VARVARA SHAVROVA ‘UNTOUCHED’ China-Ireland multi-media visual art project 《逝》沙妩若
UNTOUCHED is a photographic and multimedia project that identifies common strands of experience in China’s capital Beijing and a rural community in Ballycastle, Co.Mayo, Ireland. Images from the small farming community are juxtaposed with work showing the crumbling walls of condemned houses along Beijing’s ancient network of hutong laneways. This particular Beijing neighborhood is currently undergoing major redevelopment. Its characteristic single-storey housing with shared courtyards is set to become a thing of the past, swept aside to be replaced by glass and steel skyscrapers. Thousands of miles to the west, the Irish rural landscape is also undergoing a period of dramatic transformation. Selective depopulation and changing social aspirations are the hallmark of rural Ireland of recent years. Thus the exhibition indirectly reflects on the nature of Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” phenomenon, and the dramatic expansion of the world’s fastest growing economy.
The combination of different media, including photography installation, slide projections, and the docu-essay style film creates a kind of an obstacle course that the viewer has to negotiate, in order to share the artist’s experience. In contrast to the still photography, Shavrova’s ‘Untouched’ film concentrates on the people and their stories. Shot in a documentary style, the film conjures up a compelling story of personal experiences and creates vivid portraits of local neighbourhoods and its people, both on the brink of extinction.
There are fascinating comparisons to be drawn between the ways in which drastic economic changes have had an impact on the lives of ordinary people. The viewer is thus invited to make a connection between the two seemingly very different cultures and experiences, in order to understand and empathize with the scale of changes on a human rather than a political level. Ireland’s ambassador to China, Declan Kelleher, said in a foreword to the project that it revealed “intriguing similarities”. “I am greatly impressed with the depth and innovativeness of Varvara’s UNTOUCHED project, which is the culmination of over two years of painstaking work,” he said.
UNTOUCHED project was first exhibited in March 2008 at the First Festival of Irish Culture in Beijing, at the Beijing Art Museum of Imperial City (www.bamoic.info). In March 2009 the project was presented at the Ireland Week Shanghai at Treasury Holdings Central Plaza . On June 5th 2008 the UNTOUCHED film was screened and the book was launched at Beijing Bookworm, introduced by Mr.Declan Kelleher, Ambassador of Ireland in P.R.China ( www.beijingbookworm.com) In August 2008 the UNTOUCHED film was screened at St.John’s Hall in Ballycastle, Co.Mayo, Ireland. In January 2009, during Chinese New Years’ celebrations in Dublin, the project was presented as a series of outdoor projections at the Gallery of Photography in Dublin Temple Bar Square (www.galleryofphotography.ie). In March 2009 the project was presented at the Ireland Week Shanghai at Treasury Holdings Central Plaza, and in July 2009 the whole installation was the focus of the visual arts programme of the Galway Arts Festival in Galway, Ireland (www.galwayartsfestival.com). Photographs from the project are currently on display at Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar, Ireland.
UNTOUCHED project is supported by
The Arts Council Ireland
The Embassy of Ireland in Beijing Peoples Government of Dongcheng District, Beijing
CHP [Centre for Heritage Protection, Beijing]