2004 - present
photography with digital manipulation
My interest for urban subject has been complated in my mind for years but the particular idea of this work was forged some time in 2004 while I traveled extensively in Europe. After being in so many cities in the world, I realized that globalization has made urban landscapes everywhere similar and blurred the boundaries between them. So often, "here" can be anywhere. With this work, I have brought my vision and perspective to these urban spaces.
The architectural structures that I photographed are all maquettes made to promote real-estate developments that are being planned in China today. Some of the buildings already exist, and others will soon begin construction. When you face these models showing such a variety of different spaces and think about the life-styles associated with them, you start to wonder: is this the picture of life today? Do we really live in this kind of space and environment?
Globalization is reshaping our urban environment and our vision of contemporary life - which celebrates the “new” constantly replacing the “old.” As personal living spaces expand with the growth of income, the cityscape becomes more dense, filled up with modern buildings and high-rise towers. People live in cubes that are squeezed next to one another, separated only by thin walls. This physical proximity, instead of leading to greater closeness and intimacy between people, can often create psychological distance and loneliness.
The sculptural form of these new residential buildings, the floor plan of the apartments, and the various interior designs are all related to the inhabitants and their “individual” taste and needs. The models of these new living spaces are perfect, clean and beautiful but they are also so empty and detached of human drama. When you take these models and begin to add real life - even a single drop of it - so much changes.
This entire body of work of "Urban Fiction" is playful and fictitious - wandering between reality and fantasy. All the figures in this series are acts of me, playing different characters. This creates another paradox: “I” am real but at the same time “I” am unreal. The figures act out totally imaginative roles and fanciful stories, staged within the maquettes, their plots invented by me and visualized for these spaces. For example, “I” am a white-collar office worker brought to despair by job pressures and spiritual emptiness. Sometimes “I” am a materialistic woman enjoying a life of pleasure and dissipation. Or “I” am a young girl who, in a moment of unrestrained rage, accidentally killed her lover. Together, the resulting pictures compose an episodes, serialized narrative structure for "Urban Fiction". As a whole, these images represent the state of urban life today.
In the period of my childhood in China, skyscrapers were unattainable concepts connected to the West, viewable only in films or magazines. Today I live in the pictures I make and I, along with my compatriots, can imagine our future by bending down to examine tiny models of buildings. This, perhaps, is another reality of the "fantasies" which govern our contemporary life.
© Xing Danwen
Art in America
by Richard Vine, February 5, 2010
Time Out Hong Kong
Bourree Lam Interviews Xing Danwen
November 25, 2009
Haines Gallery, San Francisco,
Ooibotos Gallery, Hong Kong
Galerie Sollertis, Toulouse, France