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Davide Monteleone

Artist presented by
Heillandi Gallery, Lugano, Switzerland

SINOMOCENE 2014 — 2020

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping announced in 2013 that the ancient Silk Road trading route would be reborn as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as “New Silk Road”, Chinese entities have committed to invest
trillion in long-term infrastructure projects in support. The Asian Development Bank, a regional bank modeled closely on the World Bank, estimates an infrastructure need of trillion across Asia over the next decade. China’s recent efforts have been the most sizable concerted effort aimed at helping close that gap. Created to lay the foundations for long-term economic growth across developing economies, the BRI aims to connect 65% of the world’s population and link developing regions through hard infrastructure like roads, railways, ports, and even digital infrastructure.

Geopolitical and economic assessments of the impact of China’s overseas activities are plentiful. Mainstream media is yet to produce a visually compelling strategy to relate the breadth and scale of the more tangible effects of China’s ambitions, including social and environmental impacts of such an initiative on local communities and regional geographies. This is due in part to the BRI’s vast scale and amorphous nature, but mainly because major analysis of the initiative has been done through organizations that evaluate policy through a macro lens.

As a storyteller with a background in photojournalism, art, and politics, Davide Montelone has always been interested in the various possible uses of photography in relation to other disciplines, such as history, politics, economics, and data. With ‘Sinomocene’ his goal is to render visible the extended social pyramid, where the apex is the enormous Chinese financial investment and the base is made of millions of individuals in the world affected by the strategy and the policy of the BRI. This expansive body of work will combine photographic stories and data visualisation to contribute to a more human understanding of the ambitious and debated Chinese initiative, its social impact on local populations, and on the landscape of world geography. The overall project implements field work in four continents where China is expanding its presence, including Kazachstan, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Italy, Cambodia and Pakistan. The presentation in Paris zooms in on Djibouti. 

Located in the Horn of Africa, China views Djibouti as a gateway to the Red Sea and a waystation between Europe and Asia. China’s approach to the Horn of Africa was initially motivated by its hunt for natural resources to fuel its economic boom. But considering that as much as 20% of global trade passes through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait – which runs between Djibouti and Yemen - every year, China is activelty investing in the region’s transportation and logistical systems. Djibouti has become heavily dependent on Chinese financing after China opened its first overseas military support base in 2017. Meant initially to be an outpost to gain influence in the Indian Ocean, the base is now mainly used to provide logistical supplies for China’s shipping escort task forces in the Gulf of Aden.

Born 1974 in Potenza, Italia.
Lives an works in Moscow, Russia.
Davide Monteleone is a photographer, researcher, and a National Geographic Fellow who works on long-term multimedia projects, exploring the relation between Power and individuals. He published five books and received numerous awards, including World Press Photo, The Aftermath Project Grant, Carmignac Photojournalism Award. He regularly contributes to leading publications and his projects have been presented at festivals and galleries such as the Nobel Peace Center, Saatchi Gallery, Rencontres d’Arles, MEP, Aperture Gallery and Palazzo delle Esposizioni.

Exhibition curator: Hester Keijser.