A precious video of Chinese photographer and poet Ren Hang talks about his exhibition ‘野生‘ in OstLicht Gallery from 19.03. 2015 to 25.07.2015. Video by Katharina Buschenreiter (OstLicht/WestLicht) . This video is mostly in Germany and Chinese, but you can use the subtitle function to view it in English.
Provocative and direct. At the same time aesthetic, humorous and poetic. The photographs of the Chinese artist Ren Hang (1987–2017) fascinate because of their radical imagery. OstLicht. Galerie für Fotografie presented the most comprehensive exhibition of the young shooting star in Europe to date.
His sudden death is an irretrievable loss for all who knew him, as it is for the art world which loses one of its brightest and uncompromising talents.
Ren Hang’s analogue photographs are about human emotions, relationships and friendships, and also fear and loneliness. Young women and men – mostly friends of the artist – pose naked in vulnerable, occasionally explicit poses. With their gaze often directed straight at the camera, the models always assume an active role. In the portraits, taken in front of monochromatic backdrops, on the roof of high-rise buildings or in natural landscapes, animals such as snakes, birds or cats and flowers appear as props. In twisted poses and unusual arrangements, bodies are an abstract element to Ren Hang. The naked human body becomes a malleable sculpture and is thus desexualised. Still, the artist’s photographs are always suffused with a subtle humour.
Living and working in Beijing, Ren Hang was influenced by Chinese culture and his immediate environment. His images also constitute a portrait of his own generation and of China’s urban youth culture, longing for individual freedom and spiritual liberty. They reflect a spontaneous lifestyle which seeks out liberty. Hang’s intimate photographs directly challenge moral and social taboos in China by exploring the human body and sexuality, especially homosexuality, which was considered a mental illness in China until 2001. His experience of regular censorship has influenced his artistic practice and the aesthetic of his photographs. On the one hand, they are carefully censored, yet on the other hand, they are inherently of the moment: a consequence of his – not always voluntarily – quick working method.
Curated by Raphaele Godin and Rebekka Reuter
A book accompanying the exhibition was published by dienacht Publishing, edited by Michael Kollmann and Calin Kruse.
Ren Hang (Chinese: 任航, 1987–2017) was a Chinese photographer and poet. He was born in 1987, in a suburb of Changchun, Jilin province, in northeastern China.
During Hang’s incipient career, he was known mostly for nude photographic portraits of his friends. Hang’s work is significant for its representation of Chinese sexuality within a heavily censored society. And for this erotic undertones, Hang was arrested by PRC authorities several times. His art trajectory was backed by the famed contemporary Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, who included Hang in his 2013 Netherlands show, “Fuck Off 2 The Sequel”, and curated the photographer’s 2014 exhibition in Paris, France. His erotic, playful and casual yet provocative expression made him rise to fame worldwide.
Hang attended the Communication University of China where he majored in advertising, though his interest quickly turned to photography rather than his studies. In 2007, he began to take pictures of his friends. Ren introduced the reason why he began to shoot in an interview,”It was really boring in college. That’s when I first started playing with the camera. I was around 17 or 18″. In order to “relieve boredom”, Hang bought a point-and-shoot camera and began shooting nude images of his friends. As a self-taught photographer, he said his style of photography was inspired by the artist Shūji Terayama.
Hang was also known to be suffering from depression. He posted an article titled “My depression” on his blog, recording the fear, anxiety and internal conflicts he suffered from. Hang took his own life by jumping from the 28th floor of a building in Beijing.
Vienna has got a new centre for contemporary photography: OstLicht Gallery was opened on the premises of the Brotfabrik, Vienna’s latest, dynamically evolving cultural centre, in June 2012.
The loft offers approximately 500 m² of exhibition space for group and solo exhibitions of contemporary photo art, featuring both national and international positions.
The publicly accessible library of Galerie OstLicht comprises a collection of more than 20,000 books and magazines on the art and technology of photography as well as a selecion of photography magazines. Featuring also a bookshop and a bar, OstLicht intends to function as a meeting place and centre for everyone with an interest in photography.
The opening of OstLicht means that another art institution will be established at the still new cultural centre in the former Anker bread factory, where Ernst Hilger’s Brotkunsthalle, a branch of Lichterloh, artists’studios, and a Caritas workshop are located.
Architect Gregor Eichinger designed the rooms of OstLicht, taking the historical industrial architecture into consideration.
OstLicht is a new project by Peter Coeln, who has been successfully running the photo museum WestLicht since 2001; it shows high-quality international photo exhibitions alongside a permanent exhibition of historical cameras, and also hosts auctions of photographica which are well-known beyond the borders of Austria.