originally published in 2011
What is there to say about photographer Ren Hang? His images spill into an obscene wonderland where basic questions become irrelevant and a twisted sense climbs over your flesh like worms on rotted meat. You’re glad they’re just photographs – like looking at the world face first against a closed window on the thousandth floor of some skyscraper. Based in Beijing, Hang is a new breed of 21st century Chinese artists riding the wave of modernization and cultural reawakening in China. But thats not saying we’re not lucky to experience Hang’s work – China is still vastly censorial and harsh against any material it deems slightly immoral. Hang’s work plays with fire, albeit delicately and at times tongue in cheek and never does it seem to shock for the sheer purpose to shock. Hang’s work is evidence of a deeply creative soul who bends erotic concepts like impermeable alloy into immaculate imagery rife with crude and mysterious spirituality. Hang’s subjects are dancers in a dangerous dance of lust and desire. In the following interview, Hang talks about shooting his lovers and friends and Chinese censorship.
AUTRE: What goes through your mind as you look through the view finder?
REN HANG: My eyes see only what is right in front of me.
AUTRE: You are based in Beijing – do you get any resistance to your work because of the nature of the content? Can you give any specific examples of how or when they tried to censor your work?
HANG: A lot of difficulties, you know, nudity is not published in China. An exhibition was canceled, someone spat at my work, cameras getting confiscated by the police, and almost going to jail. Although there are so many difficulties, I still like the Chinese.I like to shoot the face of the Chinese people, the body of the Chinese people, and close to me, easier for them to trust me. When I take pictures, I will forget all the difficulties.
AUTRE: Who are some of the subjects in your photographs?
HANG: My lovers…..my friends.
AUTRE: Whats next?
HANG: I’m printing two of my new books, completed in September, called a Damp – the other is called Mom I Hate Myself, But I Cannot Tell You.