Odd Encounters, Games, and Actions
by Zhu Jiong

Walk around in this world with a camera, and you would experience a stunning encounter every time you press the shutter. Every photograph is evidence of a magical encounter. Reality is not a miracle, yet images make the miracle.

Wang Tong is an image artist who spent nine years (2012-2021) writing a thick visual diary with 400 rolls of expired black and white 120 films. He traveled across China, encountering people and objects, spaces and events from all over the world amid China's rapid development. Wang Tong uses his intuition to launch a visual game of "wonder and encounter." He captures big things such as smoking factories, parking lots under the scorching sun, and buildings in heavy fog. He also focuses on the small items such as an elephant doll with a broken stomach, a stuffed bear squeezed in a glass shop window, and pants hanging out to dry with legs widely spread. The world is ridiculous yet vibrant, with a variety of realities flooding into the camera. Wang Tong has abandoned the discipline that the profession of images has imposed on him; instead, he maximizes the impact of the moment when the eye collides with reality, which is so strong that it could distort the composition of his pictures and make him turn on the flashlight frequently. In addition, he also uses the uncontrollable damages to images caused by the expired films to participate in this odd encounter. The era of the film has irreversibly passed. Long expired, the surviving films have grown irregular gray shadows; besides, the backing paper of the 120 films has left on the film irregularly imaged dots, numbers, and letters, as well as special grainy cloud effect, etc. These traces of damaged images, the photographer's intuition, and reality collide to produce a visual chemical reaction with honest and violent images.

Photographic techniques have always been the cornerstone of visual languages, and thus the way to build the aesthetic style of images. Wang Tong emphasizes that the film camera gives him a unique way of thinking in his thirty-year career in photography. Wang Tong develops all of his films, and his creations are a complete closed-loop of the silver-salt image system. Committed to expired silver-salt films, he has formed a whole visual language of shading, layering, and grainy expression. The dark gray tones and the unique beauty of the highlights create an alternative aesthetic mood in the visual effects of the damaged images and effectively reveal the metaphor of reality. Wang Tong's creation in these nine years is a conscious action that keeps getting more and more determined and sophisticated. It shows his artistic attitude of resisting digital precision and controllability with films when he tries to innovate the expression of image language and develop a deep visual reflection and expression as a veteran video artist.

Twenty years ago, Wang Tong created a set of works, My Bicycle Era. He rode a bicycle with one hand on the handlebars while holding a camera in the other hand, photographing the cyclists on the road in a casual way. At that time when films were rarer, Wang Tong experimented with the uncontrollability of photography and searching for the boundaries of photography. Today, he has accumulated a wealth of experience in image creation: on the one hand, he hopes to return to the beginning of photography, to "look at the world like a newborn, full of excitement and freshness," to regain the impulse and passion of photography when he was young, and on the other hand, to use his clear sense of image and his ability to refine visual information to collide with the randomness of photography; on the other hand, his clear image consciousness and visual information refining skills clash with the randomness of photography, to create new sparks and energy. The world seems disorderly on the surface, but the photographer uses his thoughts to observe the order of society and the world and uses images to establish the relationship between order and disorder.

Odd Encounters includes so many exhibits because Wang Tong opens his eyes to the whole world. It is not only an unconscious image game but also a conscious image action.

Translaor: Melissa Chen

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