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Photography (MA)

Yuanbo Chen

Born in WenZhou, ZheJiang Province, China in 1996.

Graduated from the department of commercial photography, school of photography, Beijing Film Academy in 2018 followed by an MA Photography, Royal College of Art, London.

I use photography as my main expression to respond to the universe; further considered and articulated through my installations. My concerns question humans in relation to varied environments, and why they choose to act and behave absurdly. It is my understanding that absurdity is a gap between the ideal and reality. My work questions the absurdity of Chinese cultural beliefs. The absurd belief in 1970’s China that males who were sole income earners, whilst completely forgetting about the daily repetitive jobs housewives lived, were considered the main contributors. It is also absurd that those who eat wild animals, caused a global pandemic. It is incredibly absurd that when facing rapidly increasing numbers of infected people, the government would act slowly. In my limited capabilities, my work highlights the very question of absurdity. It is an ongoing investigation in my practice, similar to the efforts made by Sisyphus.

The Plague Reappears ↑ — This scene depicts when Bernard first saw rat dead and spurted blood From The Plague by Albert Camus. I just create a new connection from this book to our era. The COVID-19 exploded from China in 2019, so you can see the blood spurted from rat on a China vase. Then, there is a brush written ‘WENLIANG LI 07022020’ who might be the first doctor to find the virus but was forbidden to spread this information to the public, then he died by this pandemic. At last, I wrote a small sentence ‘it was a joke’ on the wall.
Nature Punishment ↑ — I use the very symbolic and allegorical image as opening for my series of black&white. It is also an opening for the atonement of journey.
Centuries (mountains) ↑
Weeks ( A fig with fungus)↑ — Micro world is the base of the world. Only using few weeks, the fungus have covered a whole fig. However, the mountains need to be shaped by thousands of year.
Mother ↑
A Song For 17 Million Souls ↑ — This image is based on news about the Denmark government which culled 17 million minks for cutting the spread of COVID-19. The innocent animals shouldn't take this responsibility for humans?
Research No.01 ↑ — This image is about a spider researching my face. Comparing sizes, my face is a huge plain.
Research No.02 ↑ — This image is about a geographic machine human used to research landform. Comparing with size of nature, human is similar to the spider.
Lay on A Wood in Hyde Park ↑
Slides ↑
Cover ↑
Trap ↑
A Bunker in Aycliffs ↑
Victory Mansions No.2 ↑ — This inspiration for the image is from 'Nineteen eighty-four' by George Orwell. The basic idea of modern government might still be ‘serve for people’. So I modify the original triangle mansions to rectangle one. However, the lazy and selfishness characters are still in people’s mind, even those who are working for the government. Those snails symbolise government people and the fragile and broken eggs represent normal ones. In a chaos moment, the victory mansions still stand there as a sculpture.

Humans, in order to build their own paradise for meeting their desires, are losing their nature-paradise gradually at same time.

What's the position of humans in the nature draws my attention during the pandemic time. The majority think the virus comes from wild animals as we kill and eat them.

The killing character of humans reminds me of a dream of Tarrous from the novel 'The Plague' by Camus, which could conclude 'not being a killing or death penalty man, not even indirect.'

Because of the killing character, in other words, we are similar to the plague to nature. When humans destroy the environment, nature uses a virus for defence and to strive for more time to cure the scar. 

This is a war without blood but still an attack and self-therapy between nature and humans. Generally, it seems a conflict between nature and humans on surface. However, going deeper, it is a contradiction among people. For instance, the greed for assets, the desire for power as well as possessions. Therefore, the pandemic also is a mirror to reflect defects and the sickness of the human, which could suggest we may experience a chronic suicide due to our depraved characters.


Print on Hahnemühle Archive Paper


Mixed Sizes

“Red cover” is a traditional symbol that women need to wear it when they marry and men reveal the cover until women stay with men in their first night. The “red cover” seems not only to represent womens marriage to men, but it also is like a cage that locks up married women into family, which causes an unequal position between men and women in traditional Chinese family. Because my gender is male, I thought I didn't have enough right to talk about this issue. Hence, I try to learn sewing. Technically, I use threads to sew women’s face to express concept of ‘hidden’ and feeling housewives' repetitive and boring works, then I welded the iron frame which symbolises the power of men to cage them.


Iron, Thread, Print on Hahnemühle Archive Paper


Mixed Sizes