In his spare time blogger BrokenIce hits the streets of old Beijing armed with a camera and one request: “Tell me one thing about yourself that is true and one thing that is not true.”. It’s a simple concept, consistently executed, that led to remarkable results. The blog, or actually a WeChat subscription under his name BrokenIce, is a collection of his findings on the street titled according to the date of the post. It combines observations on the street and full body portrait photographs with detail shots of the outfits and answers given by the models. Which part of the answer is true and which part is not often stays undefined adding an extra layer to the portraits.
The works are a tribute to people who stand out in the crowd. A fascination with this phenomenon drove BrokenIce to a diverse group of (senior) citizens in the streets and hutongs(traditional alleys typical of Beijing’s city center) of Beijing. Authentic characters who express themselves through their clothes without a self-contentious idea to make a fashion statement. BrokenIce: “I’m mesmerised by their carelessness and spontaneity when it comes to dressing up. And to me, they’re the ones who are truly cool and stylish, because they don’t have a lookbook in hand, they don’t have a prototype to follow, and they’re not taking rides in no bandwagons”. In a wider perspective this search for authenticity can be seen as a reflection upon a changing society. One in which the distinction between the way things look and the way they are is blurred and a desire for pureness and authenticity is growing.
Similar to photographers like Liu Tao and 223 who started their career online, BrokenIce has no particular photography education or background of making exhibitions. Instead he decided to share his photography explorations online. He is an interesting example of the type of blogging photographer who feels a distance to participate in the contemporary photography/art world. That is not just a modest attitude often felt by amateur photographers. On one hand the possibilities to combine multiple photographs with text, video and music in an accessible way (for free) makes it less attractive to make a physical exhibition. On the other hand it’s also a pretentious attitude of the contemporary art world that scares them off. A real exhibition (read: print exhibition) is considered a bridge too far.
As a curator I have taken this opportunity to offer BrokenIce his first “real” solo exhibition. The title is based on the selection of works made between 18th January 2016 and 11th of August 2017. Together we have explored the possibilities to translate the works from online into print. Beside showing the quality of the works I took this show as an experiment of how we could stretch standard patterns of photography exhibition making.
BrokenIce160421 - YùShùE`rTiáo
BrokenIce161021 - WángFǔJǐng Street
BROKENICE161021 - DōngSì South Street
BROKENICE170516 - JīaoDàoKǒu East Street