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Pékin Fine Arts
No. 241 Cao Chang Di Village
Cui Ge Zhuang, Chao Yang District,
Beijing, China 100015   map * 
tel: +86 10 5127 3220     fax: +86 10 5127 3223
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Selfie
by Pékin Fine Arts
Location: Pekin Fine Arts
Artist(s): LIU Zheng
Date: 12 Jul - 15 Sep 2014

Pékin Fine Arts is pleased to be hosting another solo exhibit by Liu Zheng. In his latest Selfie project, once again pushes photography’s boundaries to new limits, raising questions of on-line technology’s impact on photography’s future, as well as the role of Selfies as “tools” of personal expression and social interaction. 

Selfie is a self-portrait photography initiative launched by artist Liu Zheng using social media in China. The project parameters are simple: Everyone on-line is invited to take photos of them selves and to send those photos to Liu, who then uploads those self-portraits to social networks such as We Chat and Instagram upon mutual agreement. Liu as artist-editor-curator often chats on-line with these mainly ano- nymous volunteer Selfie – makers, offering encouragement and instruction during the process. Of course, if he likes the photos he simply posts them directly on-line. Images continue to be uploaded daily.

Unlike common Selfies, the initiative by Liu is combined with a dedicated Internet interface and is focused on universal pursuits of human beings, such as the desire for greater freedom and equality as well as sensual desire. Arguably, these are the basic human rights assert- ed, pursued and safeguarded by all citizens in the developed world and are cornerstones of contemporary culture. Whereas in China, restricted areas and ambiguous rules subject to varied interpretation remain. When Internet and mobile phones come together, people can share information everywhere and at any time as part of their daily routine and everything seems possible. With the unprecedented openness brought by the Internet and the intrinsic excitement encapsulated in the naked body of many portrait takers, Selfie enables free and inexpensive distribution of self-portrait photos and inspires vitality, free will and independent spirit of spectators and auto-portrait photographers alike.

From the photos presented, we see that most participants are youngsters who have diverse interests and come from a wide variety of backgrounds; there are also couples, pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers. In the process of photographing them selves and

often their naked bodies, so-called civilized people reveal their innermost private impulses via public widely distributed images. They free their heart and express their intense and latent desires no matter how eccentric those desires are, via images of homo-eroticism, costume play, S&M scenes etc etc. Selfies also enable people to express themselves in other ways, to feel reaffirmed and to prove their uniqueness in the world. In addition, by showing a nude portrait to strangers, they attempt to communicate with, lure and challenge others. Many pictures are sexual and are bound to inspire natural human desire. A seemingly simple Selfie contains a variety of complicated motives and deep psychosocial elements including - but not limited to - narcissism, exhibitionism and voyeurism.

Liu and other Selfie on-line viewers were amazed by each amateur photographer’s creativity in the process of making self-portraits - even of a naked body – and, as the on-line invitation to submit Selfies became more well known, more and more people took part in this initia- tive and tried to express themselves, communicate with others and to form new friendships through Selfies. Such a simple and rather ba- nal action instigated by Liu Zheng has now triggered infinite possibilities by singular personalities, each carrying his/her own unique life style, mindset, knowledge and technical on-line acumen.

At the outset, participants are encouraged and inspired to participate because of Liu Zheng’s reputation and status in the photo world. Liu is the original designer and organizer of Selfie, .His endorsement gives the project more credibility and critical influence; and everyone involved begins to develop creatively, and to practice and to promote the Selfie program. Selfie is an open-ended and ever-changing invitation to all, inspiring more possibilities and gaining wider popularity over time. Here in China expressing emotion and taking the initi- ative are matters of growing significance and mutual respect; on-line chats and group discussions become even more important. For Liu, every photo taken and sent represents an opportunity to have an in-depth exchange and on-going dialogue.

Liu recognizes the profound implications resulting from the ease of on-line photo sharing. Since its invention, photography’s technology has changed radically, and the photo image as a concept is being constantly updated, leading to a period today of unprecedented openness. The wide spread availability of digital images has substantially reduced production time and related costs. The rapid and widespread use of mobile Internet devices helps to make the distribution of photos much easier. The unprecedented popularity of photography and its many forms of new technology has far-reaching implications: Simply put, visual images today are made and distributed by more and more people, instead of monopolized by a small group. Inspiring everyone to record, express, spread and interact with one another via image sharing. Currently, taking and posting on-line photos has become a daily routine of average people and its convenience is improving all the time. In such a situation, instead of sticking to his original work, Liu promotes the openness of contemporary art to even more people. Liu’s actions imply that everyone can be an artist and everything can be art; everyone can turn one’s life into art and oneself into an artwork. He encourages ordinary people, who might not otherwise be confident and open enough, to believe in themselves and to participate in acts of creative expression.

Confronted with multiple obstacles, such as outmoded mind sets and forms of expression, the contemporary art world seems increasingly outdated and overly rigid, and will inevitably require adjustment and transformation: It is only a matter of time. Truly contemporary art

will have a close relationship with mobile Internet technology. However, questions remain. For example, “How should art face the mobile Internet age?” These are new questions confronting all artists, questions that remain to be answered. Critically observant people are aware of the huge possibilities and dramatic changes taking place. Liu has spontaneously and actively connected a more open artistic concept with a mobile Internet platform; and Selfie represents a bold practice and breakthrough of Internet art in the Mainland Chinese photography field. Here, Liu’s Selfie project acts as an overturning and extension of current concepts and prevailing expressions in digital photography and video art making.
- Du Xiyun

*image (left)
courtesy of the artist and Pekin Fine Arts 

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