Artist Statement – Zhang Xiao
Zhang Xiao created They series in over 3 years from 2006-2008 during his time working as a photojournalist in Chongqing city. Chongqing, as the largest and fastest growing city in China, probably represents the most extreme example of urbanization and rapid development in the country. Zhang photographed the people he encountered on his daily travels around the city. The characters in They are the ordinary people in real life - they carry out all kinds of mundane activities in public venues. In Zhang’s images, these ordinary people become the protagonists in the scenes they occupy, often seemingly departing from reality and entering a performance state. These images perhaps reveal some loss of balance and normality caused by the rapid development of modern Chinese society.
“Each of them has their own ordinary life … yet in the images they appear bizarre and absurd, as if they belong to another planet and are completely unique,” Zhang Xiao said. Apart from its documentary nature, They also reflects the artist’s strong subjective point of view about contemporary life in China: kitschy, absurd, surreal and humorous.
Zhang used a basic, low technology Holga camera and expired films to photograph They, his choice of equipment enhances his expectation and imagination during the making, and increases the instability and uncertainty of the visual quality of the images. The effects of aberration and vignetting lead the viewers into a dreamy state, in Zhang’s words, “This is not a real world… In a moment, they surpass themselves in reality just like sleepwalking.”