Short Flashes

Swallow part 1: recognition

Swallow part 2: ceremony

Swallow part 3: awaiting

We used to keep dead lotus leaves to hear the rain


Here live only sparrows

The Chinese Chapters is composed of visual notes about China, a collection of fragments, scraps of ceramic and casual conversations.

It is a reflection of present-day China’s contradictions: an incredibly modern country with some of the world’s oldest traditions, China seems uprooted from the past, focused only on the future and a huge dream of prosperity. Nobody there consciously remembers the painful moments of the country’s recent history, but traditional knowledge from past times is still alive, just hidden deep and invisible under a modern plastic shell.

My friend Cōng Yàn is a guide for me. She has allowed me into her life and takes me to explore places behind highways, far from the crowds. With her I witness fading traditions and social rules in an age of overwhelming economic growth.

Swallow: Recognition, Ceremony and Awaiting all follow Cōng Yàn, as she enters new roles in her life, becoming a wife and mother. A well-educated and rational woman, she also lives with the superstitions and settled rules of her village. The Swallow series are accompanied by multiple texts and quotes.

Steps is a series based on shoe patterns we found with Cōng Yàn in her family house. They were cut out from newspapers, between the 50’s and 90’s. Random pages, snippets of articles, unfinished sentences and pieces of forgotten slogans tell a fragmented history of China.

We used to keep dead lotus leaves to hear the rain is a poetic image of the village where the past is melting away in timeworn moldy photographs. This typical painting-like Chinese village, with a monastery on top of the mountain, ancient graves in a bamboo forest and a stream flowing down the hill into muddy lotus ponds, is a world of its own, ruled by a repetitive daily routine. The cycle could be endless and the village eternal, except it is about to disappear to be replaced by new buildings..
The title We used to keep dead lotus leaves to hear the rain is from a poem by Li Shangyin, from the Tang Dynasty. His style might be described as suspended, in-between, with melancholy for the past, while accepting change. Photography is seen as medicine for the dying, since those who are pictured will live forever. The photographs found in the village are disappearing due to devastating humidity: faces blur, identities become colorful smudges as the images slowly rot away.

Here live only sparrows portrays deserted villages during demolition. In these ghost towns, whose houses have been abandoned by their inhabitants, the rubble and belongings left behind will serve as foundations for new buildings. But before the walls collapse, sparrows are building their nests in every hole.

Short Flashes is the first series I made in China, my first impressions of the city, in pouring rain and colorfully filled with cyclists in raincoats. I wanted to stop them to keep traces of the expressions on their faces, their different emotions, tiredness, the shapes of shiny colored coats billowing in the wind, the way their bodies reacted to the bad weather and heavy rain. So I started extracting individuals from the mass to keep them in my mind. Every year in China, thousands of people migrate to big cities looking for jobs, leaving small villages, mountains, river valleys, lands of forgotten minorities... I documented the soaked faces of people riding around the city: factory workers, servants, cooks, shop assistants, mechanics, craftsmen, carriers, parents, children, students, for whom the daily ride on bikes and scooters is the only way to reach their destination.
One flash can freeze the moment - one moment of presence.

The Chinese Chapters contain mixed materials: snapshot-like images, documentary photography, texts, a collection of archived materials and collected objects, installations with water progressively destroying the images.

The photographs are printed on traditional Chinese calligraphy paper and presented along with modern plastic prints.