Overview participating exhibitions
Throughout China farmers are under the spell of one of man’s oldest desires: to be able to fly. In back gardens, they tinker with their own airplanes, with recycled materials and household tools, experimenting and unhindered by any relevant knowledge. Many of these flying machines are incredibly dangerous and barely function, other designs work so well that they are acknowledged by the professional market. However, for the creators it’s not about the money – they are simply looking for ways to fly. Xiaoxiao Xu visited eight of these airplane builders, all with completely different ways of working, and captured their innovativeness, optimism, and human warmth and courage.
In 1999, as a teenager, Xiaoxiao Xu moved from China to The Netherlands. Photography became her antidote to the isolation that she felt, a means for telling stories and making clear what it was that occupied her.
In 2009 Xu photographed the city from which she and her parents had come. Wenzhou is a large port city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, with a population of three million. Xu was overwhelmed by the combination of memories and contemporary experiences. She could identify with the city, but at the same time felt herself to be an outsider – just as she did in The Netherlands. This resulted in WENZHOU, a series that shows the city as a personal and emotional eexprience.
THE WAY TO THE GOLDEN MOUNTAIN is Xu’s follow-up project. She travelled to the emigration towns around Wenzhou – a region from which many of the Chinese in The Netherlands came, and also the site of the village where Xu was born. The emigration towns, she discovered, have changed greatly since her departure. There is no longer any agriculture, and the river has been filled in to build a motorway. The quiet, tranquil village of Xu’s memories is now comprised of concrete high-rises and villas. The higher the house, the greater the prestige.
Xu made contact with emigrants in The Netherlands, who had generally come to Europe in the 1960s, '70s and '80s for economic reasons. They nourished the dream of the 'golden mountain' by sending money home, without telling about the hard work and long hours. Inspired by the dream of a better life, most of the young people have left the emigration towns. In China Xu made photos of those who had stayed behind and their surroundings. At the same time she investigated the memories from her childhood. A century after the first Chinese set foot in The Netherlands, Xu once again plunged into her own history. The result is personal and universal at the same time.
When she was 14 Xiaoxiao Xu (b. China, 1984) emigrated to The Netherlands with her parents, where in 2009 she graduated cum laude from the Photo Academy in Amsterdam. She was twice nominated for the Joop Swart Masterclass at World Press Photo, and as a rising talent won both De Fotoprijs and the Photo Academy Award. Seeking a balance between the two cultures in which she grew up, she uses photography as a means of investigating her own identity.
Xiaoxiao Xu (China, 1984) emigrated to the Netherlands at the age of fifteen and graduated with distinction from the Fotoacademie in Amsterdam. Her work has been exhibited in Europe, Asia, Guatemala and New York, and has been published in de Volkskrant, Qianjiang Evening News, Le Monde Magazine, and Pf. In 2013, Xiaoxiao Xu’s work was part of the Noorderlicht Photo Festival Twenty.