The Story of a Small Town


Another discovery I made was at one night by the West Lake, Hangzhou. Yu Mo was talking about his photography beside a stack of undeveloped film. Later I realised he wanted to use the topic of The Story of a Small Town to bring all his photographs together.

They come through a long process, and wandering far, something formed that in a strict sense was not so much “created” but "encountered". For some situations in your life such as eeting moments and can not say anything, it only takes the action of photographing as a nearly-instinctive re ex to be in charge, receive and respond. Don't forget, shooting photographs is an act of hitting ( 拍 ), a sudden motion of waves hitting the seashore, of the hands of poet hitting the baluster.

In this exhibition, there is a mass of photos, building the overlapped town walls by the tiles of the images. Yu Mo: "This is the 'Small Town'. Everything is beating me, hitting me until I become transparent wafer-thin iron. All rumors render people neither right nor wrong. People start with love and hate, and slowly the difference loses distinction." This is the story, and the people who witness the story, and the machine that hits.

Most of these photos have never been published. Like most of us most of the life, despite the continuous superposition, it is always accompanied more by loss, in the end, maybe leave some sediments, that are always silent.

These images however, do not appear on their own. They come with the everyday calligraphy manuscript paper left behind by Yu Mo. This is also a mass, square just like the photos, and stacked like the town wall bricks, but more casually placed and used. These bursts of calligraphy are usually only sent on WeChat moments to friends, mainly just parts or single words. The papers are stacked, like also become a sculpture on time. Yu Mo graduated in sculpture, and good on sculpting, but had stopped the career since didn't want to make kitsh works. In discussion, he said: "I describe that photograph as hammering iron, and calligraph as spinning a cocoon around oneself. Writing is a brush spinning silk, with a sense of suffocation from time to time in copying. Choking on daily boredom, the past greatness, also suffocating on the historical burden of the greatness. Spinning the cocoon and hoping to break out of the cocoon, being untimely, also a pleasure".

This is undoubtedly contradictory and refractory but is a uni ed attitude: every seemingly unrelated way, because of the similar “untimely”, has an affecting synchronisation. The key to unity and synchronization is an inherent uni ed sense of time and space – so that Yu Mo's shooting does not focus on the “other side” of the life, even if walking on the edge of the country, it still shows the "this side" of life as usual. Compared to “elsewhere” and “the other side”, “this side” is so mottled, so innocuous, it accumulates over time, but not changes with each passing day. It is always as new as ever, as old as normal. Just as bold monuments or tactful lines of power, shining out, become fresh habitats but also peaks that cannot be climbed in a lifetime.

But for me, after all, this “small town” it just is “China”, a country that by 2050 will contain 600 million farmers. Our home, town, city, state, country, body and heart, can be captured within this single square, it accommodates a “refractory unity” by containing different media: a square of photograph, a square of ink on paper, a square of small town. The small town with the name called "China".

Liu Tian