MAstars 2011: Guang Yang, MA Photography

MAstars 2011: Guang Yang, MA Photography Guang Yang, The Back, 2010. Hasselblad. Credit: Guang Yang

Candice Jacobs selects Guang Yang from Nottingham Trent University for MAstars

Pret a Manger, Zara, Santander, Gregs, Bank, Vodafone, Starbucks, Superdrug, Lush, Levis, HSBC, Primark, McDonalds, JD Sports, Aldo, O2, Phones4u, Miss Selfridge, Boots and Burger King, that’s as many shops as I can remember from the high street in Nottingham. It could easily have been any high street in any city, and if you blinker your eyes slightly, it could have been any high street in any city in any country anywhere in the world. 

Having recently returned from Spain, I was finding it mildly amusing that all their newspapers and magazines were covering the same celebrity gossip as all of ours, with the difference being that it was ¡Hola! covering Pippa Middleton as best dressed woman of the year instead of 'Hello'. It doesn’t seem to matter nowadays which city you’re in or where, there’s an essence of sameness, of repeated experience, a continuity of images, people, objects and information which seems almost normal and expected.

As an artist studying in a city within a different country, Guang Yang says that he is drawn towards the differences between Nottingham and his place of native residence, Beijing. Using photography, Yang highlights this idea of collective experience and sameness of place.

Combining four photographs taken from similar perspectives, hung together in a grid format, Yang places two sets of similar images next to one another. An image of people sat on a bench in Beijing next to an image of people sat on a bench in Nottingham, an image of an architectural structure in Beijing next to an image of a similar architectural structure in Nottingham; two of the images are in colour, two are in black and white. Both sets of images are observations from small pockets of the city in which we live that may have gone unnoticed, yet both mimic each other with uncanny resemblance.

Replicating these sites and repeating their form and composition allows Yang’s photographs to comment on this idea of equality, similarity and homogeneity within the experience of a place or situation. However, perhaps most notably, this idea of sameness comes through not only in the artwork but also in the artist’s choice of self-identification.

Surveying a variety of business cards displayed on a table, each with a different photographic image from his collection of urban spaces, one can not help but notice that the name on the card is Eddy Yang and not Guang Yang as found on the label next to his work. Like many Chinese people who work internationally, Yang has adopted an English name to create a unity between nations and blur the boundaries of language. When researching how the Chinese select their English name, it seems that many names are chosen for their simplicity, efficiency and convenience.

Simplicity. Efficiency. Convenience.

To me, these words also reflect the aims and objectives of the structures and frameworks found within a successful business or an integrated municipal place - the city - and may in fact become the defining factors of a future where we progress only to become part of the same collective self.

Selected by Candice Jacobs
Published October, 2011

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