Born 1957, Shanghai. Lives and works in Shanghai

Hu Jieming’s artistic explorations revolve around memory and the sense of time, which he calls “very powerful tools, but also dangerous ones”. Without them, human beings cannot learn, or civilisation exist. Yet personal recollections and historical records can never be complete, much less truthful; all we have are flickering fragments of scenes forever lost. The Remnants of Images (2013) links memory and history through the metaphors of store and archive, filling battered file cabinets and lockers with old and recent photographs. Converted to digital and partly animated images, printed on glass or displayed on video screens, these visual remnants of the personal and collective past shimmer and shift, appear and disappear as lights change and drawers open and close at random. Hu Jieming says he wanted to replicate the way we “screen” memories: with eyes closed, we can almost see the past, but the images are vague, and when we open our eyes they vanish. The events of history take place in sequential time, he says, but the traces that remain in memory are detached from time: chronologically jumbled, they come and go outside our conscious control. The “remnants of images” in this storage bank come from Hu Jieming’s own camera, family photo albums, and the Internet. We believe in our memories the same way we believe in the historical record, he says. But both are as elusive as will-o’-the-wisps: “I believe the past is alive … But it is impossible to remember it perfectly.”

Photo: Luise Guest

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