Birdhead. New Village

Song Tao and Ji Weiyu, aka Birdhead, have been working together since 2004. Photographers by training and profession, the two artists document the radical transformations that the metropolis of Shanghai has undergone in recent years. Urban mutations that have brought about radical changes in the habits and lifestyles of its inhabitants; between worldliness, old customs and new myths. Shanghai is very important in our work’, said Song Tao. What we photograph is our thinking about the city, what we believe we understand about its impressive development. The photographs constitute in some respects a world, our world. Birdhead is the centre of this world, which people in the audience can see differently from ours, depending on their culture, their nationality, their different identities.

Created in 2006, the Xin Cun project consists of a series of photographs taken in the district of Shanghai that now houses the pavilions of the 2010 World Expo, where both artists grew up. The photographs were taken shortly before the start of the construction work that radically changed the face of the area, also known as New Village, which was once dotted with densely populated six-storey residential buildings.

That of Birdhead is a gaze at once instinctive and reflective, intimate and detached, interior and objective. It is the accumulation of shots that gives strength and character to the project, in which the disappearance of a place, the dispersal of a community and the regeneration of life are described in a spontaneous and original, easily recognisable style. For us, the car is like a toy, the two artists went on to say, which we use to tell our stories and feelings.

The project is enriched by eight short videos, in low resolution, presented here for the first time, which constitute a sort of private diary of Birdhead, spontaneous and ironic, providing some significant keys to understanding the two photographers’ approach to their artistic activity, to working as a couple and, more generally, to life in the world’s largest metropolis.

EX3 Centre for Contemporary Art, Florence