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Chambers Fine Art
Red No.1-D, Cao Changdi,
Chaoyang District,
Beijing, 100015, China   map * 
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Rong Rong's Ruin Pictures: 1996-1998
by Chambers Fine Art
Location: Chambers Fine Art Beijing
Artist(s): Rong Rong
Date: 23 Apr - 5 Jun 2011

Since 1993 when he moved to the “East Village” in Beijing, Rong Rong has established himself at the center of the world of photography in China. In addition to his own creative photography which continues unabated to the present day, he has also been active as a magazine publisher (New Photo in 1995) and as the co-founder of the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre with inri in Beijing in 2007.

In his first sustained body of work, the “East Village “ photographs dating from 1993-5, Rong Rong focused on the activities of the group of young artists including performances by Zhang Huan and Ma Liuming which have since become key documents in the history of avant-garde performance in the 1990s. Occasional glimpses of the run-down village are distinctly secondary to highly dramatic photographs of the group of rebellious artists who were forced to abandon the village shortly after it attracted the attention of the authorities. Immediately following this series in 1996-97 came Ruins in which the focus shifted from human subjects to the urban fabric of Beijing, not the famous monuments but areas of the inner city where traditional dwellings were being demolished on an unprecedented scale.

Rong Rong documents the demolition of traditional dwellings in the name of modernization in central Beijing while endowing his photographs with a high level of cultural and emotive content. Although some of the best known photographs from the series - 1996 No. 5 (1) and 1997 No. 1 - are panoramic views of demolished buildings, the great majority are close-ups of what remains of the interiors. In the rubble-strewn courtyards of recently abandoned hutong the walls of demolished houses are still adorned with treasured family photographs, as well as tattered images of pop stars and pin-ups. Vivid testimony of the lives and interests of the former occupants, the poignancy of these photographs is intensified by awareness that their owners probably had no choice in their relocation. In sub-sets of the Ruin Photographs, Rong Rong frequently photographs the same location from a different angle - 1996 No. 5 (1) and 1996 No. 5 (2) - or focuses on a detail from a larger image, a way of exploring the formal possibilities inherent in an essentially formless subject.

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