Interweaving the Strange and the Ordinary: Liu Ke’s Human Landscapes of the Three Gorges

Gu Zheng


Photography is a way of recording strange tales. This strangeness highlights the everyday, but it also spontaneously bursts out of ordinariness. This strangeness may be easy to identify, and once it is presented by a photographer, it becomes easier to accept. From its content, its external form, and the way it happens, this strangeness is often manifested in sudden events or things that obviously and absurdly contradict the everyday. Then, strangeness is recorded in photography, and disseminated and shared in various ways. We accept and anticipate this strangeness, and we have been trained (instructed) in the ability to identify and appreciate it.


However, the potential strangeness in real life must be discovered by the photographer, who must record this strangeness in photographs. What kind of strangeness is this? Strangeness may often be covered by a surface sensationalism, such that things and states must be unearthed. This requires the photographer to establish a relationship between a thing and its surroundings through the framing of the picture; this gives the picture its strangeness and allows us to vividly comprehend just how strange it is. This strangeness is often disconcerting, testing our ways of viewing reality and objects and challenging our everyday experience; it departs from our fixed aesthetic standards, but it is also something that shakes our self-confidence and self-respect. Excellent photographers can discover and capture strangeness despite the countless other things happening.


This kind of strangeness does not exist for the sake of ordinariness; it has always existed as another form of ordinariness. The strange and the ordinary are one another’s opposites, serving as the ordinary and the strange for one another. However, it is precisely because of a photographer’s vision and capabilities that we can discover and further comprehend the profundity of reality and the absurdity of worldly things.


Beginning with a human perspective, Liu Ke’s Three Gorges landscapes focus on the clues that exist in reality that he could follow after he arrived at the site, which lead us into spaces that explore the relationship between the past and present. His Three Gorges images interweave strangeness and ordinariness, inspiring ideas about future existences. His pictures of human landscapes are not simple evocations or associations; they are the visual pursuit and development of the intrinsic logic behind the ecosystems and millions of people’s livelihoods affected by the Three Gorges Dam. As a photographer, what he can pursue and what he can fix on film or present on CCD are simply signs of light hitting the surfaces of objects. However, these signs are more than unresolved surface images; they are saturated with traceable images of humanity’s past behavior and future possibilities. Therefore, they investigate threads of reality, the clues that hide within the web-like surface of superficial phenomena, but these signs can provide those who come after us with pictorial indices for the development of deeper research. These pictorial indices of human actions, psychologies, and mentalities, like Liu Ke’s Still Lake series, are two-dimensional, reflecting the superficial absurdity of reality, but they are also three-dimensional and have historical depth. There are two additional things behind these images. First, the pictures record the strangeness created by human behavior. Second, Liu Ke reacts to the psychological states shaped by the strangeness of this reality and the realities behind these psychological states. This reaction includes his framing of reality and his split-second decisions. What we gain from his framing and decisions are what Freud called “the uncanny”—it is precisely what summons our visions of reality. At the same time, a passion for understanding and interpreting reality inspires these visions.


The Three Gorges project was a wrestling match between humans and nature. The local people who were passively swept up in this project do not truly understand what it meant, but they had to accept the actual effects that this project had on their lives. For individuals, families, clans, and localities, leaving home was a major event, but these people were just listed as numbers on a project budget. Thus, the spontaneous, uncontrollable life changes caused by national will were blows to local people who were accustomed to a certain kind of ordinariness. This blow was reflected on both the material and spiritual levels, with far-reaching influence; it manifested as a series of strange things. Liu Ke saw many things during a particular period in the Three Gorges; the strangeness appears after the ordinariness is attacked, shaken, and even destroyed. These strange things reflected changes to real landscapes and to psychological states, as well as special changes that took place under the combined effects of both landscapes and psychologies. They occurred and emerged; they were perceived by Liu Ke, and they shaped and emphasized images in which the strange had meaning for the ordinary. All of the elements in these images were clear or chaotic, complex or simple, estranged or intimate, heterogenous or pure, odd or dull. They affected one another, absorbed one another, disturbed one another, and supported one another; in the end, they helped one another. Casting these opposing things into a single entity requires the photographer’s talent, agility, and sensitivity. Liu Ke wants to convey to us the strangeness that arises in the lives of contemporary people and the odd atmosphere that pervades reality after ordinariness is broken by outside forces and external causes. This state is related to local conditions, which today are being changed forcibly, and this atmosphere is caused by the changes in the surrounding environment sparked by shifts in nature and reality, as well as a unique environment that influences people’s spirits. Liu’s photographs have a close relationship with his lived environment. The Three Gorges landscapes that he presents reflect his relationship with reality, and they are a psychological tug-of-war that developed between Liu Ke and the interactive relationships with the Three Gorges ordinariness that had since become so strange. They confirm one another with visual considerations and presentations.


Liu Ke’s Three Gorges landscapes are images woven of a rich array of social and human information. This is a new kind of documentary photography focused on non-events. He approached the concept of Three Gorges landscapes from countless sides, and through the random, fragmentary visual impressions taken with a camera, he reconstructed memories buried in our pasts. The power of photography lies in documenting changes in reality, as well as its magical ability to fuse records and memories. As they document changes in reality, many photographers often seek out relationships between records and memories. These relationships are associated with the essence of photography. By weaving images in which the strange and the ordinary coexist, his works transcend the boundary between records and memories, which provides more prospects and possibilities for the representational and expressive functions of photography.






刘珂的”“交织的三峡人文景观

顾铮


摄影是一种“志异”的手段。此“异”,既有突出于日常的、突发于平常的“异”。这也许是容易分辨的“异”。它们一旦被摄影家展示了,也是容易接受的“异”。这类“异”从内容、外部形态与发生形式看,往往是那些突发事件或者明显与日常抵触悖谬的事情。因此,它们被摄影记录下来并且以某种方式传播与分享,是大家接受也期待的,并且也已经被培养(规训)出了一种鉴定、欣赏此“异”的能力。


然而,现实生活中存在着一种潜在的需要摄影家去发现,去以摄影的方式志其。这是一种什么样的呢?它们可能往往是被表面的轰动所掩盖的、需要发掘的事物与状态,需要摄影家通过框定其边界使得其与周围某些事物发生了某种关系之后才能获得其、出其彩的令人恍然大悟型的。这样的经常是令人怫然不悦的,考验人们观看现实与事物的眼光的,挑战了人们的日常经验的,并且也经常是逸出了他们的固定的美学规范的,因此也是动摇他们的自信与自尊的事物。而优秀的摄影家,则往往能够在众里寻他千百度时发现之并捕获之。


这样的并不是为了而存在,而是本来就已经作为的另外一种形态而存在的。它与是互为正反,互为。但恰恰是由于摄影家的眼光与能力,才能够让人们发现并且进一步领悟现实的深邃与世事的诡谲。


刘珂的三峡风景从人文立场出发,凝视他所到现场的种种可供追索现实存在的线索,带领我们进入到探索过去与现在的关系的空间中去,通过他的”“交织在一起的三峡图像,引发对未来生存的思考。他的人文景观图像,并非简单的凭吊与追怀,而是对于如三峡高坝这样的关系千万人民生计与生态的事物的之所以发展至今的内在逻辑的一种视觉上的探寻与展现。作为摄影家,他所能够探寻的并且无论定格于胶片还是成像于CCD的,都只能是由事物表面发光而感光所得的迹象。但是,这些迹象,并非只是可以不了了之的表面成像,而是浸透了人类过去所为以及将来可为的有迹可寻之像,因此都是考察现实的线索,都是潜伏于现实、以蛛丝马脚的线索为表面现象的端绪,但却是可供后来者由此展开更深入的考据的图像索引。这些有关人类行为以及心理、心态的图像索引,如今成为了如刘珂的《平湖》系列照片这样的存在。它们是平面的,反映了现实的表面诡异,但也是立体的,具有历史的纵深。而且,这些图像,在其背后包括了两方面。一是照片中被记录的人类所为所营造出来的二是刘珂本人被此现实之所激发出来的心理状态以及在此心理状态之下对于现实的反应。这个反应包括了他对于现实的框取以及瞬间的决定。这框取与决定,所得到的是如弗洛伊德所说的怪怖而熟悉之事uncanny)。正是这个“怪怖而熟悉之事”,召唤、焕发了我们对于现实的想象。这也令我们同时通过这种想象生发出去理解、解释现实的热情。


三峡工程是一个人类与自然角力的实践。被被动卷入到这个工程中的当地人民,其实并不真正理解这个工程的意义,但却要承受这个工程给他们的生活带来的实际影响,包括背井离乡这样的于个人、于家庭、于家族、于地方而言是大事,但于工程预算却可能只是数字的体现与罗列。因此,由国家意志引起的突发的、不可抗的生活变迁,作为对于习惯了日常的来说的当地居民,是一个冲击。这个冲击在物质与精神层面都要显现出来,影响深远,并且其反映就是一系列的“刘珂在三峡所看到的处于这个特定时期的各种事物,就是在受到冲击、动摇甚至摧毁后出现的。这些既有现实景观的变化,也有心理精神的变化,以及两者共同作用下的特殊变化。它们发生、涌现,且被刘珂所感受到,并且形诸于他的强调了对于的意义的画面。他的这些画面中的所有元素,无论清晰与混沌,繁复与简约,疏离与亲昵,还是驳杂与纯净,诡异与乏味等等,其实都是相互波及、相互吸收、相互干扰却又相互支撑,而最终则是相互成全。如何把这些对立、相反的东西溶铸于一体,需要摄影家的才华、敏捷与敏感。刘珂要传达给我们的是给外力、外因打破了之后的显得起来的当地人的状态与现场弥漫的诡异气息。状态,是与某种风土,如今是与被强行改变了的风土联系一起的,而气息,则是因为自然与现实自身的变化所引发的周边氛围的变化并且影响到人的精神的一种特殊氛围。刘珂的摄影作品,与他生活的环境有密切关系。他出示的三峡景观所反映出来的他与现实的关系,也是刘珂的自我在与三峡的变得反的日常的相互关系中所展开的一种心理拉锯,此中有相互确认,也有视觉思考与展示。


刘珂眼中的三峡风景是一个交织着丰富社会人文信息的图景。这是一种非事件性的新纪实摄影。他从无数的侧面去接近三峡风景这个概念,并从他通过照相机获得的片断与零碎的视觉印象,重构有关那个已经被我们自己埋藏的过去的记忆。摄影的力量既在于记录现实的变动,也在于将记录与记忆融为一体的神奇功能。不少摄影家,在记录现实的变动的同时,也时时关切、探寻记录与记忆的关系。而这层关系,其实关乎摄影的本质所在。他的作品,通过编织的共生图景而跨越了记录与记忆的边界,使得摄影的再现与表现的功能获得了更开阔的前景与可能。