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Simon Song on 'Re-en-vision' and His Journey in Photography

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Simon Song on 'Re-en-vision' and His Journey in Photography
'Re-en-vision' Installation View, Image courtesy of The Artling

Simon Song is a Shanghai-based photographer who graduated from London College of Communication (UAL) with BA Photography and Goldsmith (University of London) with an MA in Photography and Urban Culture. Producing elliptically in analogue film, Simon's work focuses on manipulating the raw materials of the photographic apparatus and the context of photography with an eye towards, the multiplication and layering of details. 'Re-en-vision', his most recent exhibition, is currently on view at The Artling’s Shanghai private viewing space until 17 February 2021. This collection of works is his experiment in learning to dwell artistically, seeking to develop an alternative approach to social photography that dwells in everyday life as a space of creative agency.

This week, The Artling had the opportunity to speak to Simon about the concept behind 'Re-en-vision', his experience with working with The Artling, and his journey in photography

sheen-2-17

Sheen 2-17 - Simon Song (Available on The Artling)

How did you start your journey in photography?

I got my first camera at 10. Yet, it was only until college, I began to take photography seriously. At the time, Lomography was first introduced in China. Inspired by Lomo I picked up the old film camera again. Although I studied electronic information engineer in college, my passion for photography has always stayed with analog.

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Sheen 2-2 - Simon Song (Available on The Artling)

Could you tell us about some of the greatest challenges that you've encountered?

Through my pursuit of photography, there have been many challenges, both technically and theoretically. After graduating and back to shanghai, printing large-size color images has been a barrier once seen impossible to me. Color darkroom print requires industrial machinery to process. Without access to such facilities, I was unable to achieve the immersive large-scale print I need for my work. After years of experiments, I finally worked out my formula to produce large prints without the assistant of the equipment. These formulas or procedures to produce these photographic prints involve intense "manual labor", which also adds to the theoretical aspect of my work.   

'Re-en-vision' Installation View, Image courtesy of The Artling

How did 'Re-en-vision' come about? Tell us more about your thought process behind the exhibition?

The concept of the exhibition was heavily inspired by the space and location of the gallery space. The Artling located in the No 31 building converted from a formal office and staff dormitory by renowned Neri&Hu studio. I found the idea of repurposing the existing space with the smallest manipulation resonate with my focus on "sheens": the trace from daily usage and repetition. So, I borrowed the term "tactics" from Michel de Certeau. Just like the inhabitant of urban space, use the "tactic" perspective through everyday usage as the foundation of "reclaiming space" through the dwelling. The concept of "Re-en-vision" is an attempt to present a grand narrative through a "tactics" perspective. From micro to macro., the works in the exhibition were arranged into four sections.

sheen-2-3

Sheen 2-3 - Simon Song (Available on The Artling)

How does Michel de Certeau's concept of "an entire society resists being reduced" by the power of "fine art of dwelling" reflect in your works?

The concept is reflected in many ways. First, my work focusses on the traces in the mundane environment. These are effectively the marks created by the act of dwelling. The photographs become a tool to investigate the essence of the "fine art of dwelling". Secondly, the methods to craft my works use the technics I develop through years of printing experience. These formulas are my tactics to alter the industrial process to meet my demand. Third, the labor-intense procedures mean I have to spend an extensive amount of time on each time and effort on each piece of work. These physical surfaces are my evidence of dwelling. Finally, my manipulation of the photograph is to create an image with layers for the viewers to excavate, find a way to read through the image. In this sense, the photographic surface became a space for dwelling.

'Re-en-vision' Installation View, Image courtesy of The Artling

Tell us more about your experience exhibiting with The Artling.

Exhibiting at The Artling has been a fantastic experience. From the perpetration to the setup of the exhibition, they have been truly engaging and determined. I can fully realize my imagination of the exhibition. They are open to all kinds of possibilities. From exhibition space arrangement to lighting in the space, I received many pieces of advice and help. Everyone works toward the success of the exhibition. Their online platform is a huge benefit to me. I can reach a much wider audience from there.

garden-2-1

Garden 2-1 - Simon Song (Available on The Artling)

What inspires you and your work? Tell us about your greatest inspirations.

I got my inspiration from multiple sources. I could be inspired by a place or an item, or a film scene, an image, a piece of music. I always admire Jeff Wall's work and his writing is inspiring. Recently, I was inspired by Vija Clemins's prints. My inspiration could come from ideas as well. For instance, I was fascinated by David Campany's speculative history of dust. And I was also inspired by Francois Jullien's writing about Chinese aesthetic in his book In Praise of Blandness.

What themes or topics do you find yourself drawn to the most?

I have been always focused on urban space, mundane environments. I regard the most ordinary surroundings as the greatest sources, we just need to find the perspective. I mostly photograph the area I live. And I`m also drawn to traces, the marks of dwelling always interest me.

sheen-2-6

Sheen 2-6 - Simon Song (Available on The Artling)

What do you envision for the future of photography and art?

Photography is one of the most accessible medium of art now. Trillions of photographs are taken every year. Yet for me, the medium specificity of photography is still to be challenged. I will search for the balance between the mechanical process and intentionally created "flaws" and Craft the "perfect images".

 

Click here to browse Simon Song's artworks.



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