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Portraits & Poems: The Yishu Guanxi Photography Project

9 June 2022
11.00am – 12.15pm AEST
This event has ended
Image caption: Photographic portrait of artists Gu Wenda, standing at a table between two red lanterns. On either side of the photograph is a poem.

This seminar is hosted by the Judith Neilson Chair in Contemporary Art, UNSW as part of the UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture Contemporary Asia-Pacific Visual Cultures Webinar Series. The series aims to foster a cross-institutional, international dialogue in the Asia-Pacific region by showcasing new research and thinking on contemporary visual art and culture.

Yishu Guanxi, literally meaning "artistic connections", is project about community, relationships, and place. Using portraiture as a vehicle for storytelling, the project evolved over two and half years to include more than one hundred participants, and extended from New York City to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and beyond. The portraits were made with a large format camera in the studios, homes, and otherwise meaningful places to the artists, curators, and scholars who joined the project. Poems and short stories that reflect and meditate on the conversations we had with each person are inscribed on each photograph.

Each person we invited to participate was recommended by someone who had already participated. These relationships determined our movement and formed the structure of the project. It also was the basis of our conversation—oh, my friend told me about you!—which was the spirit of the project. We spent far more time drinking tea, smoking cigarettes, and eating meals than we did taking photographs. With a large format camera, you only get one click, and you must wait a while to see your image. Consequentially, the photographs are as much about the act of making a portrait, as they are representations of a person.

In our presentation we will share a selection of the portraits as we tell the stories and recite the poetry that the project inspired.

A short list of participants include: Wu Hung, Gu Wenda, Birdhead, Wang Guangyi, Li Xianting, Johnson Chang, Song Dong, Cao Fei, Ding Yi, Li SongSong, Lin Tianmiao, Zhang Hongtu, Xu Tan, Melissa Chu.

About the speaker:

Charles Schultz is a poet and art critic. He is the Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Rail. Schultz collaborated with photographer and artist Erin Kornfeld to create the Yishu Guanxi project. Kornfeld's work is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London, England.