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2022-11-18 18:19

Interview by Salomé Burstein

Chen Wei is presented at ShangArt Gallery in the Curiosa sector at the occasion of Paris Photo from the 9th to the 13th of November 2022

Your photographs are ghostly stages, carefully crafted and put-together. The viewer is faced with uncanny spaces, artificial and ambiguously enticing. For Paris Photo 2022, one of your pictures represents what seems to be an ill-lit station populated by lonely suitcases. The other shows a doormat with a “Goodbye” sign written on it, placed beneath a half-closed door out of which light is strongly beaming. Where do these landscapes come from?

These works come from a project that I am still working on: New City. This project is about the pursuit of our imaginary city and also embraces the harsh reality of urbanisation. My life and work take me back and forth between the city and the suburbs on a daily basis, and in the process, I have acquired many images.

These images exist in the in-betweenness of presence and sudden desertion: it seems like something has just played out and we’ve missed the show. In the description of your work, curator Holly Rousseau writes that you “explore the poetics of ephemera”. What temporalities do your pictures inhabit or induce?                  
Their ephemeral nature is caused by the development of urban construction (or policy changes), and thus they are quickly demolished or renovated. We are also used to this ever-changing cityscape and the feeling of instability. Many people even forget that they ever existed, as if you've seen something and can't recall it. In this way, I hope to fill in the folders where files have been missing.

These two works belong to an ongoing decade long-project entitled New City whose theatrical, often dreamlike depictions can be understood as distorted mirrors or comments of day-to-day contemporary life. Do you consider fiction to be a critical tool in your work? What are its potentialities?
Fiction and reality are always intertwined and go hand in hand. Sometimes I can't directly express the feeling that reality gives us in its entirety, because reality is always so complex. Building something on stage might be a way for me to make this narrative possible. Recreating them in the studio also gave me the opportunity to look at them again, as I always wonder what I really saw.

Whether doormat or train station, these photographs show zones of passage. Even though desolated, these thresholds can be read as both farewells and invitations. What lies in these interstitial spaces?
This "station" is a wrong station because it is set in a wrong place and not really being used. It is impossible to take any bus there. In terms of the "doormat", many small shops in China like to put one in front, which usually says “welcome”. I’ve changed it to “goodbye”, because in reality many things are forced to leave for those more positive and correct developments.

You began your career not only with photography and film, but also as a sound artist. When diving into your body of work – from these emptied out depictions to, more evidently, pictures of Chinese ravers (In the Waves 在浪裏, 2013)  – I felt like your pictures were also made to be listened to; as if they were calling for an imaginary soundtrack. Does music still intervene in your practice of image-making?
I'm very happy that you said that. For me, the silence of photographs always leads us to imagine the sound behind them, which certainly depends on individual experience and understanding. I will still be making music, and doing more sound-related work in the future.

Salomé Burstein (1995, she/her) is a Paris-based researcher and independent curator whose work focuses on affects, attention and the political structures underlying them. She is also the founder of Shmorévaz, an independent art space located in a vacant old shoe-store and dedicated to cross-disciplinary, often collaborative and experimental practices.


Related Artists: CHEN WEI 陈维

Related Exhibitions:

Paris Photo 2022 11.09, 2022


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