China's Dams


(June 14, 2013) Yang Yi’s surreal photo memoir of his childhood home, flooded for the construction of China’s Three Gorges Dam project, received special mention as one of New York’s Best Weekend Art Events in May when it debuted at Galerie Richard. Its run ends tomorrow, June 15.

In his photoseries “Uprooted,” Artist Yang Yi uses digitally-altered photographs of his home town the village of Kaixian in Chongqing Province, flooded for China’s massive Three Gorges Dam to relay a sense of what has been lost forever to make way for a colossal project tied to China’s positioning of itself as a new world power.

Yang conceptually immerses his hometown in water as an already almost destroyed landscape portrayed in snapshots, sparsely peopled with inhabitants distinguished by snorkels and masks as they carry on about their business like gamey ghosts in a sunken ship.

To view “Uprooted” in full, see the Galerie Paris-Beijing here. (The exhibit ran there from February 23 until April 25, 2008).

From the Galerie-Paris Beijing website:

In 2009, the Three Gorges Dam will inundate hundreds of square kilometers in three provinces of China. Born in a small town overlooking a tributary of the Yangtze River, Yang Yi will see his hometown submerged on July 24th 2009, the date of his 37th birthday.

Striking and haunting him even in his dreams, this bitter assessment left him no choice: He had to capture the remaining specters of the scenery that is soon slated to disappear forever, along with his roots and childhood memories.

Employing mastery of both photography and digital techniques, Yang Yi shows us ghost towns engulfed by water, whose rare inhabitants, fitted out with masks and tubas, go about their daily occupations; they seem like wandering souls having assumed human bodies in order to restore life to their beloved village.

The strength of Yang Yi’s pictures resides in the cult of memories: Soon, bulldozers will destroy what is left, populations will be uprooted and relocated, water will flow everywhere and that small and lively village will become a quiet ruinous field. But still, it will survive forever in their collective memory.

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