Last weekend saw a new kind of event added to the Dutch Culture Nights repertoire. Previously, I curated and produced a series of film screenings and a PechaKucha night. This time around, I organized a ‘Tour de Yunnan’. Photographer and curator Ruben Lundgren performed a series of Artist Talks about the history of the photobook in China. It was the perfect moment to do this, as Ruben had only this week published two books and opened one exhibition in the Dutch Photomuseum in Rotterdam: Ellen Thorbecke – from Peking to Paris and Real Dreams. This particular kind of program added the fun aspect of getting to spend a few days with an enthusiastic and interesting creative. I showed Ruben some of the sights of Yunnan as we traveled from venue to venue.
The photobook in China
His talk was super interesting and was attended by over 100 attendees. As always, there was plenty of opportunity to ask questions after each talk. Ruben had brought with him a pile of books which were handed around during the talks so everyone had a chance to look at his work and research. The talk took us through a sweeping history of the photobook in China. Ruben explained – with plenty of beautiful examples – how the different makers through the ages have made their mark on content and design. The photobook as a medium captures particular moments and areas of Chinese society and preserves them for future witnesses.
Tour de Yunnan
We kicked off in Kunming, at 1903 Space, an art gallery affiliated with Contemporary Gallery Kunming. CGK has rapidly developed into a Kunming cultural space to be reckoned with, with interesting exhibitions, many of them centred around historical and contemporary photographers that document life in Yunnan. As such it was a great platform for Ruben to share his work, and hopefully more will come of this connection in the future. Apart from answering questions from the audience, Ruben met with Jeff Crosby, the curator of CGK gallery, and also with Zhu Zijia 朱子甲, the CGK exhibition designer.
A day later we traveled to Dali. As Ruben had only been to Yunnan in his capacity as Volkskrant photographer he hadn’t yet had the chance to look around a bit more. It was nice to be able to share some insights about my favourite province in China with him. On the way to Linden Centre in Xizhou we stopped over in my village so he got a taste of life in the village.
As always, the Linden Centre offered a wonderful setting and audience for the Dutch Culture Night. Brian and Jeanee have lately been very busy with the development of their new sites, but they managed to be there for Ruben’s talk. Also there was Alicia Lin, an architect who has set up here studio in Xizhou. She is on my radar as a speaker at the next PechaKucha Night Dali which will be all about architecture. She has previously worked with Makkink and Bey, a Dutch design studio.
We finished the Tour at September Bar in Dali Old Town. We were lucky with the weather and could project on the traditional Bai reflection wall outside in the courtyard. Again, many photographers and other creatives attended and stayed around to talk to Ruben afterwards. Bertrille Snoeijer, the outgoing deputy consul of the Dutch consulate in Chongqing attended the event.
After the last talk, Ruben told me the events had been useful for him too. Presenting his two latest publications meant he could mark and process the end of these two research projects. Both of these spanned years. He furthermore saw more clearly what the Chinese photobooks research really represents for him. Collecting, studying and ultimately creating unique time capsules, of China then and now.
This week I’m starting preparations for the next PechaKucha Night Dali. I’ll pick a date sometime in September with the architects I have already talked to. I will also scout more local architects to add to the line-up. I’ll also start working on the last program of this year – a series of dance workshops and Artist Talks with dancer Kevin Polak.