Zhua ji means to grab and tie. It refers to a young girl’s hairdo, two tufts sprouting up from the head. This is an image repeated in paper cuts and folk art. It connotes something spontaneous, alive, informal. The daughter of a Beijing native in a house infused with Chinese flavor, I had this hairdo as a child.—Adrian Gordon 飞飞
An exhibition of photographic work by Adrian Suddenly Gordon, a Brooklyn NY-based photographer, titled Zhua Ji has been showing at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University since 6 February (it closes on 30 April 2013). The exhibition is jointly sponsored by the Department of History of Art and Architecture, under the aegis of the noted professor of Chinese art history Eugene Wang, and the Fairbank Center.
Gordon grew up in a household steeped in the world of contemporary China and has spent frequent periods in the People’s Republic since childhood. We are delighted to introduce readers of The China Story to Adrian’s work; it adds powerfully to our growing archive of photography, which to date has prominently featured the photographs of Lois Conner. For details of Zhua Ji at the Fairbank Center, see here.
In March, The New York Times Lens Blog sponsored two days of encounters with a range of editors, gallery owners and photographers. Some 2700 people from around the world applied for 160 spots in the New York Portfolio Review. Sixty photographers were selected in the category ‘Emerging photographers, 21-27 years old’, and Adrian was one of those sixty.
As Adrian Gordon writes in the preface to Zhua Ji:
These photographs are a gathering of glimpses. They spring from hither and yon, from the hustle of self-important centers and the hum of far-flung peripheries. Brought together, they cast glances on each other. Themes arise, harmonies and discords brew. In the shimmering walls of China’s great malls, I find images haunted by the specters of other photographs. Ghostly apparitions multiply in the glass; advertisements are the mall’s permanent residents. In a potato field near the border of Myanmar, a single dress hangs in the wind, standing guard against the birds.
For all it may communicate, every photograph slips through the grasp of narrative. Ambiguities are left intact. A child plays with a dead mouse. Shadows hold their mysteries.
These images are selected from Zhua Ji. None of the photographs have been ‘Photoshopped’, double-exposed or cropped. For a full portfolio of Adrian Gordon’s work, see Suddenly Still here.—Geremie R. Barmé
A day-long roundtable discussion was organised for the opening of Zhua Ji at the Fairbank Center under the title ‘To Photograph China?‘:
As a young American photographer who works extensively in China, Adrian Gordon uses her camera to pose questions. Born to a Beijing native, her explorations of China’s changing landscapes are rooted in a lifelong connection with the country, where she has travelled since the age of four. Her photographs of China raise larger questions. What does it mean for a young American artist to photograph overseas? Places such as China used to offer oriental flavor or third-world gloom. Now globalization has seemingly erased boundaries and removed the hazy smoke-screen to unveil a drastically reconfigured landscape. Newly risen skylines spell a cosmopolitan cityscape that is at once familiar and strange for both natives and outside observers.
For young American photographers, unburdened by Cold War memories, fresh with new-millennium cosmopolitan sensibility, and equipped with question-laden exploratory lens, what and how to photograph in present-day China is presumably different from what their predecessors saw and photograph generations ago. What and how does the photographer see and focus? How does she pose questions with the camera? What do we, critics and viewers of her photographs, see in photographs she and her generation of artists have produced?
Moderated by Eugene Wang, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of Asian Art, Harvard University, panelists participating in the roundtable were: Arindam Dutta, Associate Professor of Architectural History, MIT; Robin Kelsey, Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography, Harvard University; Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Professor of History of Art and Architecture and Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University; Kris Snibbe, University Photographer, Harvard Public Affairs and Communications; and, Winnie Wong, Fellow, Society of Fellows, Harvard University.