Was Broken”, 2014-16, Archival pigment print, 130 x 97.5 cm, © Salvatore Vitale

In the second chapter, the focus lies more on a territory or an environment that holds an important place in the biography of the artists. Lau Wei and Anne Golaz investigate physical spaces as a form of individual expression. The traces which people have left behind, objects and even the specific ambiance of a room reveal themselves as part of the photographers’ identity. The story presented by Zeng Yi Cheng is a love story, a very personal visual poem. All these works also deal with the passing of time and try to find coherence or meaning in a world full of incomprehensible fragments. Past and present are mixed in an intricate way.

Anne Golaz, from the series “Corbeau” (Raven), 2004-15, Archival pigment prints, 100 x 80 cm, © Anne Golaz

Blurring the boundaries between documentary and fiction is one of the strategies used by the artists in the third chapter. Both Celine Liu and Romain Mader stage themselves in front of the camera or invent situations in which they can playfully change their identities, thus creating fake autobiographies or small stories that never happened. Identity, in both cases, becomes a question of performance and role play, something that depends more on the perception of reality than on hard facts. Images are a crucial element in the self-definition of the protagonists.

Romain Mader, Wedding in Loèche-les-Bains, 2012. From the series “Ekaterina”, 2012. Archival pigment print, 140 x 100cm, © Romain Mader / ECAL

The last chapter deals with individual and collective memories: to what extent can we rely on our memories? It presents two artists who work like historians, using found photographs and archival documents for reconstructing the lives of people they don’t know. Photography becomes a tool for research, but at the same time the artists question our ideas about photographic evidence. In the stories told by Virginie Rebetez and Shi Zhen the documents cannot prove anything; the reality they represent is overruled by the projections of the spectator, who creates a new story based on a combination of facts and imagination. The coherence of the narration appears to be the only reliable reference.

Virginie Rebetez, From the series “Out of the Blue”, 2014. Archival pigment print, 108 x 165 cm, © Virginie Rebetez

About the Curators:

Peter Pfrunder, born 1959, studied literature in Zurich, Berlin, and Montpellier, receiving his doctorate in 1988. Until 1998 he worked as a freelance journalist, author, and exhibition curator. He has had a variety of publications and exhibitions on the history of photography with a special focus on Switzerland. Since 1998 he has served as Director and Curator of the Fotostiftung Schweiz / Swiss Foundation for Photography, Winterthur, the national institution dedicated to the preservation of the photographic heritage of Switzerland. He has curated over 25 exhibitions for this Foundation and is regularly contributing to international Photofestivals, recently at Lianzhou Foto (China) and Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles (France). Selection of publications: Theo Frey, Fotografien (Zürich 2008); Gotthard Schuh – A Kind of Infatuation (Göttingen 2009); Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the Present – A Different History of Photography (Baden 2011); Adieu la Suisse! Construction et déconstruction d’un mythe photographique (Paris 2012); Kindheit in der Schweiz / Enfances suisses / Childhood in Switzerland (Zürich 2015); Unfamiliar familiarities. Outside Views on Switzerland (Zürich 2017).

Shi Hantao, born in 1973, Shanghai, is the Director of Research and Education Department at Shanghai Project. Shi used to work at Ray Art Center, Rockbund Art Museum, Chronus Art Center, and EPSON Image Space. He had developed numerous exhibitions and public programs in the fields of photography, contemporary art, and visual cultural studies. In 2002, Shi founded the Origin Gallery, which was one of the first Chinese galleries dedicated to photography; he was awarded as the “Curator of the Year” in 2005 in Lianzhou International Photo Festival; in 2008, he received his Master degree in “Arts Administration and Policy” at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His major curatorial experience includes: Absent Minded (Lianzhou, 2005), Discomforting Anxieties (New York, 2008), Welcome to the Birdhead’s World (Lianzhou, 2010), Trace II (Dali, 2011), Commemorating Shanghai 1980s (Lanzhou, 2012; Shanghai, 2013). His publications include Body-Gender-Photography, Photography as a Multi-dimensional Field; the other writing and translation works have been extensively published in the anthologies and magazines, including Photo-Society-Space, Shanghai-Image-City, Chinese Photography, China Photo Press, Book Town, Art China, Art World, etc.

 

About the Artists:

Anne Golaz

Born in Switzerland in 1983, Anne Golaz graduated from the Photography Masters Program of the Aalto University of Art and Design, Helsinki in 2013, where she completed her thesis On Photobooks and Narratives. She also studied at the Photography School in Vevey and in 2012 spent six months at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Her work deals mainly with the representation of rural communities, exploring our evolving relations with nature and our complex sense of belonging to a place. Her series Chasses (Hunting Games) was published by Infolio in 2010 and was selected for the Aperture Portfolio Prize in New York. Her Finnish series Metsästä (From The Woods) was published by Kehrer Verlag and was selected as one of the best Photobooks of 2012 by the Aperture-Paris Photo First Book Award. Anne Golaz is also a member of the Finnish artists’ collective Maanantai, and has contributed to their common projects, Nine Nameless Mountains, published in 2013. She currently has several projects ongoing mainly between Switzerland and the North of Finland, where she lives. In 2016 she was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize and her new book, Corbeau (Raven), will be published by MACK in summer 2017.

David Favrod

Born in Japan and now living and working in Switzerland and Spain, David Favrod creates photographs, videos, and installations that combine elements of multiple cultures and genres—he often portrays his personal struggle with conflicting aspects of his bicultural identity. Favrod’s images tend toward the fanciful and are disturbing at times. Through them, Favrod borrows from the highly stylized compositions and visual drama of traditional Japanese prints and drawings, but his work is also informed by the conceptual practices of contemporary Western artists.

Favrod is the recipient of the 2015 FOAM Talent, the 2014 C/O Berlin Talent, the 2013 Lens Culture Exposure Award, the 2010 Aperture Portfolio Prize, and won the Swiss Design Award in 2010. His work is to be found in numerous public collections, among them Rome’s Museo d’ Arte Contemporanea di Roma, the Elysee Museum in Switzerland, and the collection of the City of Winterthur, also in Switzerland.

He received a Master’s Degree in Art Direction and a Bachelor’s in photography from the Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne.

Favrod has had solo and group exhibitions around the globe. He has shown at the Aperture Foundation in New York, the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation in Eschborn, the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, the C/O Berlin Foundation, the Houston Center for Photography, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto and the Benaki Museum in Athens.

Romain Mader

Romain Mader, born 1988, studied fine arts at Zurich University of the Arts and studied photography at ECAL, University of Art and Design Lausanne.

He is a Swiss artist who explores the themes of gender-representation, loneliness and human behaviour in a connected world.

His work has been exhibited at Tate Modern, London, Musée d‘art de Pully, Images in Vevey, and published in a 2016 monograph titled Ekaterina by Mörel Books in London.

Mader was the recipient of the 2017 Paul Huf Award.

Virginie Rebetez

Virgine Rebetez, born 1979, graduated in 2005 from the Photography School of Vevey (CH) and from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie (NL) in 2008. Virginie Rebetez lives and works today in Lausanne (CH).

Her photographic work is shown regularly in museums, galleries or festivals in Switzerland and Europe, as well as published and reviewed in different cultural magazines and blogs. (British Journal of Photography, Capricious Magazine, Le Temps, Der Bund, Next Level, Drome Magazine, 1000Words Mag, US Huffington Post, FeatureShoot, Septinfo).

The artist has received numerous awards from art institutions; La Fondation Leenaards (2014, CH), Prix Leica 29th Festival of Photography and Fashion Hyères (2014, F), Prix Focale_Ville de Nyon (2013, CH), Swiss Design Awards (2014, CH).

Rebetez did several artist’s residencies in Johannesburg (SA, 2013), New York (US, 2014) and recently in Cairo (EG, 2016). The projects realized during those months all received awards and were widely shown.

In September 2016, she published her work Out of the Blue with Meta/Books (Delphine Bedel), which was presented during different book launches in Europe and New York. Out of the Blue was nominated as one of the Best Photobooks 2016 by Rémi Coignet, Colin Pantall and Yumi Goto.

Her photographic work is part of the Fotostiftung Collection (Winterthur, CH), the city of Nyon (CH), and of several private collections.

Salvatore Vitale

Salvatore Vitale, born 1986, is a Swiss-based artist and editor. After his studies in Communication, in 2014 he attended the International Center of Photography—ICP’s class with Allen Frame and was selected for the ISSP International Masterclass by Andrei Polikanov and Yuri Kozyrev. In 2015 he was named among Die Besten 2014 at the Swiss Photo Awards. His interest lies mainly in the exploration of storytelling strategies through the use of different languages and media.

In 2015-2016 he was a recipient of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia’s grant for his long-term research on the production of security in Switzerland. The project explores the production of national security in Switzerland, which is known as one of the safest countries on earth. It analyzes the ways in which things that are elusive – such as safety and security – become stabilized through standard operating procedures.

He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of YET magazine, an international photography magazine and platform which showcases works by both emerging and established photographers as well as critics and in-depth content focusing on the evolution of photography, with a particular eye to the contemporary field.

Vitale is a member of, among others, the academy of nominators for The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize and Plat(t)form – Fotomuseum Winterthur. He also has judged for the International Summer School of Photography (ISSP) and ShowOFF – Krakow Photomonth, to name but a few.

He has been featured and published internationally, and also teaches workshops, writes and gives lectures and talks about his work.

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