From Aranya to Qinhuangdao  重叠虚幻城邦

Part I: Aranya: To Overlap a Symbolized City

Aranya, located in a suburban area of Qinhuangdao, is a futuristic city built to attract middle-class vacationers from all over China with its post-modernist architectures, highly intelligent facilities, and avantgarde arcadian lifestyles. I was invited as a residency artist to Aranya. To me this delicately constructed city was more like a detached, suspended island from reality -the roadside stores, the stalls on the beach, even every fence and every tree have been carefully designed and arranged with a high degree of aesthetic unity and harmony, full of artificially created coziness. During the residency, I photographed many symbolic objects, and I superimposed images of my hand reaching to the sea, a seaside screen, a service staff, an auditorium, dazzling lights from the art gallery, racehorses, and a luxurious pool, to create an illusionary utopia that I recall.

Part II: Qinhuangdao: Train Back to the Reality

After the residency, I left Aranya and start a trip into the main area of Qinhuangdao. I boarded an old local train, as if I had arrived in a completely different world and the utopian fantasy of Aranya seems out of place here. Qinhuangdao is one of the most undeveloped regions in China, most of the residents here live in relative poverty. I photographed what I saw on this old train- most of the passengers were local workers, farmers, and vendors who made up the majority of the population living in this land, and they had never heard of a town called Aranya in the region where they had spent the majority of their lives. Instead of doing a lot of post-processing as usual, I return to the nature of photography: decumenting, presenting it in a realistic way. On this old train leaving Aranya, I felt like I was getting further away from the utopia and getting closer to the reality that we're living in.

“Locals do not belong to Aranya, and Aranya is not open to everyone. In the nightfall, standing on the side of the road just one kilometer away from Aranya, I looked around me and saw that only the town of Aranya, not far away, was lit up with warm lights in the darkness of the night, like a dream.”  

Li Jing: Aranya: An Artificial Utopia Is Still a Utopia, News China, Issue 1010, 2021.