Comment on Fu Wenjun’s New Work Neighbors-Document of Human Ecology
In the recent years, Fu Wenjun, a photographer has been pondering over the society and history. If we view Leaving the Stage series as his reflection on the transformation during the industrial age, the new work Neighbors is his concern about and reconstruction of the local human ecology after the transformation.
As for the people who are familiar with the changes of Chinain the recent decades, they would know that thoughChinahas completed the transformation of economic structures successfully, the imbalance between the development of economy and culture is extremely serious.Chongqingis one of the representative cities which have been successfully transforming themselves from old industrial bases to cities with newly rising industries. During the process, the residents ofChongqinghave been under historical changes. The gradual replacement of the Diaojiaolou (wood columns supporting building) with modern urban planned buildings is an especially significant change. People once believed that the successful transformation of economy could bring about a totally new human ecology and provide more capital to support the development of human ecology; however, the truth is not like this. Under most circumstances, the transformation of economy destroys the original human ecology, and at the meantime, the construction of human ecology is ignored because of the blind pursuit of economic development. Therefore, from an artist’s view, Fu Wenjun’s attempt to explore the possibility of the local human ecology with the folk residence inChongqingas his objects has its practical and positive meaning.
Before the urbanization, the features of buildings in every place are manifested by folk residence. However, the architectures with folk residential features are disappearing because they are replaced by the unitarily and standardized constructed buildings. The disappearance of such houses means the dying out of a traditional life style which is replaced by a gradually forming new life style. The traditional neighbor relationship turns into one that neighbors are strangers and they distrust each other. The new relationship cannot successfully solve the problems people meet in their daily lives. Urbanization has devastated the local human ecology and people are becoming increasingly nostalgic about old life style when people’s spirits are cared about. The modern architectures regulate people’s living space. In the city, the landmark buildings and sculptures substitute these architectures with residential features, and different cities and different regions are becoming more and more similar to one another. Except for the natural differences of natural ecology and climate, the differences in other area are becoming fuzzier. Fu Wenjun used years wandering the streets to collect the Diaojiaolou, which are going to be demolished, scattered over the edge of the city and recorded their graceful figures with his cameras. Different from other cultural landscape photographers, Fu re-planned and reconstructed the scattered architectures according to historical documents and restored the broken memory into the historical series Neighbors-Document of Human Ecology.
The restoration of traditional residence itself is a cultural issue, and the photographer will use the cultural imagination when he tries to act with his own intensions, though most of the time the imagination is for those who do not have the local cultural experience. However, for us nowadays, we not only need cultural imagination, but also we need to be familiar with the evolution of our own cultures. The restoring of human ecology doesn’t simply mean the restoring of an ancient town or an ancient street. The simple restoring of ancient towns or streets is a simple and primitive cultural imagination. Such a move satisfies the cultural curiosity by constant hunting of remote things and takes it as human ecology, traits and tradition, without knowing that all mentioned above have been consumed and the consuming activity itself turns to be culture. Fu was born and brought up in that period and he is filled with affections towards that period. The hasting cultural consumption cannot satisfy him. He attempts to make a human ecology. Such a sample is by no means the sample of the remained residential houses but an ideal document ofChongqing’s traditional folk residence compiled by sorting out his cultural experiences and his own understanding and feelings about the local human ecology.
In the middle of the photo, there is a giant figure of Buddha, the location and size of which in the photo are of great significance. We will first see the figure when we read the photo, just like we will be attracted by and thus remember the landmark architecture or sculpture when we come to a new place. The modern urban sculptures are only innovative in forms and only please people aesthetically. Though they can represent the state of human beings and convey the atmosphere of the time, they are more likely to be a kind of decoration. However, the scene of a Buddha statue standing in the city or at a street corner will make people feel awed instantly. It will make everybody have a kind of “response”. No matter what it represents, the return of belief or the mental and physical relief, the Buddha is a good medicine for the numb modern economic and social human beings. In such a sense, the status of traditional culture is highlighted.
The houses around the figure of Buddha are mainly Diaojiaolou, which stack up and all over the photo. If this is a village, it must be a vigorous one that will last forever. The long scroll format gives the viewers a magnificent feeling of history and time, and the artist tries to make the collection of the loose collection of images into a picture with epic significance. However, the artist deliberately deviates from the objectivity of instruments when he is using the photo processing technique. First, all the images collected are objective and authentic, but themselves do not mean anything. Just like in repairing ancient china, a single piece of china does not have much value and the ancient chinaware only show its original look and value after the restoration. Second, when the objective authenticity is partly removed, the authenticity becomes not so real. Fu Wenjun spliced the series from the images he collected with his own understanding and imagination about cultures. Therefore, the parts can only function in the whole, and the surface inauthenticity just looks extremely real.
Most people will have their doubts and ask whether this is photography. Actually, whether it is photograph is not so important, but it is important because the artist uses cameras and photographing methods. This is exactly the response of an individual when he faces the contemporary world. No matter it is refuting or keeping silent, it feels far than enough. The picture has an effect of traditional Chinese realistic painting with light color. In the picture, there are not very busy and noisy scenes, but the picture is full of life and overflowed with poetic and serene feelings. The poetic artistic processing reveals the artist’s appeal for the ideal life.
Fun Wenjun has pushed the viewers to ponder over the concept of “neighbors” since he came up with the name of the work. The concept of neighbors matches to the meaning of the work, but the real neighbors we have in our mind is somewhat different form that in the picture. Do we still have neighbors? We all become proprietors. Since the disagreement of the concept, people have perceived the fact of the changed time and life style. We might not need to look for the precise definition of the concept from an authoritative dictionary right away. We can put the concept aside, try to understand by ourselves and state our understandings and we will then find there is no statement that is similar to the concept. The disconnection predicts that the age with neighbors has gone forever. The dark blue color strengthens the depths and looks especially calm. It seems like people are reading the cave frescos with torches when they are reading this long scroll. The slices of history are scanned, from which the miniature of the whole society and humanity flavors can be easily detected.