Artists: Pu Yingwei
Curator: Mia Yu
Pu Yingwei's latest project "The Ethics of Photography: A Photo Album of China and Africa" is devoted to exploring how the "private nature" of photography can be expanded and extended. It attempts to use "private photography" as a critical method to decode the hidden political, historical, and ethical implications behind photography. The specific focus of the artist's ambitious project is on the controversial issue about China and Africa discussed in recent years. Pu Yingwei's interest in Africa began in the years when he studied in France. The reflection of the French intellectual and artistic circles on the history of African colonialism, image politics and racial issues under the post-colonial vision provided him with a macro perspective on the issue, while the recent experience of one of his relatives participating in the China-Africa water conservancy projects provided him with a personal perspective of observation. In "The Ethics of Photography: A Photo Album of China and Africa", Pu Yingwei focuses on three Chinese protagonists with different backgrounds. They are Pu Yingwei's uncle, Li Guiping, a water conservancy engineer; Pu Yingwei's classmate, Li Yannan, a journalist from the Reporters Without Borders and Pu Yingwei's neighbor Megan, who opens a Taobao store selling products from Asia, Africa and Latin America. They photographed different perspectives of Africa as they saw it for various purposes. Pu Yingwei reproduced their photos and hand-colored a selection of them. The three protagonists are linked by their own relationship to the artist, forming a subtle relationship of kinship and geography. Pu Yingwei's choice of images often falls somewhere between politically correct and incorrect, the ambiguous semantic of which corresponds to the geo-sensitivity between China and Africa in the framework of the One Belt, One Road Initiative. The hand-colored photos of Asia and Africa by the 19th century photographers have influenced the imagination and modeling of "the other". Its visual mechanism was closely related to the processes of colonial expansion embedded in this medium. However, the hand-colored photograph is also a melting pot for different cultures, and a place where classical craftsmanship and modern technology interact. Felice Beato, a photographer who traveled extensively in Japan, China, India, and Egypt in the second half of the 19th century, was influenced by Ukiyoe, which revolutionized the technique and aesthetics of the hand-colored photography. The historical complexity of the hand-colored photography and the strategy of appropriation by Pu Yingwei have formed a tension. The choice of the medium of hand-colored photographs is not only a result of the artist's sensitivity to this tension, but also a response to the changing geopolitical relationship between China and Africa in an ambiguous and multifaceted way. Another essential component of the project is the video work I Want to be Modern, which is a collaboration between Pu Yingwei and the animation team. It developed a multi-skinned and multi-racial hybrid image based on the team member's faces. Apparently, the expression "I want to be modern" does not come from an African voice, nor from the Chinese themselves. Is it a desire imagined and shaped for the African people? As the artist suggested, this trans-racial ambiguous "I" may be a frequency that is closer to reality.
African stamps printed as French colonies at the end of the 19th century.2015-2018
"About the Last Day Forever" (Skin, or the Eternal politics of Light).2015
Mpoconon farm: The People's Republic of China Assisting the Central African Republic. Shot by Li Guiping in the Central African Republic.2012
Pu Yingwei was born in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China and currently lives and works in Beijing. He received his BFA from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute and his DNSEP (MFA with félicitations du jury) from the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon.
Pu Yingwei bases his work upon his personal investigation of realities, as he believes that the experiences and memories of individuals are the cordial justification of the world’s existence. The artist is revisiting and parodying political and historical texts in a personal way through his practice, which encompasses exhibitions, writings, publications, and lectures. His writings represent a nonfictional autobiography with narratives that involve such broad topics as race, country, language, and colonization.
Recent solo exhibitions/projects include: “Double Empire,” Nouvel Institut Franco-Chinois, Lyon (2018); “If only it were true,” Galerie Sator, Paris (2018); Pu Yingwei and Jim Thompson Architects, J: GALLERY, Shanghai (2017); Roman Nomade, Hive Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2017). Recent group exhibitions: “Dance With It,” Taikang Space, Beijing (2018); “Frontier: Re-assessment of Post-Globalisational Politics,” OCAT Shanghai/OCAT Institute, Shanghai/Beijing (2017-2018); “Fiction Art,” OCAT Shenzhen, Shenzhen (2018); “I Do (not) Want To Be Part Of Your Celebration,” Qiao Space & TANK Shanghai Project Space, Shanghai (2017); “Reciprocal Enlightenment,” CAFA, Beijing (2017).
Pu won the John Moores Painting Prize in 2012 and the HuaYu Youth Award in 2018. His film “Interview” was shortlisted by the Caen Si Cinéma Festival (2018).
Pu Yingwei views the nomadic life he’s lived in China and the West and the tide of globalization as a type of contemporary exile, and tries to describe in his works the intertextuality and mutual clarification between China’s domestic situation and other cultural contexts. In 2016, after “post-truth” became the word of the year, Pu Yingwei began his fictional writing, His article “Empire’s Legacy On ‘Pacing: A Journey of 70 years’ and its silences” won the second prize in the IAAC competition (International Awards for Art Criticism)，expounding on his belief that first-language writing and translating are identity construction and contextual production as one among the “others,” and that such production is ushering in a new possible identity that is rid of any established ideologies.
Mia Yu was born in Shenyang, grew up in Shenyang , Vancouver and Montreal, and now lives in Beijing. She is an art historian, curator, and guest editor of YISHU: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art. Her research is centered on transnational modernism, postwar Third World cultural exchange, and exhibition histories of global contemporary art. Her research papers have appeared in the book Uncooperative Contemporaries: Art Exhibitions in Shanghai c.2000 (Afterall Exhibition Histories series) and other journals, including the Journal of Art Historiography, Mousse, and LEAP. In 2017, Mia Yu edited the special issue Atlas of Archives: Historical Imaginations in Chinese Contemporary Art for YISHU. She has curated numerous conferences, symposia and exhibitions for various art institutions, including “Floating Constellation：Border-Crossing Exchanges and Trajectories within Asia and Beyond” at Times Art Center Berlin in 2019, the “Curating Geography” symposium at New Century Art Foundation in 2019, the Para-curatorial Symposium at Guangdong Times Museum in 2017, “Archives Between Past and Future” at Asia Art Archive in 2016, the retrospective exhibition “Ni Jun: An Inconvenient Case” at PIFO Art Center in 2019, and “Adad Hannah: Wild Songs” in 2016. Mia Yu’s videos and installations—based on her art historical research—have been exhibited at Time Art Center Berlin, Villa Vassilieff Paris, Guangdong Times Museum, Asia Society Hong Kong, Shenzhen Art Museum and Jiangsu Provincial Museum. She was the winner of Yishu Award for Critical Writing on Contemporary Art in 2018 and the CCAA Art Critic Award in 2015 and has received a Tate Asia Research Fellowship. Mia Yu is on the jury committees for the Hyundai Blue Prize for emerging curators, the Porsche Young Artist Awards, and the Art Nova Awards.