A Chinese woman enters the frame of an old photo. She touches the shoulder of Simone de Beauvoir, sits in J.F. Kennedy’s ill-fated car, joins Marilyn Monroe on her couch, paints with Pablo Picasso and laughs with Grace Kelly.
She is Celine Liu, a young Chinese photographer who is exhibiting her amazingly edited photos at the newly opened “Follow_Me” exhibition at OCAT Shenzhen.
Holding a master of fine arts degree in photography from Tsinghua University, Liu used Photoshop to edit herself into historical photos, posing next to the iconic figures. She then spread the photos online, baffling Internet users. This set of photos won her the Discovery Award at the Jimei-Arles International Photography Season in 2016.
“I hope to present the process of making a symbol through this project. Celebrities and historical figures were symbols created through media communication, so by intruding into their historical moments, blurring reality and fiction, and with the help of the Internet, my images are spread along with the famous people equally. This photo series is titled ‘Celine Liu,’ and I will finally become a symbol like them,” Liu explained.
Similar to Liu’s role-playing methodology, Swiss photographer Romain Mader is showcasing his series “Ekaterina” at the exhibition, another photo series aimed at blurring reality and fiction. Mader, the winner of 2017 Paul Huf Award, documented his “trip” to a fictional Ukrainian town called “Ekaterina,” which is mysteriously populated only by women.
During the “trip,” Madler spends time with aspiring models and beauty queen hopefuls. In a slick style similar to commercial snapshots, social media and tourism brochures, viewers are drawn into a world of consuming women, mail-order brides and sex tourism.
The “Follow_Me: New Narratives in Contemporary Photography, China-Switzerland” exhibition features 10 young photographers from China and Switzerland using the language of photography to discuss the similarities and differences between visual narratives and the impact of modern communication.
Curators Peter Pfrunder and Shi Hantao found that one of the most remarkable features in contemporary photography, both in China and in Switzerland, is the way in which photography is used for telling a story, creating an “imagined reality” between documentary and fiction. Within a set of photos, the artists build a visual narration with a storyline, which can then be considered an autobiographical account, a travelogue or an investigation into unknown realities with dreamlike lyrical sequences.
“Playing the role of an author/photographer/narrator, the artists invite the viewers to ‘follow’ them and listen to their stories. They also attempt to invite the viewers to become new narrators as social media increasingly permeates life and every user has already become a narrator of a story,” said the curators.
The exhibition is divided into four sections. The first discusses the problem of identity, where David Favrod, Kimisa, and Salvatore Vitale raise the question of “Who I Am” in their autobiographical stories. In the second section, Lau Wai, Anne Golaz, and Zeng Yicheng retell personal vignettes centered on important events in their life journeys.
In the third section, Celine Liu and Romain Mader are blurring the boundaries between documentary and fiction through their reality-bending works. And the last one is a historical archeology in which Virginie Rebetez and Shi Zhen use “unreliable” video evidence to elaborate on individual and collective memories.
Dates: Until June 4, closed Mondays
Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Venue: OCAT Shenzhen, South Area, OCT-LOFT, Nanshan District (南山区华侨城创意文化园南区OCAT深圳馆)
Metro: Line 1 to Qiaocheng East Station (侨城东站), Exit A
“Storytelling is important for human beings. It is a survival strategy and a way through which we make sense of a world which does not make sense,” Pfrunder concluded.