Mapping China: Living in the Reform Era

11 January - 2 February 2022
Since the Chinese economic reform and ‘opening-up’ in 1978, China has risen from a backward agricultural country to a modern industrial country. In the past four decades, what has happened in China seems to be a difficult question to answer. Even the Chinese who have lived through this period are unable to give a comprehensive answer to this question. But it is undeniable that with more frequent exchanges with the West, people's daily lives and social customs have experienced tremendous changes.

 

This exhibition records and investigates these changes through photographs, films, documents, and objects. All the photographs in the show were taken by photographers who were active during the reform era. When photography was not yet widespread in China, these visualised histories were available due to their pioneering efforts.

 

For more than 40 years, their works have maintained the public's perspective, recording images that are inseparable from social changes, history, and human nature, charting the daily existence of ordinary people engulfed by the great reform process.

 

The visual impact and spiritual shock of these photographs are still as strong as ever. These photographers have transformed their personal experiences into tangible art, using moments of the era to define reveal the essence of change.

 

Politics seem to be an essential factor that can never be avoided when people talk about China. But behind the political mountains, there is the real scenery of an era. People have climbed one mountain after another to obtain a better life.

 

Created by Ge Zhu in collaboration with Image Talk Studio, Beijing. Presented at the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery, London.

 

Presented in conjunction with the MA Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture at the University of Westminster.