The artist, Yajing Hu, has created a series of remarkable photographs of replicated artist’s drawing dummies in groups wearing identical uniforms.

Yajing Hu 1

Yajing Hu 3

The images might at first be suggestive of a commentary on the loss of identity of the individual in the present time. However, a longer look reveals that the arrangement of the figures perhaps recalls formal photos of communist functionaries and workers from before the capitalist turns in Eastern Europe and China. The faded/desaturated aesthetic adds superbly to the sense of a past era. But after further consideration the feeling emerges that the faceless, identical figures could be robots from some nightmarish post-human future. This a future where the state dominates its subjects not for some hoped for greater good (as with Communism) but because it is the logical destination of power in a digital era. The seeming ease of endless replication that Yajing Hu brilliantly generates reinforces the fear that at some point every human endeavour will be overwhelmed and replaced.

These uncertainties over what is “meant” oppose in an interesting way the clarity of what is physically depicted. The figures themselves give rise to further uncertainty as it is hard to work out how they have been created, for example, whether the immaculate clothes been made materially or in photoshop – in either case it would seem an extraordinary amount of labour would be involved (even in the current state of technology).

These elements also help the pictures escape from the representational restrictions of the classic photograph. The timelessness and the repetition within the pictures refuse to allow a “punctum” or some other kind of personal association for the viewer of a copied reality or remembered emotional state. The unfussy/casual presentation of the unframed pictures aids in this undermining of the status of the photograph, just as the figures depicted have no status.

The exquisite production works with the content to create a sense of uniformity which is contrasted by the multiplicity of suggestions made by the picture.

My leaves series is designed to have a clear sense of uniformity (the leaves all dressed in their autumn outfits) which I hope acts as a base from which multiple suggestions can be extrapolated.

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