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Ray Art Center 瑞象馆
2015.10.31 Sat - 2016.01.31 Sun
Opening Exhibition
上海市虹口区花园路128号运动LOFT五街区A座182室 (地铁三号/八号线 虹口足球场站出 花园路景祥路方向 运动LOFT创意基地内。 ) Room 182, Block 5A, No.128 Creative LOFT, Huayuan Road, Hongkou District, Shanghai, 200083, China (Take Metro Line 3 or Line 8, get off at the station Hongkou Football Stadium, towards the direction of Huayuan Road/Jingxiang Road.)
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Matthias Messmer and Hsin-Mei Chuang—As It Disappears: A Cultural Study of Rural China – Ray Art Center
[Press Release]

Ray Art Center is pleased to present As It Disappears: A Cultural Study of Rural China starting on October 31th, 2015. This exhibition is inspired by a field research project that probed into rural China, conducted by Swiss sociologist and photographer Matthias Messmer and Taiwanese researcher Hsin-Mei Chuang. For seven years since 2006, they visited more than 50 villages and towns in 21 provinces and autonomous regions of Mainland China, conducting research from various perspectives including architecture, folk art, religion, Fengshui, education, environment, cultural preservation, agricultural production, and public policy.


Tanghe Old Town, Chongqing 2009 Matthias Messmer, Hsin-mei Chuang

This cultural study of Matthias Messmer and Hsin-Mei Chuang explored the altered landscape as well as shifting social life in a perpetually changing rural China. At its root, this yet to be defined social unrest in the vast rural China results from a modernization process that has lasted for nearly 200 years, but it also directly relates to the radical political movements and social reforms in last few decades. They regard rural China as a cultural entity, and the culture here refers to both the real world space where people live and a representation of traditions and spirituality. “China’s Vanishing Worlds” directly reflects the social crisis in the real world and the spirituality or even identity crisis accompanying the fading of culture. Their study focuses on the more intuitive social reality, yet their values, their judgments, and their ultimatec oncerns rest upon the fate of those who’re living in this world.

Born from the fruitful results of this grand research project, this exhibition displays four different regions along with their corresponding research themes: “ Loess Plateau”, “Chongqing– Western Hunan”, “Lingnan”, and “Yunnan”. Combining the images and texts, we utilize photographs, posters, and even physical objects collected from those regions, in order to recreate a vivid glimpse of the contemporary rural China’s culture and society. A variety of events such as films, lectures, and dialogues will also take place alongside the exhibition to showcase the latest research and work about rural China and contemporary society by scholars, artists and cultural experts home and abroad. With this exhibition and related events,we hope to present the audience with some excellent examples of conducting social investigational research from visual and cultural perspectives, to inspire communication and discussion on related topics, and to actively seek effective ways for contemporary cultural experts to interact with the real world.


Sichen Village, Hunan Province Matthias Messmer, Hsin-mei Chuang

About the Artists

Since many years, Matthias Messmer has been travelling extensively in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Asia. The scope of his creative work includes cultural critic, writing and photography. Today, his interdisciplinary projects focus on Chinese cultural politics,everyday cultures and Western images of China. Before taking the explorative path, Messmer earned his PhD in Sociology from the University of Constance, Germany. In 2001, he received a scholarship from the Swiss National Science Foundation and was a visiting scholar in the US and China. He is the author of Jewish Wayfarers in Modern China.

Hsin-Mei Chuang was born in Taiwan, received her M.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison after studying at the National Chengchi University in Taipei. Since her teens, she has been keen to discover places in the more remote corners of the world. Currently, she works as an independent cultural researcher and writer with interests in Chinese an dTaiwanese cultures, colonial history in Asia, rural communities in modern society and intercultural communication.

Matthias Messmer and Hsin-Mei Chuang have collaborated on various documentary and art projects since 2006. They have published many articles and photo essays in German, English and Chinese media. China’s Vanishing Worlds—Countryside, Traditions and Cultural Space (MIT Press) is their first book together.

About Ray Art Center

Established in 2008, Ray Art Center (RAC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to photo-based art. The Center has a threefold mission: support for research into the history and theory of Chinese photography; sponsorship of contemporary photography practice; and increased public awareness of photography and contemporary visual culture in general.Photographic research takes place at the Ray-Space, which presents contemporary work by Chinese and international artists, and research projects undertaken by RAC and other scholars or artists; Ray-Sight, an online platform devoted to collecting and sharing of writings on history and theories of photography, and Ray-Publication. The event-oriented section Ray-Chat and Ray-Pub consists of a series talks, panels, dialogues, workshops and screenings. These events promote learning between photography and other disciplines, and communication between artists, scholars, curators, and students, by which, the center hopes to explore visual culture and spark new ideas.