“There isn’t any other origin for beauty than that of a wound, singular, different for each, hidden or visible, that all mankind keeps within itself, that it preserves and to which it retires when it wishes to leave the world for temporary but profound solitude. (Jean Genet, 2003)”
In the project Soft Thorn, I tried to fictionalize a collective portrait by collaging landscapes, staged moments, and portraits with my projections. The concept of a collaged collective identity became the main collision in my practice. While I was searching for the approach to construct a collective identity of my group, I somehow found trauma could translate the vague line between the self and others, individual identity, and group identification. Then I started to focus on how traumas, collective or personal, could unveil the relationship between two different but closely connected identities. In the work, “The fifth of July riot in Xinjiang”, I wrote a brief description of the riot that happened in Xinjiang on the fifth of July in 2009 on the edge of a piece of broken porcelain which also could be translated as “a piece of broken china.” The fifth of July, which is the date of my birth, and the same date the riot happened, by narrating these two uncorrelated events, I was intended to query the belongingness of self-identity, and I was pondering about the veritable concern between individual status and national destiny.
If Spring Could Feel Ache, the project I started in 2019, talked about the masculinity in Chinese adolescent queer group juxtaposed with a retrospective thinking towards the belongingness of queer identity in different social systems. Meanwhile, the works I made in the project were also meant to respond to the contemporary Chinese queer group on the tache connecting the collective traumas and individual identity. “Aggregation of dreams, a conversation about the collective identity in China, 2019”, a work from the project, depicts a scene that butterflies are attracted by meat and some butterflies are stitched into the meat. From my perspective, utilizing an allegorical and metaphorical method to translate reality is a way to resist photography becoming an index towards reality. Somehow, the staged scenes and installations I made also become a resonant voice of my portraits. The ambiguity in-between domestic identity and national destiny in my directed scene also relate to the other introspective portraits, which also talk about the ambiguous masculinity of teen Chinese queers.
As the quote in the beginning, Jean Genet mentioned how traumas constructed the realm of oneself and became the sanctuary of an immaterial world. Traumas, as a psychic trace of mind, also had been digested to become the testimonies and fragments of identity in my work. Like Sontag used to say that a photograph was a piece of time, trauma somehow was a piece of personal or collective belongingness.
Left: "Mum's prayers and the thorns, 2021"
from If Spring Could Feel Ache, digital silver print, 16*24cm, 2021.