Zhen Shi Documents What Is Seen And Unseen In China’s Borderlands

The work of French-Chinese visual artist Zhen Shi is tied to memory and identity; to things that are seen and unseen. Her abstract series ‘Kwei Yih’ is emblematic of this; it documents a path both literally and metaphorically traveled.

The series began in response to a period of anxiety triggered by expectations: “I started this project in 2012, while I had to choose a future”, Shi explains. “But I couldn’t understand why we need to choose such a lot of things in such a young age.” She left home, and after years spent roaming she found herself looking to “regain a sense of belonging.” The solution, as she understood it, was to enter a space that was familiar—but where she was unknown, and to redefine her self by finding a new path there. “I escaped to the northwestern border of China, where nobody knows me”, her statement about the project reads. “One year later, I came down along the border until southwest, when I tried to redefine something—about where I am and where I’m going.” What she learned during this period was not that she needed redefining, but instead that she needed to embrace what was already there. “In this sense, Kwei Yih is not only a journalistic record of the long way that I have come,” Shi explains, “but also a work about remembrance, imagination and self-comfort.”

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