Chen Zhe. BEESSOLD OUT
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Publisher: International Publishing House for China’s Culture (2011)
Category: Limited Edition
Details: Hardcover, clothbound, 58 colour plates, 86 pages, 287 x 220 mm
Languages: English & simplified Chinese
Limited edition of 500 copies
"Depression plants the seed of introspection. The bees take it in. They reason it, embrace it and explore it, forming an isolated universe in their own minds." - Chen Zhe
Chen Zhe’s debut publication presents for the first time her award-winning photo series Bees, which explores the issue of self-harm as practised by groups of young adults in Beijing. The project evolved from a previous series of works entitled The Bearable (2007-2010), which Chen was encouraged to pursue as a way to confront, and finally overcome, her own self inflictions.
The works in Bees fall between documentary and autobiography. Chen’s empathy with her subjects is clear yet her attitude to their actions is more opaque. The works offer no judgement and little context and are done in a rough, guerrilla style that brings the viewer up close to the scarred skin and paraphernalia. As a result, viewer and photographer become almost accomplices in the acts shown. In one image, a tray of surgical instruments illustrates the elabourate planning and care that some individuals put into the practice. Elsewhere, Chen focuses narrowly upon the wounds themselves rather than on whole individual, the gashes and puncture marks sometimes recalling images from a medical textbook – separated, catalogued and filed. Just as often they seem to carry semi-religious overtones, suggesting Christian and Buddhist ascetic traditions and abnegation of the flesh as a path to spiritual enlightenment. Although often deeply harrowing, the works in Bees contain a tragic authenticity and hype-free credibility as lived experience that demand the view’s attention.
Chen Zhe 陈哲 was born in Beijing in 1989 and in 2011 graduated from the Art Center College of Design at Pasadena, in California with an MFA in Photography and Imaging. She has exhibited her works at the New York Photo Festival 2010, the Lianzhou International Photography Festival (2010) and Caochangdi PhotoSpring – Arles in Beijing 2011. In 2011 she received the Three Shadows Photography Award and the 2011 Inge Morath Photography Award for her series Bees. She lives in Beijing and Los Angeles.