CHEN JIAGANG

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Title:
THE GREAT THIRD FRONT

Description

Published by Timezone 8
ISBN: 978-9-88-175222-2
Editor: Galerie Paris-Beijing
Pages: 182 (Hardcover)
Size: 226 x 366 mm

 

Excerpts from the preface by Li Xianting

Chen Jiagang started out as an architect. He worked in a Third Line factory for a time, and has even seen some success as a real estate developer, but for various reasons his company eventually went bankrupt. These experiences have all added to his Third Line photography: this once bustling place has been reduced to ruins, but for Chen Jiagang, these are no ordinary ruins; they are laden with his memories of times past – the magnanimous construction of the Third Line. They also stir up associations with his experience in real estate. The ruins of the Third Line awaken the pain of his failed real estate ventures. This is not just the rubble of a manmade disaster, it is a symbol of a low point in his life, a tangled mess of national disaster and personal pain. It’s as if he’s not photographing the rubble, or even bringing out a feeling of “magnanimity” from the rubble, because this wouldn’t be sufficient for expressing his complex emotions. The underlying tone of these works is “magnanimous rubble”. To express this kind of feel, Chen Jiagang uses a large format Chamonix camera, and takes fixed point panoramas at full depth, ensuring that every little detail in the image is extremely clear and gives one the feeling of being right there. This makes the rubble more magnanimous and more stunning.

Perhaps the most contentious issue is Chen Jiagang’s use of a young woman in the photographs. I would venture to guess that one of the reasons has to do with the complex emotions involved in Chen Jiagang’s photography of the Third Line ruins. The ruins are not conceptual, nor are they a disaster in the social sense. These ruins are linked to his own personal experience. The place once flourished, and was once the setting for his ideals, for his love. That girl is the specter of his beautiful memories. My favorite piece is ”Third Front – General Factory of Asbestos”. The girl, running, appears to not be fully there, which makes the stagnant ruins appear eerily still. As dusk descends over the ruins, it seems as if we could make it the setting for a modern “Liao Zhai 1” novel, allegorically reflecting the times.
 

 

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