LIU LI TUN
Liu Li Tun is a neighbourhood in the Chaoyang district of Beijing, near the eastern segment of the 3rd Ring Road. In 1994 RongRong moved into one of the somewhat decrepit houses with square courtyards that had accumulated raggedly one behind the other to form a “village” within the city. He then spent eight years tirelessly photographing his bohemian existence, at first alone with his cats and friends, then with his Japanese photographer wife inri. The couple worked together night and day in Liu Li Tun from 2000 until the neighbourhood’s demolition in 2002. The exhibition reflects this chain of events: three periods marked by three kinds of photographic work, each with its own format and plasticity and each forming a distinct part of the career of the two artists.
The exhibition approach consists in bringing together the disparate images that give an artistically coherent form and a meaning to the couple’s private life in a corpus as remarkable for its content as for its form; and in documenting and restoring a working and living environment in a way that reflects the search for a personal photographic language.
First period: RongRong’s house is a haven of warmth, a meeting point for a generation of young artists only just emerging from the era of the East Village, another Beijing art village where they had lived a difficult life as outsiders faced with constant official harassment and financial difficulties. RongRong’s photos are small, private, readily legible and for the most part in black and white.
Second period: at the beginning RongRong, who speaks only Chinese and inri, who speaks only Japanese, use photography to construct a language of love of which they themselves are simultaneously the subjects, authors and tools. Then comes observation of life through inri’s eyes, each everyday detail taking on a distinctive quality through large contact sheets.
Third period: the neighbourhood is emptied of its residents, the house is emptied of its furniture and the “village” is replaced by a landscape of ruins. The big black and white prints show the lovers together one last time in their house before it is demolished. They are present at the destruction of this place the way one is present at a funeral.
Even so, at the end of their Liu Li Tun adventure, the two artists were doubtlessly not really aware of the way their work reflected the city’s transition from the 20th to the 21st Century, and of how it created a certain nostalgia in some people. Liu Li Tun is now buried under skyscrapers, just like the rest of Beijing.