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From 14 - 17 December 2019, Leo Gallery is thrilled to present artist Cai Dongdong's works in Nanjing Art Fair International 2019, as an extension of the artist's solo exhibition "Photography Reforged" and individual project "One Hundred Years" at PhotoFairs Shanghai, both presented by Leo Gallery earlier this year.
Cai Dongdong was born in Tianshui, Gansu Province in 1978. He studied at Beijing Film Academy in 2002, currently lives and works in Beijing, China and Berlin, Germany. His artistic creations include photography, installation, video and social art practice. He was awarded The First Prize of 3rd Terna Award for Contemporary Art Award, Italy, one of the eight photography artists who represent the future trend by New York Times, and TOP20 Young Photographers - 2015 China Contemporary Photography, China. Cai Dongdong participated in various exhibitions of different art museums and institutions, including Museum for Photography (2017, Berlin), Eli Kleim Gallery (2017, New York), Pully Museum of Art (2017, Switzerland), Taikang Space (2016, Beijing), Potsdam c/o Waschhaus (2016, Berlin), Minsheng Art Museum (2016, Shanghai), Hive Center for Contemporary Art (2015, Beijing), Three Shadows Photography Art Centre (2015, Beijing), CAFA Art Museum (2015,Beijing), Echigo-Tsumari Triennial (2015, Niigata), Folkwang Museum (2015, Essen, Germany), Pace Beijing (2014, Beijing), He Xiangning Art Museum (2014, Shenzhen), Les Amis de Nouvelles D'Europe (2014, Vienna), Urban Arts Space, the Ohio State University (Ohio, 2014), China Art Museum (2011, Beijing), FRAC Gallery (2011, Turin, Italy), Donggang Museum of Photography (2006, Korea), Guangdong Museum of Art (2005, Guangzhou), etc.
Perception · Direct Photography
The essence of the image is reproduction. It is consistent with the reproduction of human beings. The continuous development of photography technology also reflects the essenceof reproduction.
Cai Dongdong joined the army in 1996 and started photography as a portrait photographer in the army. In 2001, he discharged, studied in Beijing Film Academy and set up a photography studio there. During 2001 and 2005, he shot portraits using his camera, recorded scenes, stories and life; this was the initial period when when he used photography as a creative medium: Cai Dongdong conveyed his personal understanding of photography through his lens, and continued to shoot to document the relationship of scene, memory and emotion ofthe subject. In some of his early works like '2003 The Forbidden City' and 'River Mirror', the artist appeared in the image as well, blurring the boundary of behaviour and art, indicating his creative motivation in a more direct and emotional paradigm: "The motivation is the same as people taking pictures, and when you take pictures of the landscape, putting yourself in the picture islike putting everything in the picture, which is in fact an illusion."
Exploration · Conceptual Photography
Since the beginning of the 21st century, social changes brought about by technological innovation have been ubiquitous. Consumer culture and mass media have been on the rise, and cameras are nolonger rare. In 2005, Cai Dongdong participated in the first Guangzhou International Photography Biennale. After the exhibition, he stopped creatingand began to think deeply about the issues of photography itself. "For anabsent recluse" is the first answer the artist found. He applied thepoetic techniques of question-and-answer in photography, which marks the beginning of Cai Dongdong's conceptual photography as well as his transformation of artistic creation: From 2008 to 2012, Cai Dongdong, like a movie director, posed, set up the scenery to construct the place of "imageproduction", presenting his understanding of photography through narrative images: In his work 'The Eighth of the Twelfth Lunar Month', he was inspired from the work of Goya 'Third of May, 1808', replaced the gun with camera. Through the dialogue between photography and painting, he completed the questioning ofthe violence of photography itself. And for the work 'Offering' took 4 monthsfrom sketching, building the dark room to completing the image. At this stage,Cai Dongdong gradually formed his own unique creative method in the context ofthe times, and led the viewers to think about visual reality throughavant-garde experimental creation.
Production · Sculptural Photography
Walter Benjamin once said that the sensational perception of human being changes along with the evolution of group living style. Since 2012, Cai Dongdong hasre-created photos with photographs themselves. Through the reconstruction of photos, he reconstructs the collective memory. The entire creative process is like organizing the life of an image through different methods: photography sculpture, video installation, photo transformation, etc. He changed the visual representation through tearing, scratching, scrolling and more, and extended photography to artistic creation, thus giving new connotations to the photosand finally completing the visual translation.
In the work 'the Rolled-up Road', he uncovered the silver gelatin layer and rolledup the road, thus to block the way of a patrol wagon. In the view of curator Zhu Zhu, "the most critical part of Cai Dongdong's work is not just the visual intervention, but the complete overturn of the one-way photography viewing method". This also happens to be an extension of the artist's interpretation of photography. The production and viewing of images is a game between different subjects. Cai Dongdong is committed to digging the correlation between images, different materials and viewers. For example, in the work "TwoDoors", the artist projects female portraits of different times on the curtains. Through the juxtaposition, the faces of the people in the Republic of China period and the Red-Regime period are contrasted and presented. The video installation composed of wooden doors and curtains renders a nostalgic atmosphere. To this extent, this is a space for audience to think about: the original meaning of photos or images is extended to the changes in the relationship between women and families in different eras. In the work 'Latency', he expands the dimension of the work space through the mirror, triggering a new life of content and meaning.
Throughout the creative process of Cai Dongdong's art project 'A Hundred Years', he collected hundreds of thousands of old photos from all over China, selected and classified them into three periods, 1910-1950, 1950-1980, and 1980-2010. Different Stages, ages, genders and even emotions have been transformed into the 'curtains' of history by Cai Dongdong. The audience completes the dialogue of time and space while viewing the works. This may be the meaning of photography sought bythe artist: "My current job is to pick out particularly interesting old photos, and I want to compile a 'history of life' of the Chinese people through images."