Curated by Shen Yi
Years ago, a sudden disease almost put an end to Bei Dao's writing. Language (words) became absent in the cruelest way. For a very long time, the poet was silenced.
As French philosopher Jacques Derrida puts it, "Language is never owned." An esteemed poet should inhabit the place of a multiple and migrating language, and embrace the spectral errancy of language. Whoever surrenders to this truth of language is a poet whether he writes poetry or not.
Enriched by years of exile experience, Bei Dao seems calm in the migration of language. Photography has become the new body that he gives to this essence of language. With the instinct of a poet and the impressive determination, he tries to extricate himself from the language that withholds life and death, and to "live the death of language".
It is through those ephemeral images in reality that he approaches the spectral bodies with his camera. Eventually, inside the language that has lost its representation, he miraculously guides the return of words and manifests linguistic vitalism once again.
By Shen Yi
Artist: BEI DAO
Bei Dao, whose original name is Zhao Zhenkai, was born in Beijing in 1949. He is one of the most significant figures in the contemporary poetry movement in China. He founded a literary magazine Today with his friends in Beijing in 1978. Since 1987, he has been teaching in many universities in Europe, the United States, and Hong Kong. His works have been translated into 30 languages. He was awarded the Swedish PEN Literature Prize, the American Guggenheim Prize, and the highest honor of Golden Wreath Prize of the Macedonian Struga International Poetry Festival. He is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2009, Bei Dao founded Hong Kong International Poetry Night, currently the most influential international poetry festival in Asia. He created the Hong Kong Poetry Festival Foundation in 2018.
Bei Dao‘s photography exhibition Nil Mirror was held in Beijing and Guangzhou in 2012. Bei Dao’s painting exhibition The Moment was held in Paris in 2018. Bei Dao‘s photography exhibition Double Shadows was held in Shanghai in 2019.
Curator: SHEN YI
Shen Yi is a film producer and screenwriter who graduated from the School of Creative Media at the City University of Hong Kong. She started her career as a photographer, poet, literary critic, and curator. Shen Yi is a two-time First Prize recipient of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. From 2009 to 2013, she hosted her solo photography exhibitions in China, France, and Italy. Among her works, The Disassembled Notebook was exhibited at Women Photography Festival in Toulouse, France, and was highly recommended in the special issues on Women’s Photography in Trans Asia Photography Review. In 2012 and 2019, Shen Yi curated the significant poet Bei Dao’s photography exhibition Nil Mirror and Double Shadows.
She was invited as one of the jury members for the Chinese Film Media Awards 2011 and 2013, My French Film Festival 2013, "Forward Future International Screening Unit" of Beijing International Film Festival 2018 and Minsk International Film Festival 2020. Shen Yi started filmmaking in 2014 as the co-producer and creative consultant for NeZha (2015), executive producer and screenwriter for Ash (2020), and executive producer and associate director for Literary Documentary Like the Dyer’s Hand (2020).
Bei Dao, Vision, Giclée Print Courtesy of the artist.
Bei Dao, The Landscape, Giclée Print. Courtesy of the artist.
Bei Dao, Modern Times, Giclée Print. Courtesy of the artist.