“What made me pick Jimmy’s work was its ability to stop me dead in my tracks… The sense of a masqueraded utopia, slowly collapsing upon itself and leaving behind only a mirage of what it could have been.”
Keith Cullen, Director, Setanta Books
In search of Nirvana is a photographic field research of contemporary western China. These photographs were made in 12 provincial-level regions in western China from 2013 to 2018.
Growing up in Hong Kong, my understanding of China was limited and distant, both physically and ideologically. Seeking to better understand my racial identity and connection to China, I embarked on a conscious journey to the west.
This project delves into the absurdities of contemporary Chinese society and captures daily life that paradoxically exists in both harmony and manipulation. Over recent decades, China has experienced a compressed era of distorted ideological struggles, rapid urbanization and capitalization, severe urban-rural divides, and a highly centralized monitoring system that is pervasive across Chinese cities. Against this backdrop, this project captures imagery that derives symbolic meaning from tensions in the images. The symbols of the sky burial and tourists, plastic flowers in freezing winter, the concept of patriotism, the nuclear-weapon project, and the large-scale abandoned stadium all embody this tension. The imagery represents a mixture of Chinese ambition and traditional Chineseness, portraying the paradoxical immersion that reflects the Chinese (national) identity, an eternal cultural issue that resonates particularly with Hongkongers.
Nirvana, a Buddhist term, refers to a state of disengagement. Buddhists believe that one can find Nirvana in the West, where endless happiness and the absence of suffering can be attained. My journey was inspired by a quest for Nirvana and a search for answers to the question of what I am. However, I ultimately failed in both endeavours.