Xu Xiaoxiao

Watering my Horse
by a Spring at the Foot of the Long Wall


Xu XiaoxiaoFor Watering My Horse, Xu Xiaoxiao followed the lives of the people along the foot of the Great Wall of China, a road trip of 25,000 kilometres. Contrary to what many people think, the Chinese 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. Just like in her previous work “Aeronautics in the Backyards” where Xu photographed farmers striving to build their own aircraft, she proves to be a master storyteller.

Xu Xiaoxiao (b. 1984, Qingqian, China)

Photographer Xu Xiaoxiao was born in southeastern Qingtian near Wenzhou and immigrated to the Netherlands when she was 14. Spending half her life in the Netherlands changed her view on China. Her identity can not be defined straightforward anymore, she is both an insider and an outsider. By photographing locations, people and objects that arouse confusing and alienating feelings she manages to find a balance between her origins and her present life. She graduated from the Photo Academy in Amsterdam in 2009 and worked on personal projects since. In 2016 she published “Aeronautics in the Backyard”, a project that won numerous prestigious book awards over the last couple of years.

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