Buddha in a Cage, Wutai Mountain, Shanxi Province (1998/2006) is part of Liu Zheng’s photographic series “The Chinese.” The Williams College Museum of Art, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, owns the only complete, 120-image set of “The Chinese” outside China. The following information about Liu Zheng, who was born in 1969, and his project, is from John Stomberg, WCMA deputy director and senior curator:
“Liu Zheng began taking photos in China right around the time of the Tiananmen Square uprising (1989). He didn’t have much money and even less opportunity to print. Many of his negatives sat in drawers. He had a job working for the Workers’ Daily newspaper as a photojournalist and he helped found and then edit one of the first avant-garde magazines about photography in China—New Photography—which began in 1995. The final project, 120 prints collectively called “The Chinese,” were gathered together and printed for exhibitions starting around 2002, though he conceived the idea around 1994.... The body of work focuses on China in a somewhat nostalgic way and the subjects range from amputated body parts to strippers in nightclubs. He tried to capture China’s people and culture at a moment of seismic changes in that country. The Buddha in a Cage is a perfect example of his kind of poetry. Set in a classic Chinese landscape, the religious object is bound—but has it just been bound or does it sit waiting to be released? ... I have an intern working with me from Beijing ... who feels that Liu Zheng was trying to find the exotic sides of China, the sides at which a foreigner might look. I think she does not find him an accurate chronicler of her country—very interesting.”
Buddha in a Cage and other images from “The Chinese” are part of the “New Acquisitions/New Perspectives” exhibition on display at the Williams College Museum of Art through January 6, 2008. (413) 597-2429; www.wcma.org.