Sunday, March 9, 2008
Washing Memories Away
In 2001 my parents, aunt and I took a cruise along the Yangtze River. The Three Gorges Dam was an awesome sight -- a jaw-dropping experience seeing how huge it was and it wasn't completed yet.
And as our mini cruise ship went along the river, we could see markings on the river banks indicating how high the water would rise in several years. Many famous spots and towns we saw would be, and are now underwater.
The government has decided the fates and lives of people, towns, economies and communities without much regard of what will happen to them or the environmental impact it will have. It's all for the belief that taming the river will once and for all end all natural disasters and generate badly-needed electricity.
However, there are already serious environmental problems with the Three Gorges Dam and senior government officials are quietly admitting maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all. There are tremendous amounts of silt that have accumulated making it difficult for ships to pass through and river beds are crumbling. On top of that the dam hasn't generated as much electricity as expected.
For artist Yang Yi, his hometown, overlooking a tributary river to the Yangtze, will be flooded next year.
In "Uprooted", Yang has created a series of photographs creating dream-like scenes of what his hometown could look like in 2009. Many of the pictures are of people standing among rubble, wearing a scuba diving mask and blowing bubbles.
Some are roadside barbers giving a haircut; people playing mahjong, kids standing in an abandoned building; a man holding a birdcage.
Yang doesn't want the memory of his hometown to disappear, thus creating these photographs with digital enhancements to create a watery effect.
It can be looked at as a sarcastic opinion piece, or a sad premonition of what will happen.
Either way it's a strong statement that goes beyond most of the contemporary Chinese art that focuses on the frivolity of capitalism in a communist country.