Wednesday, October 28, 2015

'Living Yangtze' :: Eric Valli

The exhibition fleshed out seven locations along the route undertaken- from somewhere off Lake Tai to Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, and up to the glaciers in the Tanggula mountains of Qinghai.

Totally forgot about French film director and photographer Eric Valli's photographs on show at the ArtScience Museum until the girlfriend sent me a photo captioned "Doesn't this remind you of Yunnan?" It effectively reminded me that the exhibition was closing and I ought to hurry over for a look.

Part of the larger theme of 'The Art and Science of Sustainability', 63-year-old Eric Valli's photographs are a culmination of six months of travel along and across China's Yangtze River (长江). The river holds different Chinese names at its different turns and points along its route. Most Chinese reference the Yangtze to the lower part from Nanjing to the river mouth. It feeds Yunnan's Jinsha River and Tiger Leaping Gorge. Elsewhere in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Region in Qinghai, it's known as the Tongtian River (通天河).

Fishermen at lunch on East Lake
in Wuhan, Hubei Province.
Titled 'Living Yangtze', on behalf of Swarovski Waterschool, through a set of lens, Eric Valli beautifully captured life in seven communities along seven locations and showcased how they live in harmony with the river that is now facing tremendous pollution.

There has been much documented of the river's pollution, flooding, the Three Gorges Dam and the recently extinct river dolphin (白暨豚) that once called the Yangtze its home. The Chinese alligator, finless porpoise, paddlefish and sturgeons are probably going to die off soon. So sad. I hope the upper portions of the river that runs through Sichuan and Yunnan can be protected and sustainably used. Qinghai and Tibet seem to be doing a pretty good job of protecting their precious water sources.

Loved the photos and how they were themed. Spent more time there than intended. It was a mix of landscapes and portraiture. Interspersed with seven two-minute short films that gave background to each themes, the exhibition truly fleshed out how the communities thrive along and around the rivers, as many ancient civilizations do. Maybe villages look the same. But I swear I've trekked through a Naxi village that looks remarkably like this one in the short film below.

I'm biased. Lingered longest at the final point titled 'The Mother of Water'. Sat and scribbled furiously into the notebook. The photos showed glaciers, mountains, yaks and the nomadic tribes' way of life. Ahhhh....SO GORGEOUS. I want to be back in the snow mountains flying across the 高原 on horseback! Okay, mountain ponies really. Same same.

A final quote from the exhibition was from an eighth century Tibetan poem, exhorting the pureness of a land covered with snow, of the majestic mountains, and clear waters and earth.


Cynically, I thought, “人心呢?能和雪山一样清高吗?” And what of the darkness and greed of the human heart?

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