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Yumen Conqueror

by Jingyuan Li

This zine includes Li's own tourist photographs, found images, and documents to investigate a special area along the silk road. The area that is about 820 miles on the longitude, featuring cities such as Alashan, Jiuquan, Zhangye, and Yumen, contains few sites that were marked as milestones in history respectively: an ancient library that sheltered thousands of Buddhism manuscripts, a fallen nation that evidenced a vanished civilization, and a nuclear test base that held over 40 detonations. This region was triggered and unsettled by the tension between the West and East throughout over a hundred of years, from Imperialism to the modern era.

James Mitchell praised the 20th century explorers as “Earth Conquerors” in his book titled as so, which inspired Li the name of his zine. The Westerners had changed views and interaction with this land from the colonial age to nowadays, and it is interesting to think about part of its cause: how the relations between cultures had also evolved. To Li, this zine is more of an outline, which always inspiring and need to be unfolded.

自从西汉时古丝绸之路被开辟,中亚诸国就和古代中国在文化与贸易上频繁交流。玉门关便是这路上重要的一站:出了这一关,便彻底离开中原进入西域。国家之间的中间地段就成了文化十分多元的混居地带。时过境迁,进入20世纪早期时,欧洲探险家如奥里尔·斯坦因、斯文·赫定等人纷纷造访已经中断落没的丝路区域,在数个遗址中进行一系列的地质勘探和文物考古。宣称他们“发现”了这些地点,从此莫高窟、楼兰古城等地在欧洲出了名。跟随他们一起回到欧洲的还有成千上万的文物和佛教经卷,至今被收藏在大英博物馆。新中国的60年代,美国频繁派遣侦察机与卫星从中国西北方的上空进行监视和拍照活动。美方政府的不安,在1964年罗布泊核弹试验首次成功后达到了顶峰。再到了2005年,全球化的背景下,美国哥伦比亚大学的地理观察站应北京政府的邀请,派出团队到中蒙边境的丝路附近进行考察,共同研究治理沙尘暴的方法。

几段中西方的交流与博弈,都发生在距离大海最远的贫瘠之地中亚,具体来说,丝路中国段一带。这些大小事件,也成为了国家与地区间时时变化的微妙的张力的有趣例证。例如:在做研究时李景源发现在殖民时代探险活动十分受追捧,“伟大的”探险家们也被誉为国家英雄:更有作家James Mitchell在他的书“Earth Conqueror”中将他们称作“大地征服者”。(这也启发了李对这本小册子的命名)然而以当今的目光来看,中国的西部仍旧神秘,但前往的人多半已成为了游客。对于西方来讲,这片已经探明的土地已经不再是需要探险的荒野(wilderness)。李对这种集体的心理变化和由历史因素造成的国家间的互动非常感兴趣,于是开始针对上述事件收集资料,包括书籍、文档与照片等,混入自己作为丝路上的游客时的快照,做成了一本简短与带着好奇的小册子。它对于李更像一个提纲,总能激发一些思考,但还预示着进一步的展开。

Artist Bio

Jingyuan Li was born in Ningxia, China. He is currently studying photography in California College of the Arts. Recently Jingyuan‘a works are focusing on the history of the Ancient Silk Road and its surrounding area, and the interaction between the Western and Eastern cultures. Besides photography, he also collects archive images and documents of related subjects from various sources.

李景源,生于宁夏。目前在美国奥克兰市的加州艺术学院学习摄影。他的作品关注于古丝绸之路附近地区的历史,以及这片入地上东西方文化发生过的互动。除了拍照,他也将平日收集来的许多相关的图像与文档资料运用在作品中。