Wayne Liu

There exists two tracks of time in China: first track, the five thousand years of imperial history, used for dinner chitchat, television programs and political mileage; second track rolls from 1979, year one of economic reforms, privatization and capitalism. When asked for lessons from the French Revolution, Mao replied, “It’s far too early to say.”

Postcard pictures of Beijing from 1989: idealistic youths and tank conveyors. Twenty years later: market shares and flickering lights. Vertical growths and horizontal displacements in contemporary China correspond to the collective dreams of American Wonderland circa 1959, a white hole to the black end of the worlds. On the margins of the screen, the desolate individual from a John Ford western sets off into alien’s land.

Since my birth in 1979, I lived between American-dreamt malls and American-occupied Formosa, existing as a moth with several antennae, left to chance fluttering slight above Pacific Ocean waves.

My work reenacts the displacement of my grandparents from China to Taiwan after the war in 1949. My imaginary war of cracks, collapses and sense configuration: in 2008, the Sichuan earthquake and Beijing Olympics as metaphor of the dead, dispossessed and burnt, makeshift shelters in towns half intact, alongside falling boulders and bulldozers.

My studio is my makeshift squat; my head rests upon my pillow book of photographic frequencies. A laboratory for a mad science of sort, flooded by houseflies and flying bats, I transcribe traces of tectonic shifts and social destructions, of oscillating events and aftershocks, real and imaginary wars of conflict, to reclaim the distance between quakes of the world and the quake photographs in the world.

Photographing is like catching mosquitoes buzzing in one’s dark chamber. I’m a compulsive flyswatter shooting against the erratic flights of blind events. In NYC, I develop the films and estranged to who I was, outside in heat. For here, I’m cool, if not cold. My photographs of the Chinese earthquake were never published, but instead live as objects laying bare in disarray, covered with dust and chipped away, mimicking the disjointed world that photographic act attempts to order and enclose with freeze frames. One must learn to detach oneself from seeing the world within the singular and fetishized image, and warp it back to spaces around, back to the processes of the physical world.

I studied cinema and semiotics in a Taiwanese university. After arriving to NYC in 1999, I worked at ABC No Rio, a former squat in the Lower East Side. I worked overnight, printing alone. I studied films at Anthology Film Archives and as a darkroom resident at the International Center for Photography. I stopped photographing between 2002 and 2006.

I am in the memory industry, though not an efficient one. The leaning tower of photos sees itself reflected as mere shreds of paper, preparatory for when the fireman cometh. The squatter escapes the leaking ceilings of utopia, but will too the transit documents?


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