The Bearable

Zhe Chen

The Bearable is a reflective documentation of the artist’s dark, though occasionally euphoric, history of self-inflicted harm from 2007 to 2010.

I want to share this emptiness with you,
not to fill a silence with false notes or put tracks through the void.
I want to share this wilderness of failure.
The others have built you a highway – fast names in both directions.
I offer a journey without direction, certainty and sweet conclusion.
When the light faded, I went to search for myself.
There are many paths, and many destinations.
(Derek Jarman, Garden)

Chen Zhe’s practice is often restored as an ongoing process of exploration, discovery, and research. In her early work The Bearable and Bees, where the physical self-destruction of her subjects is identified as an act of spiritual cleansing, Chen searched after the possibility of “another way of telling” by expanding her photographic observations with a collection of letters and journals. In her current project Towards Evening: Six Chapters, Chen uses dusk as her motif to continue her quest of the visible and the speakable, in this case, to explore the ambiguous meeting point of visual representations and language.

Chen Zhe (b.1989, Beijing) received her BFA in Photography and Imaging from Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 2011. She is the recipient of the Three Shadows Award (2011), Inge Morath Award from the Magnum Foundation (2011), Lianzhou Festival Photographer of the Year Award (2012) and the Xitek New Talent Award (2015). Chen is the subject of TV documentary films Chinese Viewfinder (2013) produced by ARTE, France and China Through the Lens of Youth (2014) produced by NHK, Japan. Her latest publication Bees & The Bearable was awarded the Best Photobook of the Year by Kassel Fotobookfestival in 2016.