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Dual vision – Lianzhou beginnings

 

by Yang Xiaoyan


The academic theme of this year’s China Lianzhou International Photofestival is “Dual vision, Lianzhou beginnings”.
This theme demonstrates that this exhibition tries to reveal the duality within human history and development through a visual display that centers on images but includes many forms and a visual examination that begins from one region; from that people can realize the relationship of image and of the visual to such pressing issues as existence, society, ethnicity, regional culture and globalization, and from this embark on a wide ranging discussion.


A detailed explanation of the theme follows below:

 

Duality:


Be it in geography, culture, space, ethnicity, ecology or modernization, once it becomes imagery there always appears a form of duality. They are:
Geographic duality. Lianzhou is situated in northern Guangdong, 230 kilometers from Guangzhou. It is the point where the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hunan meet, and it is also an important transportation artery between the three provinces and northern China, as was the Ancient Meizhou Route in its day. This geographic trait sets Lianzhou’s ecological traits and existential appearance.
Cultural Duality. China’s southern culture formed in the region south of the Wuling Mountain Range, centered on Guangdong and stretching out to encompass Guangxi and Fujian provinces, and created a difference from the central plains culture north of the Wuling Mountains. Lianzhou’s unique geographic position allowed for central plains culture and southern culture to coexist. Central culture expanded out to this region, and from here gradually melded into southern culture, stretching out to the sea coast. Likewise, southern culture sojourned here, and left behind many relics and specimens. Many unrequited northern literati passed through here and made moving contributions to the expansion of central plains orthodox culture into the south. The southern way of life maintained its local flavor, and the two went on to create the cultural personality of this area. On a grand scale, southern culture remains an organic component of greater Chinese culture, though the territorial and coastal spirit persists. In this sense, Lianzhou is the interchange between these two types of culture, the link between the center and the margins.
Spatial Duality. As the duality of geography placed Lianzhou in between the interior and the coast, there emerges a spatial advantage. In a sense, the road from Lianzhou is not like the coastal region, back to the country and facing the sea, nor is it like the interior, which lacks that openness that comes with the coastal climate; it is a mix between the two currents, intertwined together to create a great web where the central and marginal can mix together freely. This interchange aspect bestows Lianzhou with a two-sided cultural geography, setting the local culture apart from the history of both the coastal region and the interior. Lianzhou is the product of just this long term process.
Ethnic Duality. Lianzhou and nearby Liannan were once the largest region of the Yao people. For several millennia, the Yao people developed their unique ethnic culture in the unbroken mountain chain that stretches out from Lianzhou, making them an important subject for anthropologists and ethnologists. What is important is that through complex interactions between the Yao people and the Han majority, they jointly created a highly localized way of life, and a cultural personality that belongs neither to the coastal culture nor the central plains culture. One of the overarching themes of this exhibition is a treatment of this ethnic duality.
Ecological Duality. When the visual observer places his sights on the details of the way of life, the ecology becomes a very important topic. What is interesting is that in moving from the coast to the interior, all of the differences in the details of life construct the observer’s materials through which to analyze and differentiate different manners and ways of life. These manners and ways of life can virtually be said to have existed since ancient times, to have continued to today, and to have molded the personalities of people living in different lands. From this perspective, the duality of ecology becomes testament to the amazing materials of history’s fortuitousness, and truly expands the root value of folk society.
Duality of modernization. Modernization is not an unchanging definition, but a concept of transformation that reflects the various stages of development reached by different economic formats under different conditions. Spatially, modernization emerges as a staircase. In this sense, from Lianzhou to Guangzhou, we can clearly decode the view in the midst of change that is presented by different stages of modernization. From the perspective of urbanization, we can understand how the original state of existence, through the efforts of modernization, changes its face, and finally becomes urban. What is even more interesting to the observer is that the visual left behind by this process, like fresh specimens, carry unique historical content. The duality of modernization emerges here; it has been naturally brought into the display of this annual photography exhibition and is observed and understood.
Then, all of this ends up in the image, creating the duality of image: on one hand, images are records of history; on the other, images express the standpoint of the observer. On one hand, images show us all of the details of human life; on the other, images make our eyes accustomed to one method and exclude others. On one hand, images need professional support; on the other hand, images become a tool for subverting established visual viewpoints. In a strict sense, the significance of this exhibition is this: we begin with the duality of phenomena, and return to the duality of the image; when we have revealed the duality of image, the duality of life will appear automatically.


Vision


We display images, but not only images. What we need is all manner of vision, a broad vision that can penetrate duality. It is because of this that we have included observations from sociology, urban studies, anthropology and art into this professionalized international photography exhibition. We do not merely want to confirm the enchantment of photography for the public, we also must confirm for the public the societal utility and power of images. We will use images to examine the societal state of existence on various levels, to examine the visual phenomena created by urbanization, to examine the fine details of humankind’s way of life and to examine the long history of the entanglement of art and photography in images.


Double Vision


Double vision is in essence the result of dualist examination, and double vision also includes personal examination. What that means is that we look through the lens to examine the subject while we also use the subject to examine ourselves. We use images to examine sociology, urban studies, anthropology and art just as we use these to examine images. The image in this double vision turns the duality of the images into a subject we can understand, into life itself. Double vision therefore represents a return to life, a visual return to life. I know that the value and significance of the image appears along this dangerous return path.


Lianzhou beginnings


“Lianzhou beginnings” has the following meanings:
“Lianzhou beginnings” is an indicator, illustrating that our photography exhibition is truly grounded here in Lianzhou.
It is without a doubt that Lianzhou exists as a region, but in this day of globalizing development, any region on this planet can potentially become a microcosm of the world. For example, from the perspective of urban development, the transition of the countryside and the transformation of the economy, first the Pearl River Delta, then the Yangtze River Delta attracted the attention of the world. For another example, the people of the world have set their eyes on Dongwan, a part of Guangdong that has none of its own products or enterprises, because of the sheer concentration of factories there.
These examples demonstrate that the true significance of globalization is that any region, with the appropriate measures, is entirely able to enter into the realm of the world economy and receive rich returns for it.
We believe Lianzhou to be just such an example. We believe even more, from the side of development, that Lianzhou can become a cultural and economic phenomenon that can attract the eyes of the world.
So the deeper meaning of this indicator, “Lianzhou beginnings” is this: Lianzhou beginnings and return once again to Lianzhou.
“Lianzhou beginnings” implies pushing Lianzhou to the outside world as an important visual phenomenon. “Return to Lianzhou” implies letting the world come to know Lianzhou with new insight.
“Lianzhou beginnings” is an important beginning.
Visual research requires a platform and an observational perspective. In a sense, it is the research platform and the observational perspective that have guaranteed the final result, and not the other way around.
“Lianzhou beginnings” is just this sort of research platform and observational perspective.
Upon this we establish a visual corridor in the documentary sense, made of several score separate directions with the same goal, interrelated independent exhibitions that simultaneously present the observational results of different academic fields.
“Lianzhou beginnings” has also presented a spatial change that has arisen from temporal change, and has transformed this spatial change into a correlating image.
In fact, looking from any perspective, with Lianzhou as the observational point of departure, by determining the most important visual nodes from different directions and placing them on a par, the marks of time can find expression.
For example, we go from Lianzhou to Guangzhou, Lianzhou to a Yao Village, Lianzhou to Shanghai, Beijing, New York, London, to Lanzhou, Kunming, Bangkok, Singapore, etc. This is a crossing of space, but also because of space it leads to developmental level and rank. “Embark from Lianzhou” is just such a type of level and rank in visual observation; the models of visual studies, sociology, urban studies and anthropology that it provides sets Lianzhou in history and becomes history itself.


Dual vision –Lianzhou beginnings


Combination of the above explanations of “duality”, “vision” and “Lianzhou beginnings” completely reflects the root meaning and cultural value of the “Lianzhou International Photofestival” and sets the tone for many annual photography exhibitions in the future.
The theme of “Dual vision –Lianzhou beginnings” shows that from beginning to end, we care about the image itself, and do our utmost to push along the professionalizing movement in images; in the end we care about the democratic qualities of the image, and emphasize the image’s commonness and equal view when observing; in the end we care about the value of personal observation and the right of observation that it bestows upon each person, whether professional or not, and places those results on display for all the world to see; in the end we care about the powers and utility that images have in constructing the historical dialogue, and the double meaning that is revealed through the involvement of different academic fields, return the image to the people, to society; in the end we care about the documentary capabilities of images in evidencing ways of life and realities of existence, and hope that through different levels of academic discussion and lectures we can extrapolate on the values of these abilities and make images become history and become the background of development.
To sum it up in one sentence, we want to make known an essential value through this large international exhibition: let images become a momentum that pushes societal development and progress.
From this we can see that the multilevel observation brought by double vision is for realizing a belief that brings together observation, documentation, development and optimism. It is without a doubt that Lianzhou represents these beliefs.