May 14, 2007
The other day I mentioned a photographer named Li Yu in passing and said his portfolio on the Beijing Fotofest site suffered from lack of explanation. Thomas Wain of Stoke-on-Kent, England who saw one of the photos on Tim Atherton's site wrote me asking if I knew of a web page that had those explanations (the images are recreations of scenes from local newspaper crime blotters)... indeed I do.
The portfolio is called 13 Months in the Year of the Dog and contains English translations. In describing the work Li Yu writes:
"A boy was riding a bicycle with a girl on the backseat in the street. Many passers-by accused them of violating the traffic rules, which forbade bikers to have anyone on the backseat. Instead of following their advice, the boy rode faster. All of a sudden, the girl shrieked in alarm. Her skirt was tangled up into the wheel and completely torn up. Soon the boy fell onto the ground with the bicycle while the girl stood aside, blushing and only appearing in her underwear. This was a news story I read in high school and it still remains vivid in my memory. The extremely critical writing of the reporter who wrote the story severely condemned certain uncivilized phenomena in the society and met the needs of his readers.
The year of 2006 was the year of the dog according to the Chinese lunar calendar. It consisted of 13 months and four Valentine's Days, totaling 385 days. In the same year, Liu Bo and I launched an art project entitled "13 Months in the Year of the Dog." We picked out two local news stories from newspapers in Wuhan, restaged the reported scenes, and shot large photographs of them. During this process, we brought our own imaginations and other everyday experiences such as the secondhand experiences we had obtained from films, TV and news photos into this project.
Our selection of the news stories was inspired by the early-mentioned news report. But nowadays, the magic power and literary value of news has far exceeded our anticipation and even films: deceit, murder, eroticism and violence…so striking and unimaginable. How can one decide whether these stories have truly happened or not simply relying on written words? Maybe it's not important, at least they have truly existed in the papers. But as for the readers, these stories are as eye-catching as the blushing girl in her torn-up skirt. That's the so-called media truth. The life of today is the history of tomorrow. Someone says that history is like a girl ready to be dressed up by anyone. Now, let's put the girl with the torn-up skirt back into another beautiful outfit."