Perspectives

(Brothers) Gao

Date : 2002

Medium : Photography

Size : 120 x 142 cm

C–print

The central theme of the Gao Brothers' photography is the representation of a partitioned space that more or less comfortably accommodates man, with his desires, frustrations, suffering, dreams and nightmares. This space, described as "narrative", takes the form of a cupboard, a building abandoned while under construction, a beehive whose many cells interlock, or a completely digital building whose identical windows have a Kafkaesque aspect. However, the space is always a place in which man is alternately moved, waiting, abandoned, lost, excluded, compressed, suffocated and never completely free, but, curiously, never completely unhappy either. It's as if each time man is trapped by his own buildings.
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This tempting landscape free of construction that is offered to us in the background is at the same time forbidden to us by a black geometric structure that stands in our way. How frustrating!

What’s more, the presence of two seated men disrupts our sense of scale and reveals that the structure is not a single window but four in a building under construction. How strange!

This photograph sums up recurring themes in the work of this Chinese duo, the Gao Brothers.
Whether they are working as sculptors, performers or photographers, space, or rather the lack of it, restrictions on it and the oppression caused by crowds of anonymous, nude Chinese bodies, is at the heart of their work. For over twenty years they have been reflecting on the evolution of Chinese society, the urbanisation of the countryside, the increasing density of urban areas, the impoverishment of the middle class.

Here they offer a perspective on China’s socioeconomic situation that is full of stark contrasts: between black and colour, shadow and light and the different parts of the composition. It is perfectly symmetrical, with the artists almost creating a double image, but the insertion of a human presence creates a troubling asymmetry that furtively signals malaise, an anomaly in the system.

In this photograph, with its evocative title Perspective, the artists’ project of denunciation is executed with particular subtlety.