These photographs are records of landscapes right after or within the midst of change. Simultaneous demolition and construction erase the memories of the land. The absence of historical uniformity and rational planning both symbolizes and impels a chaos of social values and increasing materialism: a 2000-year-old city is razed and disappears; contradictory architectures arise beside each other; an ancient temple is protected from water raised by dam construction; suburban communities spring up through random overdevelopment; centers for fertilization and for parentage identification stand side by side; religious and alien commercial icons weave an unpredictable visual texture. The China of these photographs is a battlefield of transition. The figures of contemporary landscapes and urban structures not only represent the current reality but also disclose the capricious potential desires of an expanding society.
The project’s title HETEROSCAPES is inspired by Michel Foucault. In his 1967 lecture Des Espace Autres, Foucault employs the metaphor of a mirror for his concept of heterotopia, the alternative region between real spaces and an imagined utopia. As a conjunction between reality and unreality, heterotopia exposes existing conditions and reveals new illusions. In these photographs, the altered landscapes just embody the conflicting lunacy of the renovated China and the concealed delusion of the country’s new covetousness.
This project initially started when I began taking photographs of urban landscapes in my hometown, Chongqing. With a population of 31 million in the whole municipality as of 2005, Chongqing is now the largest city in the world. The municipality of Chongqing extends deep into hinterlands, over a rural area spanning 80,000 square km. As one of China’s most important cities and a district with historically the largest rural population, Chongqing endured the most traumatic transition and dramatic conflicts between traditional rural culture and modern urban civilization. The conflicts often generate very peculiar circumstances.
Born at early 1980s, I grew up in Chongqing, until I left for college in 2000. I took changes for granted when I was young, as what I learned from my experiences was all about renewal – the old being erased and replaced, the new being erased and replaced again. Old buildings were pulled down to make way for widened roads, supermarkets and apartments, and in turn, the widened roads, supermarkets and apartments were soon pulled down again years later due to inconsistent urban distribution plans. History is being smashed and rewritten again and again. With every return to Chongqing, when I look at the landscapes that are familiar but somehow alienating at the same time, I always find something puncturing, revealing to me the residue of changes hidden in the scenes. It dissipates my pseudo-romantic nostalgia, and shows me a much more complicated reality than I often would like to imagine.