Chen Qiulin takes as her subject the changes caused by urbanization and industrialization in the more rural parts of China. In particular, her work has focused on the transformations brought about by the huge Three Gorges Dam Project and the destruction caused by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Her photographs, performances, and videos testify that dislocation is felt by people throughout the country, not only by the residents of the country’s megacities. For Chen these events are personal—she grew up in a village in Sichuan Province that was flooded by the construction of the dam.
The autobiographical character of Chen’s work is further reinforced by her own participation in her works. Most often she performs or poses in a white wedding dress, soiled and damaged from the destruction around her. Joining her is a man in a tuxedo. Together they appear modern, western, and thoroughly out of place in the setting in which they find themselves. This photograph from the Twilight Series was produced in response to the Sichuan earthquake. Posing with the artist and the man in a tuxedo are two figures in Chinese opera costumes, reinforcing the sentiments of loss and nostalgia for a vanishing way of life.
Chen Qiulin. Born in Chendou, Sichuan Province, China, 1975. Lives and works in Chendou. Untitled from the Twilight Series, 2009. Inkjet print. Private collection. ©2015 Chen Qiulin.