Until Death Do Us Part
Since 2009 Thomas Sauvin salvages discarded negatives from a recycling plant on the edge of Beijing that were destined to destruction and buys them by the kilo, taking away rice bags filled with thousands of slobbery, dusty and scratched negative film. His Beijing Silvermine archive, now encompasses over 850.000 anonymous photographs spanning the period from 1985 to 2005. In his first archival project he created five tiny albums each containing 20 prints. In these souvenir snapshots taken by anonymous and ordinary Chinese people, we are witnessing the birth of post-socialist China. Each album focuses on a different theme, from photographs of TVs and fridges to parties and McDonalds memorabilia.
The project “Until Death Do Us Part” focuses on the unexpected role cigarettes play in Chinese weddings. As a token of appreciation, it is customary for the bride to light a cigarette for each and every man invited. The bride and the groom are then invited to play some cigarette-smoking games of an unprecedented ingenuousness. The project pays homage to a tradition in which love and death walk hand in hand. Both the publication as exhibition take the shape of a box Shuangxi cigarettes, one of the oldest Chinese cigarette brands currently on the market.
Travel around the world, what a wonderful idea! But for many reasons, few people can afford it, and this trip remains an unfulfilled dream for many. Times are changing! You are invited to Beijing World Park! Here, where you can go around the world in just one day, that dream is now coming true!
It is with this promising text that the catalogue for the «Beijing World Park», which opened with great pomp and ceremony on 25 November 1993 by Prime Minister Li Peng, begins. Built in 18 months the World Park is a testament to the craze for foreign countries at a time when China was opening up to globalisation. With its 100 miniature reproductions of the world’s great monuments, this theme park offers visitors a unique tourist experience, a fictional journey where the pyramids of Giza and Notre-Dame de Paris meet in the reassuring bosom of a national space.
Within six months, more than three million Chinese people visited the park, often with their new film cameras. This incredible photography playground gave rise to millions of photographs of another world where the planet’s architectural symbols are reduced to unlikely sizes. In this new series from his Beijing Silvermine archive, Thomas Sauvin offers to take us on a journey where the photography exploration of Beijing World Park joins that of the entire planet, a visual universe in which the fictional and the real are intertwined.
Thomas Sauvin (b. 1983, Paris, France)
Thomas Sauvin is a French vernacular archivist and publisher based in Paris. For a decade he worked as an consultant for the UK-based Archive of Modern Conflict. He is the founder of the Beijing Silvermine archive, one of the largest archival projects in China. This unceasingly evolving archive constitutes a visual platform for cross-cultural interactions, while impacting on our collective memory of the recent past. Recent publications include “Great Leaps Forward”, “No More No Less” in collaboration with Kensuke Koike and “Xian” a photobook maze of folded papers filled with vintage photography.
Thanks to the French Photography Institute that paid for the production costs.
More information: www.beijingsilvermine.com