Digby Duncan After Dark

Digby Duncan_Feijiacun Village series No.9.jpg

Syndicate At Danks 2011

Feijiacun is a small Chinese village beyond the 5th ring road on the northern outskirts of Beijing. Nearby is the artists’ complex of Shangrila where I was an artist-in-resident in May 2011 as part of the program offered by Red Gate Gallery. 

In my interactions with the village I tasted the life of old Beijing, but I was always aware that this small village was slated for demolition. As Beijing expands outwards villages such as Feijiacun are completely raised forcing the occupants to move to expensive high -rise or shift further out. Any compensation they get for relocation will be inadequate and cannot replace their village community. 

I observed and recorded the chaotic night-life of the village. Using a hand held digital SLR camera I was able to enter its pulsating shadows. If I had used a tripod I would have been flattened by a tricycle or truck on the narrow unsealed streets. 

The viewpoint of these images is cinematic. Each has an impressionistic narrative-a man buys meat for his evening meal; gamblers are absorbed in their card game; a man stacks dumpling steamers; a child dances in the street; a woman rearranges her store. The blurring effect evokes the work of Gerard Richter, giving us a “soft” realism that invites us to enter into these ordinary moments. The painterly colours and night reflections absorb our gaze as we follow the actions in the frame. 

I was always mindful of being outside looking in, like in an Edward Hopper painting, as I attempted to capture vibrant village life as it now is. The movement in these photographs reminds me of the transitory nature of this life that will disappear with economic progress.