Artist Statement – Zhang Xiao
About Coastline series
China has a long, continuous 18,000 kilometres of coastline, starting from the river mouth of Yalu river in Liaoning Province in the north to the river mouth of Beilun river in Guangxi Province in the south. After thirty years of economic reform and opening up, tremendous changes are happening in China every day. The cities are like large construction sites speeding up their construction pace to catch up with the rest of the world; this phenomenon is particularly obvious in China’s coastal areas. Many Chinese inlanders move from the interior on a massive scale. While the rapid urbanization is continuously in developing, the growth of people’s spiritual life is slowing down and even stagnated.
In China, hundred millions of people came from the inland to the coastal areas for jobs every year. During Chinese New Year, these people travel back home for family reunion within a short period of time in a massive scale, from South to North and from East to West. People often stray and start questioning about their actual homeland on their journeys. Chinese traditional living habits are strongly impacted by the radical changes that are taking place in China while many traditional values and customs are also subverted. Perhaps, lack of sense of belonging is a collective conflict in the heart of today’s Chinese people.
On the way of my journey, I was always being asked, “What are you doing here?”, “What can you photograph in here?”. I often ask myself the same questions. I always answered, “To look around”. I think I just want to document the living of these real people and landscape in today’s China with my camera.
When I was a child, I knew my desire to the sea: the sea is mysterious and it cannot be approached. I still feel the same. I come here to seek for those strong emotions and rich imagery, and perhaps, there are also sentiments and disappointments. The sea is the beginning of lives and dreams, at the same time, I am looking for the homeland in my heart.