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Joy Phillips (The Language Collective)
Rob van Hoesel
Carel Fransen (data)
Jos Morree (Fine Books)
Print and binding:
Wilco Art Books (NL)
For Watering My Horse, Xiaoxiao Xu (CN/NL) followed the lives of the people along the foot of the Great Wall of China, a road trip of 25,000 kilometers. Contrary to what many people think, the Great Wall is not a single continuous construction, but rather a collection of walls and towers built during various Chinese dynasties. Xu follows the section of the wall from the Ming dynasty and takes us to the ruins of the older parts. Despite the decline, there is a lively relationship with the wall among the local population that honour and protect the wall.
Xu tried to discover the impact of fast-growing China on this historic site. What does the wall reflect today? Which elements have disappeared and which remnants have survived? She discovered that the villages at the foot of the Great Wall are some of the last places where people still live according to old traditions, but here too, these are gradually disappearing. Her work focuses on the visual transformation of this process. From place to place she tries to catch a glimpse of the past.
The book contains an essay by Maria-Caterina Bellinetti (US). She is a writer and art historian specialized in photography, Chinese visual culture and propaganda. In her essay she writes about the wall as a symbol and connections the work of Xiaoxiao to the history of the wall.
Xiaoxiao Xu moved from China to The Netherlands in 1999 when she was a teenager. In 2009 she cum laude graduated from the Photo Academy of Amsterdam. Since then she worked on her own projects, balancing in-between documentary and autonomous work. She wants to tell stories from a unique perspective that leaves spaces for the reader to be freely interpreted, stories that evoke people’s imagination, that lure them to look over and over and dream away. In 2020 she won the Jimei X Arles Women Photographers Award with the book Watering my horse by a spring at the foot of the Long Wall.
“Ultimately, this isn’t really a book about the Wall. Watering One’s Horse isn’t about seeing the wall, it’s about the wall as a space through which one travels, sees and learns. Xu is a traveller here, as much as she shows the wall, she is really showing how the past relates to the present (and where it doesn’t) using travel as a method to uncover what endures and remains.” (Matte Dunne)