UCCA Beijing

Mo Yi

2024.9.28 - 2024.12.29

Mo Yi, Self-Portrait, from the series “1m, The Scenery Behind Me,” 1988. © Mo Yi. Courtesy the artist.


Location:  Central Gallery and New Gallery

UCCA presents the first major comprehensive museum study of early works from Chinese artist, Mo Yi. A flâneur, an outsider, and a self-taught photographer, Mo Yi's images from the streets of Tianjin are iconic for their ability to capture the energy and melancholy of China's evolving social fabric during the second half of the 20th century. Throughout his prolific career, Mo Yi has challenged ideas of the photographic gaze by taking images often without looking through the viewfinder and instead placing the camera behind his neck, or fixed to a stick, allowing him to photograph at ground level while walking. These roaming street experiments defied documentary tradition, rigid technical precision and ideas of composition-authorship, privileging instead alternative potentialities for the image-maker and his medium. As a long-overdue study of Mo Yi's praxis, the exhibition will present more than 150 black and white and color photographs from iconic series such as “1M Behind Me” (1988), “Tossing Bus” (1989), “Landscape from the Bus” (1995), “I am a Street Dog” (1995), “Dancing Streets” (1998) and numerous self-portraits (1987-2003), affirming their prescient, formal and conceptual nature within the national and global history of photography and Chinese experimental art. Select archival materials such as handmade photo-books, collage, and original contact sheets, exhibited for the first time, will complement the photographic installations and contribute to a more profound understanding of his artistic process. Curated by UCCA curator Holly Roussell, this international traveling exhibition is produced in collaboration with the Rencontres d’Arles Photography Festival, where the exhibition will be presented in Summer 2024. A corresponding monograph will be published in Spring 2024 by Thames & Hudson, UK.

About the Artist

Mo Yi (b. 1958, lives and works between Hangzhou and rural Zhejiang Province) is widely recognized as one of the most important artists in Chinese Contemporary Photography since the 1980s. A professional football player turned artist, his work takes the city as inspiration, often with the artist intervening and appearing in the image – capturing the experience of rapid urban development and alienation during China’s Reform and Opening years. Mo Yi has held solo exhibitions domestically at the Lianzhou Photography Festival, and Three Shadows Photography Art Center, as well as internationally at ZenFoto Gallery (Tokyo) and Walsh Gallery (Chicago, USA). His works have been featured in group exhibitions on the history of photography in China, including the “40 Years of Chinese Contemporary Photography” (Three Shadow Photography Art Centre, 2017) and “Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China” (International Centre of Photography, New York, USA, 2004-2006), and have been collected by the Archive of Modern Conflict (London, United Kingdom), Guangdong Museum of Art (China), Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, U.S.A), and the Walther Collection (USA).