The Chinese photographer and video artist Kanthy Peng was born in 1992 in Beijing. A graduate of the Yale School of Art, she is making her début in China with her project Another Awaiting Stone. This photography series and video installation is a fresh take on a trope in art history: a woman in landscape.
(De)coding identity and gender
While still a student, in an indirect way Kanthy Peng came out to her parents who were back in China. She suggested that they exchange photos by email on the theme of love. Her parents sent her pictures of themselves in nature, while she subtly revealed, email after email, her relationship with her girlfriend.
She is now showing these photos as well as the Skype conversation with her family that followed. Her project signals the interest of the young artist in the issues of gender, identity, and sexuality, as well as in representations of women in Asian societies.
A folktale transposed into images
Another Awaiting Stone focuses on a Southeast Asian folktale called The Awaiting Stone. According to the artist, “It tells a story of a woman waiting for her husband to come home year after year, until she becomes a stone, but still waiting. The story has a lot of different adaptions, and in fact, many places in China use this story for advertising their local tourist sites.”
The project consists in a series of color and black-and-white photographs representing a woman or a part of her body in a landscape. There is also a short film transposing the story into a modern day setting, and an interactive video installation where the viewer can adjust various photographic parameters (light, viewing angle, aperture…) to alter the image of a young girl in a black dress waiting amid tsunami wreckage.
Kanthy Peng exploits the persistence of the story in varied cultures and folk traditions and the systematic way in which a woman becomes an element of the landscape. “Another Awaiting Stone is an attempt to decode how culture, society, and images collectively shape the female identity,” she explains.
Peng explores all the avenues presented by visual arts and develops a new photographic vocabulary allowing the viewer to adjust the settings—a task normally performed by the photographer. Kanthy Peng sums up: “I am always obsessed with the never-ending process of encoding and decoding that both artists and audiences contribute their efforts to.”
By Charlotte Jean
LIANZHOU FOTO FESTIVAL, A Chance for the Unpredictable
November 29, 2019 to January 3, 2020
Lianzhou, Guangdong, China