“My eyes first trawl over Yi ‘11’ Zhou’s photographic installation, A Wobbly Fence Standing Tall (2023), where the humble family photograph takes precedence. Unlike the fine art photograph, these vernacular images are omnipresent and stylistically repetitive. Some are gently affixed by tape, and coloured frames hold others, their layers reminiscent of a scrapbook. There is a familiarity and warmth that exudes here—a comfort that swells deep in the belly. I linger for some time in this tangled chronology of images, objects and documents, searching for clues in recurring faces and repeating places. A conversation with 11 acquaints me further: to her father who smiles holding a digital camera, to her aunt who sets the table and makes the bed, to the apartment in Tianjin which became home to generations of family. On the right are large photographic prints of a landscape and shop window, their saturated reds, blues and greens alluding to the vibrant perception of a child. Through photography and the “wobbly fence” as a metaphor for the self, 11 explores their experience of diaspora identity and cultural dissonance. Though these stories are not mine, these photographs are far from deracinated—they exist, alive and embedded with life, context, and memory.”
蹒跚的栅栏/A WOBBLY FENCE STANDING TALL
Wobbly fence stands tall 摇晃的小孩
Dear child under the wall 紧跟
not firm /not confident 风中的麦垛
Looking at the windy straw 家的围栏
A Wobbly Fence Standing Tall is a body of work that reflects my experience as a third culture child who grew up in a traditional Chinese family but raised in Australia. Through documentary photography, I focus on building an environment that emphasises the stereotypical lies around culture identity. This work will be centred around myself including two cultures that significantly impacted my own identity, and the grey area in which I live.
My birth and growing up was like an adventure, the starting point was a bit magical to say the least.
I was born in Dubai, which I only eventually realised after spending my baby years with no memory. I returned to China with my parents when I was two years old, and moved to Melbourne, where I live today, with my dad when I was eight. In the diverse land of Melbourne, we can often capture the colours of different cultures or talk to people from all over the world. Although we have different stories, we all call this place ‘home’.
This place holds bits and pieces of my growth, and has gradually become a witness for me to know myself or to understand myself.
Because slowly, I realised that I don’t seem to belong to this place completely, I still have a place that I would like to call my ‘hometown’, across the coast – Tianjin. Although the stories that took place there and were called ‘childhood’ are gradually blurring, I only remember the aroma of soap and the smell of the old neighbourhood that seems to be unchanged for a long time, as well as the person I love the most, my ‘Great Aunt’. However, the story of my hometown, Tianjin, has been renewed by the old family negatives that my father brought back, and it has also reshaped and influenced my perception and growth.
After three years, to be honest, homecoming is not an accurate term. My hometown is like a dusty wooden box that creaks when I open it.
I can’t seem to establish a deep emotional link with her anymore, just like the wobbly fence, I don’t know which way to fall…
因为慢慢的，我发现自己好像并不完全归属于这里，我仍旧有一个愿意称之为‘故乡’的地方，在海岸的对面 ––– 天津。虽然发生在那儿的，被冠以名为‘小时候’的故事在逐渐模糊，只记得仿佛长久不变的家里的皂香与老旧小区的味道，同时还有那个我最爱的人，我的‘大姑妈’。但，我与故乡天津的故事，因爸爸带回来的旧底片而被再次续写，同时也重塑并影响到了我的认知与成长。