pigment print on fibre paper
120 x 180 cm
‘East window’ is part of a well-known Chinese chengyu, or ‘four-character idiom’: ‘dong chuang shi fa’, literally translated, means ‘the affair of the east window is exposed’. An ancient Chinese myth tells of a Southern Song Dynasty official who plotted an assassination beneath the east window of the palace –– he was overheard, and the plot came to light. Today, the expression means something secret that has been brought into the light of day. Recording and then reinventing the quotidian in order to make something extraordinary, Huang Xiaoliang has created a diary that is also, in some senses, a fabled landscape of the imagination. East Window – Untitled #20151121 (2016) was originally shot on November 21, 2015. The street and buildings were photographed at one time and the figures at another, on the same evening. The image suggests a scene from the last century: five figures amble along an empty street in the twilight, heads downcast and hands in their pockets, accompanied by a skinny dog. A single streetlight has been switched on, and windows are illuminated with yellow light, indistinct figures visible behind them. The building near the five men must be a school –– on its wall is painted a government slogan: ‘With my wings I fly to my ideal goal, with my sails I head for my safe harbour.’ Behind them, an industrial tower looms, making us think of workers tiredly making their way home after a day’s labour, a deliberately ironic contrast with the exhortatory slogan. The men’s long shadows are cast in front of them as they walk, yet this is inconsistent with the light source in the picture, a strange element that casts doubt on photographic veracity.