“Champêtre Entertainment” by Zhang Xiaowu: Contemporary Rural Lives in Wenzhou
My hometown, Wenzhou, has a distinctive rural economy. The improvement of living conditions has led to a greater demand for entertainment. Entertainment is a spiritual pursuit and an attitude to life. Having grown up and worked in the countryside, I have experienced rural entertainment at first hand – it is simple or luxurious or fun or absurd, not caring about elegance or vulgarity, but only about the pleasure of entertainment.
I have always been concerned about the entertainment life in my hometown and the countryside. I made “Champêtre Entertainment” photo series based on the current situation of the countryside in the process of urbanization, and in the diverse and complex situation of countryside entertainment, I purposefully and systematically interpreted various details of entertainment through images, and presented various issues such as the conflict between old and new entertainment, the cultural genes in entertainment, the stratification of entertainment, and imitation of urban entertainment. I am not a judge, and the “Champêtre Entertainment” project is not to judge right or wrong, so I keep a certain distance from it, not to show the fun and absurdity of entertainment, but to calmly watch the various relationships in entertainment, and from it to think about the countryside within the process of rapid urbanization. I try to seek more understanding in the reality of social relationships, and to think about the value of entertainment and the pursuit of life through the context of images.
The most basic language of photography is to document, so I discipline myself to remain objective and use the plain language of the camera. Through the camera’s perspective, I obtain the rigor of the viewing, so that the viewer’s viewing also remains consistent. In the expression of entertainment objects and contents, I try to maintain their originality, presenting clear details directly, weakening the main characters and entertainment events, focusing more on the relationship between people, people and entertainment, and people and the environment in the context of entertainment, so that the images have a certain dimension and breadth, and thus interpreting the cultural stance of rural people in this present era. The photos in “Champêtre Entertainment” not only present my way of viewing the current situation of my hometown but also express my attachment to it.
Although the visual narration of “Champêtre Entertainment” is sampled from the everyday Wenzhou countryside, the locality does not limit the meaning of its representation. The commonality of the entertainment spirit of the countryside people and the popularity of these forms of entertainment in China make the visual narration of the series both unique and universal. I have spent more than five years on this project, and the process has calmed me down and made me think. It has extended my observation and understanding of the diverse culture of the countryside, clarified my relationship with it, and found my identity memory and identity experience. Countryside Entertainment has helped me to better understand myself and my hometown.