RongRong&inri: Tui-Transfiguration

I titled the last part of the Tui-transfiguration “Rebirth,” and commented on it in the exhibition catalogue: “A fascination with beauty and youth is the dominant theme of the third section of the exhibition, which feature two groups of collaborative works that Rong Rong and inri created after they had found each other and fallen in love. As if reborn from ruins, nature, still unspoiled, comes back to life. The two photographers embrace this amazing world. Harmony has triumphed, struggle has subsided. Sensual pleasure has returned to become the main purpose for artistic creation; even the frozen, frightening winter landscape of Mt. Fuji inspires joy.”


First seen in the tranquil photographic images that these two artists created together in 2001 and 2002, this rebirth finally materialized in their founding of Sanyingtang---the Three Shadows Studio (the formal name is the Three Shadows Photography Art Center) at Caochangdi on the east edge of Beijing. Solely funded by themselves, this 4,600 sq meters complex is an ambitious undertaking with facilities including two large exhibition halls, a conference room, a library, darkrooms, a café, and spaces for outdoor activities. Ai Weiwei’s design further bestows the central building and surrounding yards with additional architectural significance. When the writer Sheila Melvin interviewed me in 2007 upon the Center’s opening, I told her that these two artists "have done something quite important. There are so many museums and galleries sponsored by companies or governments, but I think this is the first sponsored by artists---and for idealistic reasons."[v] About the first exhibition the Center organized, called New Photo---Ten Years and co-curated by Zhang Li and me, I told Melvin again: "I suggested this show because I felt they first should establish a historical perspective. I also feel that China moves so fast that the artists don't always think---they have instinct and ambition, but they need to think about what is Chinese contemporary photography."[vi] Now in its second year, Sanyingtang has developed into a mature institution with a varied exhibition and education program, and has begun to attract wide attention internationally. This is not the only result of Rong Rong’s and inri’s rebirth, however: with the founding of the Sanyingtang they have also created a large body of photographs recording its emergence from Beijing’s frozen earth, as well as the expansion of their family: since the Liulitun Moment they have given birth to two children and are awaiting the third.