When Chun Ren was in his early teens, China was still in the age of VCDs. In a fateful encounter, Chun Ren stumbled upon a film in a local VCD store and decided to take it home. This film was titled Yu Huo Long Zhu (欲火龙珠)—“Lust, Fire, Dragon Ball” (欲火龙珠). The term “Dragon Ball” easily reminded people of the famous Japanese manga, but the young Chun Ren was unaware that this “Dragon Ball” was entirely different. “Lust, Fire, Dragon Ball” turned out to be a low-budget Hong Kong film belonging to Category III, making it inappropriate for Chun Ren’s age. However, in the gray zone of China’s audiovisual economy where ratings didn’t exist, pirated VCDs made films of this kind readily available for whoever had the money to pay. This random encounter not only became the unexpected source of his sexual awakening but also served as inspiration for a significant portion of Chun Ren’s artwork. The current series, “Lust, Fire, Dragon Ball,” is based on photos he took between 2006 and 2011, during a period when Chun Ren considered himself young and “deeply interested in photographing naked men.” For this series, he primarily used secondhand cameras, each worth only a few dozen yuan (no more than 12 EUR when converted), along with expired film— all of which were cheap and low-quality. The locations and settings for this series are seemingly ordinary—bedrooms, parks, lake and riverbanks, restaurants, apartment buildings, etc. Yet, they are all situated in Zhuan Tang (转塘), an alley located in Hangzhou’s West Lake district—one of the most poetic scenic spots in China, associated with endless Chinese folk legends. This area is also home to one of China’s most prestigious fine art academies, the China Academy of Art. Despite being in this elegant and culturally-rich area, Chun Ren managed to discover hidden places where things were characterized with cheapness, and where youthful bodies found temporary inhabitation to love and lust. In these works, the utilization of inexpensive photography equipment, the selection of budget locations, and the exposure of individuals’ bare skin all carry the imprint of that distant Hong Kong Category III film.
Curation: Chang Liu, PhD candidate at Heidelberg University.
Chun Ren (春人) is one of the established visual artists from China. He specializes in various kinds of visual designs and his clients include Chinese pop stars, underground Chinese post-punk bands, the British Embassy in China, Dunhuang Academy of Fine Arts, and various fashion brands. Besides achieving commercial and mainstream success and recognition, Chun Ren is also a prominent queer artist in China. One can find clear visual references and homage to the pioneer queer photographer and artist Ren Hang in his work. Yet, Chun Ren also incorporates different elements to develop his unique aesthetics. chunren.tumblr.com