MOTHER RIVER

Hé - River Together (2011-2012)

The three works collectedly titled as ‘Hé-River Together’ re-enact my efforts to be ‘one’ with the Yangtze River - Chinese people’s Mother River (‘Hé’ is the Chinese pronunciation for ‘river’).

Home to over 40% of China’s population, the Yangtze is the physical carrier of Chinese history. The rapid industrialisation and urbanisation in China are transforming the Yangtze landscapes, which reflects the changing face of China.

Having lived away from China for some years, I initially returned there to reconnect with the Motherland. However, I was unable to match the contemporary Yangtze landscape with the mythical one celebrated in Chinese traditional culture. To search for the river, and to feel it rather than to look at it, I went to its source at first. The coldness and the pain from touching the stone and the frozen river confirmed the river’s existence. However I was aware that such ‘pure’ landscape was rare to find as the river flows down. Testing my concentration in a completely different environment, I then carved 127 stones by a small tributary of the Yangtze, in a Tibetan town Yushu. Thanks to the reconstruction after a massive earthquake, this town was going from pre-modern to post-modern within the cause of 3 years. Poetic as how it was, my action within such an environment felt somehow absurd.

Still doubting about the true face of the river, I finally jumped into it at Chongqing, the world’s largest city with 30 million people. The enlightenment came from two directions: the powerful water felt by my body, confirmed the river’s active life, despite its calm surface and the intensive damming along its course. Meanwhile, the sublime city landscape, now viewed from the river’s angle, suddenly appeared transient. By now I had really become ‘one’ with the river. At the same, the river was demystified. From the grand Mother River with the iconic landscapes and historical sites, it was seen from an all-recording, but non-selecting video camera. Every frame is valued, and all the values are in the daily lives run along the river, messy, but real.

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